An August 2022 Slate article reported on the phenomenon of squirrels “splooting” from the record-breaking summer heat across the country.
In case you’ve never heard of it before, squirrels and other animals sploot by lying on their stomachs with all four limbs splayed wide.
NYC Parks tweeted an explanation of the phenomenon this week, apparently in response to increased concern by park visitors who couldn’t figure out what was happening to all the squirrels:
If you see a squirrel lying down like this, don't worry; it's just fine. On hot days, squirrels keep cool by splooting (stretching out) on cool surfaces to reduce body heat. It is sometimes referred to as heat dumping. pic.twitter.com/pD1T3lPbBH
— NYC Parks (@NYCParks) August 9, 2022
Texas has had one of its hottest summers on record, so squirrels there are splooting right and left:
Was leaving city hall after a meeting and found this squirrel trying to cool off in the shade. Thought he was hurt/dead at first but that wasn’t the case. He got up as I approached and reassumed his position as soon as I walked away. Funny!! pic.twitter.com/GWSxKVKNNA
— Chief Bill McManus (@Chief_McManus) July 13, 2022
And squirrels aren’t the only ones. Dogs, cats, and even bears will sploot if the conditions are right:
Sploot like nobody’s watching…#SplootSeason pic.twitter.com/aqqRhmM5QJ
— National Park Service (@NatlParkService) July 27, 2022
All these splooting animals may be on to something—and maybe there’s even a gospel lesson to be learned here.
Sometimes life gets exhausting, with the heat of trials and hardship beating us down. When that happens, we may need to slow up, hunker down, and rest.
An LDS Living contributor, Ashley Quist, shares about how trials including depression and anxiety once completely crippled her.
“Day after day, week after week, I would grow more frustrated with my inability to be what I felt I should be—and to live up to what others knew I was capable of living up to,” Quist writes. “It was mental and spiritual suicide every single day. So many times those feelings felt completely suffocating. I just wanted to run. I wanted to be in a place where no one knew me, no one expected anything from me. It was a constant battle.”
Then Quists’s friend introduced her to the story of Elijah stopping to sit in the shade of a juniper tree (see 1 Kings chapter 19). An angel visited Elijah and encouraged him to eat, drink, and rest under the tree, acknowledging that “the journey is too great for thee” (verse 7).
Quist observes, “The angel didn’t come to tell Elijah that he was being slothful or to tell him what he should be doing. The angel simply told Elijah that it was OK to rest and reminded him of the nourishment sitting right in front of him.”
“Learning of Elijah’s experience changed my experience. I learned that seeking rest isn’t being weak; finding rest is the most strengthening act we can embrace. I felt the same way as Elijah. I felt I had failed because my depression and lack of ambition kept me from doing and being all I knew I could. I wanted my life to be taken. I wanted it all to end.
“When my friend shared with me this simple scripture experience, I started to have my eyes opened to God’s mercy and grace. I saw His power to find me where I was and to stay with me under my own shaded juniper tree. When we choose to slow down and stop under the shade, then we can be fed and taught. We can gather all the strength we need to climb the next mountain. With Him, we will know when to stand and go again. For me, the key was to make sure that seeking rest included connecting with God and His word, and on my knees.
“When you find yourself running in the dark, slow down for His light. If you’re feeling alone, hold the hand that is outstretched. If you feel broken, be still and let His grace piece you back together. His sustaining rest awaits you under the shade of the juniper tree.”
Read the rest of Quist’s insights into rest here: I used to think taking time to rest was a sign of weakness—until I read about Elijah.
It seems that the country’s squirrels have the right idea, and maybe we ought to follow their example—when life heats up with trials and hardships, it’s OK to just take a rest.