The Search for the White Squirrel (or 3 Reasons to Have an Unsuccessful Adventure.)


Several years ago, Nathan and I were in North Carolina for his sister’s wedding. On our way home, we took a detour through Brevard for the sole purpose of seeing some white squirrels. As one story goes, a pair of white squirrels (not albino squirrels) escaped from an overturned carnival animal truck some years ago and were captured and raised by a family nearby. Eventually the squirrels were released and began to breed in the neighborhood. White squirrels became more common so the town began to protect them, and eventually started a festival in their honor.

So we went to see the squirrels. The best place to see them, or so they say, is on the Brevard College campus.

My husband has seen the white squirrels, and, if it weren’t for pictures on the internet (and a whole festival that we barely missed) I wouldn’t have believed him. I had a passing thought that he was playing an elaborate trick on me, (and it would have been a good one.) We walked up and down that campus, and the whole time I had my camera in tow, ready to snap proof of the elusive animal.


We didn’t see a single one.


We saw TONS of grey squirrels.


I guess anyone would have been disappointed, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t, but I wasn’t only disappointed. We had fun. We got some exercise. We had an adventure. And it was memorable. We’ll go back again one day. It might take several tries, but I’ll see one eventually. One day we’ll take our kids so they can look for a white squirrel (and go to Sliding Rock nearby!)

In his book Living Into Focus, Arthur Boers mentions his many unsuccessful hiking trips to see a moose. Or rather, I should say, he mentions his successful hiking trips, where he hoped to see a moose, but hadn’t yet been so lucky. (I highly recommend this book, by the way. It has been hugely influential in my life, and I plan to write more about it soon.)

Walking and hiking are examples of focal practices: activities that balance, center, focus, and orient one’s life. They don’t require a goal, like finding a white squirrel, in order to be beneficial or reorienting, which is why it’s just fine that we didn’t happen upon one.

These activities, among many others, make demands on us mentally, physically, or otherwise, and they are often out of our control. I can press a few buttons on my computer and I can see several hundred (thousand?) pictures of white squirrels, but this activity is neither truly enjoyable nor memorable. I can wander around for an hour or so, batting gnats and mosquitos, and not see a single thing to write home about, and I’ve had an adventure.

Oh, and as to those “three reasons,” here’s a few:

  1. It’s good for you to get outside.

  2. Your imagination will have plenty of space to roam.

  3. You’ll probably have a good story to tell your friends or write about on your blog like I did.

Have you had any unsuccessful adventures that became great stories to share with friends? This is, by far, one of the more successful, unsuccessful adventures that we’ve had. Oh, do I have stories to tell…