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  Meet Drew Aquilina

I was born in Greenwich, Connecticut on a very warm July day. It is said I instantly had a strong connection to Summer and the outdoors. I lived in and around New Milford, Connecticut until 1994. My first thoughts about cartoons/cartooning started when I was a small child. Humor played a large role in the Aquilina family and in how our family communicated. Being the third of three boys, I was perennially late to the party and always seemed to be trying to catch up with the wit of persons older than me. Although I would eventually think of a witty retort, landing the moment and mastering the all-important timing eluded me for years. It was during these formative years that I vaguely recall one cold, dark Sunday evening in the winter of 1971. As my older brothers and I huddled around the basement fireplace fighting over apple cores, The Wonderful World of Disney appeared on the family television set. I was captivated by a movie starring real forest animals examining their day-to-day struggle to survive and their battle against a forest fire. Disney had narrated the film using human voices for each animal and I found the animals’ perspective and reactions interesting and quite humorous. Thereafter, I started to look at nature and people through their own eyes, creating perspectives and various attitudes seemingly befitting their specific natural characteristics.

The idea behind the specific comic strip Green Pieces came to me when I was 7 years old, a few years after my initial encounter with The Wonderful World of Disney. I was always fascinated with nature. Growing up in a rural area of Connecticut, I spent most of my early childhood outside. We didn’t have cell phones, VCRs, video games or the Internet back then, so my brothers and friends went outside to have fun. One day, a late Summer hot and lazy day, my friends and I had just finished building an enormous outdoor fort. The sun was setting and I was late for dinner. Hearing my mother’s familiar and annoyed voice ringing through the tall, mature Maple/Oak/Hemlock trees, I had to run home from my friend’s house lest I miss dinner altogether. I ran so fast because I was very hungry and collapsed on my front stoop exhausted and winded as I tried to catch my breath.

As I leaned over the stairs leading to my front door, a larger than life gray squirrel appeared right in front of me. He had slowly and pensively crawled out of the bushes separating our home with the neighbor’s house. The squirrel had a huge acorn in his mouth. We had a big Oak tree in our yard and because it was late Summer soon turning into early Fall, there were thousands of acorns everywhere. As I more carefully scoured the landscape, I soon knew this squirrel has been busy burying acorns because there were lots of little piles of fresh soil all over our yard where other nuts had been freshly buried. Fascinated by the stare-down with which I found myself and Mr. Squirrel, I slowly lowered myself onto the front stoop and just sat there, still exhausted from my run. Mr. Squirrel, obviously as fascinated with me as I was with him, crawled very close to my dirty sneakers. He would move a few steps forward with his tail twitching and flicking like squirrels do. He would then stop, take the acorn out of his mouth, clutch in it his little claws, sit up, and survey the yard, looking for the perfect spot for his newfound treasure. As if by magic, I suddenly could hear what Mr. Squirrel was thinking. It was most likely the overwhelming hunger pangs taking over my brain, or perhaps my exhaustion and difficulty breathing, but I could swear I heard him say, “where should I put this acorn? Over here? No. Over there. No, I just buried one over there, so maybe under the tree around the corner?” With that, Mr. Squirrel put the acorn back in his mouth and trotted to another part of the yard closer to the tree around the corner. I shook my head for a second, then I started laughing at the entire experience. As this squirrel continued around the yard with his acorn, I kept thinking I was hearing out loud his obvious indecision and internal debate. I continued to be amused by the squirrel’s actions thinking he was a little squirrely about where he was putting his acorns. I then remembered that squirrels bury acorns so when winter comes, they can find the food source and survive the long cold season. I thought to myself, if I had to pick a spot to bury food critical to my survival, I would be as choosey about where I buried the food as was the squirrel. I bid adieu to my new found friend and went inside for dinner. Ironically, I ate very slowly that night, savoring every bite!

After this encounter with this squirrely squirrel, I discovered that I would start thinking about the mindset and thought process of any living creature with whom I came in contact. The animals now became my teachers, telling me what they were thinking. This eventually became very natural and almost second nature to me. When I decided to start drawing cartoons, and especially an anthropomorphic nature cartoon, it made perfect sense to write about nature from its perspective. From that moment forward, my every moment outside would become a living cartoon continually running in my head. Green Pieces was born and the strip and I became one.

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