The following is an excerpt from my book Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden. Enjoy!
Love and winter blessings,
After two years in North Carolina, I had made the decision to return
to the West. Strangely, I knew one of the things I would miss about
North Carolina were the chipmunks. I didn’t recall ever seeing any in
California, and I was certain had they been about I would have noticed
them. In Appalachia they were very abundant. The property on which
I lived was a perfect haven for them as there was a small compact forest
behind the house, and many trees lined the front as well. Their burrows
were everywhere. I found the entrances to them as I gardened, round
small gaping holes, often unprotected, sometimes beneath a plant or
along a rock wall. Having researched them a bit I found this is rather
uncommon so I had only to think that they felt quite unthreatened
there by any predators and they made no great attempts to disguise the
doorways to their underground homes. Finding them utterly enchanting
and curious and elusive I had begun the practice of leaving them bits of
nuts and sunflower seeds on one of two flat rocks in the back garden,
just below the bedroom window so that I might secretly watch them.
In the fall I knew their urgency to store what they needed to sustain
themselves through what would undoubtedly be a particularly fierce winter
was heightened. I was happy to contribute some small fare to their store,
though I took comfort in the knowledge that their environment provided
an abundance of acorns, seeds and berries to readily sustain them.
Chipmunks are quite lively and dart about like no other creature I
ever observed. They are very well wired for survival, as they are extremely
sensitive to the slightest movement, and disappear almost faster than
the human eye can track. When I first moved to North Carolina and
didn’t know of their presence my early encounters with them were
almost disconcerting. I would think, “What was that?” not quite sure
what just streaked past. I have actually read they are known to be quite
approachable in some territories, but this must be in areas where tourists
are common to them and they have learned they will be fed by folks. On
that property they were very untamed and unaccustomed to interacting
with people and remained extremely wary, which was to their benefit.
I confess I had hoped to establish some bit of trust over time with my
contribution as they were so adorable, and I would like to have more
chance to observe them. I remain grateful for the fleeting moments
when I watched them discover what I left them this morning or that,
as I peered ever so quietly from the bedroom window behind a curtain.
With the tiniest movement on my part they were gone in a flash. But
if I was able to remain very very still I had the luxury of watching them
pick up a walnut and review it round and round with their teeth, making
sure it had no pod or shell to remove, then pop it into their expanding
cheeks, only to pick up another which joined the first and so on, until
their swelled cheeks were expanded to the limit. Then they did one of
two things, which I found quite interesting. Some they took down their
tunnels to a nest they had created of grasses, bits of leaves and the soft
down of certain kinds of flowers, such as the dandelion fluff we are so
fond of blowing to the wind. And they buried this portion of nuts and
seeds just underneath their grassy nest, where it would be available to
them when the weather became very cold and snows covered those gaping
entrances to their burrows and they lay in torpor till spring beckoned
them back into the garden where they would resume their charming race
about again. But another portion of their store they buried about the
garden or forest floor, maybe to be reclaimed, should they find it in the
hungry spring. But some would not be found, and some of these seeds would
sprout in the sun’s warmth the next year, and contribute to the landscape
a tree or bush or plant that otherwise might not ever have emerged. We
have the chipmunks to thank for this.
What seeds do we harvest and plant for future gardens? What is it
we leave behind not to be reclaimed for ourselves but for those we leave
behind? What part do we play in the scheme of the larger plan, acknowledging
our connectedness not with that which we see about us, but with
what comes even after we are gone?
Book News: I’m placing much emphasis on expanding the numbers of bookstores carrying Plant Whatever Brings You Joy to make this book conveniently available to more folks around the country. For a complete list please visit Estrella Catarina. This list is growing daily!
Excerpts from Plant Whatever Brings You Joy appear in the Jan/Feb issue of Ode Magazine, in an upcoming issue of The Edge in Minneapolis, and in Western North Carolina Woman in April.
If you have not yet seen the trailer for Plant Whatever Brings You Joy, you may visit here!
Posted on February 4th, 2012 by Kathryn
Filed under: Animals