Skyler looked at the October sky, gray, ominous, matching Skyler's mood. This morning didn't feel much like a day for collecting nuts, climbing trees, doing the things squirrels did best. Deciding instead to go for a walk, Skyler wandered into the Dark Wood.

Not sure how much time had passed, Skyler noticed the clouds growing darker. There was a tree, an oak, nearly a hundred years old by the looks of it, offering shelter. Skyler would find a place, not too high off the ground, to be sheltered from the storm.

A blue jay surprised Skyler just as the perfect spot came into view. Not really in the mood for company, but less in the mood for a wet and muddy tail, Skyler decided to risk sharing the opening between the two massive limbs with the jay.

The wise old jay, magnificent in both color and presence, spoke. “Hello Skyler. Welcome.”

“Hello.” Skyler replied.

“You've had a long journey this morning. We rarely get squirrels this deep in the Dark Wood. They call me 'River'. It's nice meeting you, Skyler. I've been waiting for you.”

“How do you know my name? How did you know I'd come? What do you mean you've been waiting?” Skyler had many more questions, but these were the only ones that came out.

“Some things are inexplicable.” was River's reply.

Skyler accepted the answer, for now. More important questions begged asking. “Why must I be a squirrel? Sometimes I don't feel like gathering nuts and climbing trees. I'm a little scared of heights. But I think I'm even more afraid of being just like all the other squirrels. It seems like there's more...”

River only smiled.

“I want my life to mean something. And I want to taste the colors of the morning sun. But when I tell my friends these things, they just laugh at me. I can't explain why I feel I have to be more, but I just do.”

“What is it that the winds whisper to you, my friend?”

Skyler thought this a silly question. Of course the winds sometimes made sounds, sometimes sounded like whispering, other times like howling, but talking winds?

“Speak from inside” River prompted.

Skyler took a breath, listened to the growing wind. Time passed; Skyler wasn't sure how much. “The winds are telling me it's okay to feel different. They say it's time to change. The winds say that they call out to many, but only few listen.”

“Yes.” River said, “that's just right.”

Skyler felt lighter, different, and was surprised that the skies were clearing. Walking home, Skyler noticed a quiet, not from outside, but from inside.

“I'll never be the same.” Skyler realized the words were from the whispering winds.