23 June 2008

Now I understand why Elmer Fudd was obsessed with shooting that rabbit!

Living in the woods, surrounded by 32 types of native tress (as documented in a 4th grade science project 10 years ago), has more than its share of pastoral moments. Flora and fauna abound in my little oasis of woodland situated 5 miles north of downtown and just a few miles south of one of the most hectic of commercial areas in the most populous region of this state. What a magnificent piece of God's green earth! a friend said soon after I moved in. I think of that phrase often and am thankful for not only a safe, secure dwelling, but also for the blessing of being an owner, a steward, of a pleasant place to live, a place where we co-habit with nature as much as one can living in a city of a million human beings.

But, sometimes, when you live in the woods, you pay the price of such pastoral splendidness by occasionally being beset, albeit only on a microcosmic level, by something akin to one or two of the plagues of ancient Egypt. While we haven't experienced red tide in the creek or an onslaught of dying frogs, and recent hailstorms have not been accompanied by fire, all sorts of creatures at times seem on the verge of overtaking us. Organ pipe wasps build their mud-tube condo communities on the front porch faster than I can scrap their homes off the stone. Red ants, like the Orcs ready to slaughter Gondor, amass near the patio in preparation for another epic battle against the black ants. Carpenter bees bore perfect holes in the door frames. Spiders encase the outside window ledges with their silken threads, entrapping flies and other buzzing things with wings. All are reminders that we are temporary visitors -- or, more likely, intruders -- rather than co-inhabitants of this little patch of dirt.

I'm all for living in harmony with nature and try not to be too intrusive when I re-direct wildlife away from my dwelling. After all, I'm willing to share, but I can't have spiderwebs in the windowsills and doorways. Living in this little thicket of woods, an unexpected shelter from the city, has made me more aware of the cycles of nature, and, I'd like to think, more respectful. My property is mostly natural and native plantings and I try to be a good caretaker of it. But, while I love watching the deer or the occasional fox run through the woods, and I do my best to put out water, seed and feed for the woodland birds and critters, I will only go so far. Cohabitants of the property, yes. Cohabitants of the house: there I draw the line.

Yesterday, when B said Mom, come here. Quick! Be quiet! I made my way down the stairs. I assumed that there was some view of wildlife outside that could only be seen through the patio doors.

You scared him! Isn't he cute? B asked.

As I tried to make sense of what he was saying, looking at the blinds on the door gently swaying, I spied the creature. I'm not certain, but I think the sound that left my throat was a squeal. Mr. Alvin Monk, aka Chip. In my house!

What ensued would have been a great loop on some parallel universe's mashup of Home & Garden Network and YouTube, one with a theme of "Clueless Homeowner battles small, fast, and furry woodland rodent". I went left; B went right. Chipmunk went between us. I jumped on the sofa and screamed. B (of course) laughed. We changed positions, cornering him again. I opened the doors and grabbed a piece of plastic corner molding (Where did that come from?!) to shoo him out of the door. He ran towards the threshold but stopped short. Who can blame him? It has rained here for days and even furry rodents must be tired of the water and mud. Suddenly, he dashed towards me. I had my chance to catch him, but he veered at the last moment. No-o-o-o! I exclaimed as he flew up the stairs, not fazed by the fact that each step seemed twice his length.

That, you have to admit, was an impressive retreat, B deadpanned.

We scurried up the stairs too, into the laundry room. B jumped on top of the dryer, although I think that is where I should have been. With a broom handle he poked behind the washer. Finally, we decided that he must have retreated through the vent, the same place, most likely, where he had entered. I wasn't so sure, but I wanted to believe that he was gone.

A few hours later, after debating whether Mr Chipmunk or I was more afraid, we forgot about him and the unusual Sunday afternoon excitement. I was seated at the dining room table, reading my emails, when I felt like beady little eyes were looking at me. I heard a slight sound, a chirp. There he was, in the entry way.

I screamed again. Why do I do this? I thought. Like mice, chipmunks aren't exactly deadly attack animals. I outsize him by a ratio of like 600:1.

He ran back down the hallway: four rooms and three closets, all with doors ajar. I looked at my watch: 8:01. All the hardware and home supply stores had just closed. A quick call to WallyWorld to see if they carried traps was unsuccessful.

Called Sister #1. She had a trap but was using it. Haven't caught anything yet, she informed me.

Called Sister #2. Yeah, I used to have a trap. Caught that dead, rabid raccoon in it. Gave it to Sister (#3).

Sister #3's husband told me a raccoon trap was too big and wouldn't work. Sorry that it's in your house. Kinda gross!

Phoned Brother only to hear the answering machine. I called Sister #1 again and pleaded to borrow her trap. After all, my chipmunk was in the house, not the pool shed, I argued. It's on the driveway she replied, resignedly. B made a quick trip across the neighborhood to retrieve it.

I phoned her again. Don't you dare tell Mother!

My lips are sealed, she pledged.

Mr. Monk ventured into the dining room twice during the few minutes B was gone. He winked at me, held his little hands to his face, chirped, and then dashed back down the hallway swishing his tail high into the air.

Great! now not only was he in my house, he was mocking me, intimidating me with his guile and speed. I'll get you, wabbit! I shouted, channeling Elmer Fudd. Yes, Mr. Monk was in danger of becoming my Bugs; a big white whale to my Ishmael.

I set the trap, snapped it a few times trying to place it, and then waited. Alvin had, apparently, retired for the evening. Spouse, away at a conference, called. I wasn't going to tell him, but I caved. I know it's under the bed, I whined. I just know!

I think about a time 20 years ago, another house, another spouse. There was an opossum in the garage. The detached garage. I was certain it would come into the house and climb into the baby's crib. Husband stood on the hood of the car to scare him away. I jumped and hit the horn. Husband went flying off the car. I think I better not tell this husband that story. Besides, he's 800 miles away.

I awoke this morning, determined to capture my unwanted, hidden visitor. I was set on not leaving until I did. I called into work to take a vacation day. A home maintenance issue, I explained. Maybe, I'll be in this afternoon, I added.

Throughout the day I searched for the creature, moving furniture, looking behind stacks of books, behind doors, inside closets. The slightest noise startled me, but it was never Mr. Chipmonk.

Around 3 I decided that I had to return the trap as promised, so I went to the store to buy a trap. Maybe in some type of karmic occurrence, the furry creature would be in the trap when I returned. Two traps and $100 later I returned, more determined to catch the little bugger.

Hey, Mom. He just ran from your room to the office. With no time to unbox the new traps, I carried the borrowed one down the hallway. We tried to set it at the door. It snapped closed a few times. Finally we got it situated and B, standing on a chair, began to beat the wall behind the desk with my cane. Out darted Alvin, jumping the trap, and scurried across the hall, into my room and under my bed.

That was NOT impressive I said.

More of the same followed for the next 30 minutes. I found myself pleading with the creature: I promise. Go into the trap quietly and I'll free you. I'll even give you some of that good bird seed.

I'm eating vegetarian this week. You have nothing to fear. I'm not even a good cook, anyway.

I promise. Go into the trap quietly and I'll free you. I mean it, you little Motherfucker.

No amount of coaxing would move him from his hiding place.

I said to my son: I understand why Elmer Fudd was so vexed by Bugs. I give up for now. Set the trap at the door and let's leave him for a bit.

20 minutes later: Clank! Rattle! A sad, frightened chirp.

B! Come here! Quick! What do we do?. Wise man-child that he is, he knows what this means: Get him out of here. Now!

We took Mr. Monk out into the woods. I had read on the internets yesterday that chipumunks only have a memory of 50 yards. We released him from the trap and he scurried away.

Running away from the house, he did look sort of cute.

I have two unopened traps to return to Lowe's.

I think I'll go see if Bugs Bunny is on TVLand.

22 June 2008

Errant Blogger Returns

Hi everybody, if there's anybody still out there reading this. Been absent for a few weeks due to an underwhelming enthusiasm for writing anything.

Been so unenthusiastic about even logging in, that I never posted who won the little give-away that I did on 5/28. How's that for being a really bad blogger? Three of you answered -- Emily, Bloglily, and the blogger formerly known as Chief Biscuit now using her IRL name, Kay. (BTW, Kay has changed the name of her blog to Made for Weather, which is also the title of her most recently published book of poetry.)

None of you guessed the right answer, though Lily was closest: I thought Jonathan Strange would be cool for those reasons and gifted it to my son who thought 800 pages!. And so it sits unread. Since you each responded, you each win. Send me your postal address and I'll send you a little bookish surprise. Emily -- I have your address and will send with the book I promised (Rosalind Franklin and DNA) to you soon.

The answer? Stevenson's Treasure Island was a holiday gift meant to be read with my husband's grandson, but he was more interested in my son's Harry Potter book. That was when he was just learning to read, and longer ago than I'd like to admit. Not only has he now read for years, last year's gift was Michael Chabon's book Summerland. Sigh! I think he is too old now to think that Treasure Island is a cool book, even though it has pirates in it.

I don't think that there is any one reason why people have books they haven't read. I think most bibliophiles have so many unread books because we always are reading at least one and always on the look out for something to read in the future. As if we were squirrels storing up nuts for the winter, we stock books on our shelves lest we not run out of something to read.

While I haven't been posting here, I have been reading and have finished 4 books in the last 2 weeks. Escape by Carolyn Jessop, Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City, and Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon.

The last two were books I read for book groups I'm in. I've been intending to write about book groups for some time, so maybe there will be such a post here soon. Escape was a book I couldn't put down and stayed up until 5am one Saturday night/Sunday morning to finish. I've thought much about the Texas CPS/YFZ issue since April and, while I in no way support the cult's treatment of women and children or their bizarre beliefs, I was uneasy with how the State Government of Texas went into the YFZ Ranch and placed all of the children in protective custody. It seemed to me that it was more about the state not sanctioning the cult's polygamist beliefs. But, after reading Jessop's book about life in the FLDS, I've had to rethink my positions.

Currently, I'm trying to plow through Earth Community, Earth Ethics as part of the EcoJustice Challenge. I'll write about that when I finish, either here or at the challenge site. And, I found Gilgamesh stuck under the seat of my car and started to read it while waiting for a store to open during a heavy downpour. I'm completely taken by the first lines.

So, it's not like I don't have anything to write about. I intend to be here more regularly. Hope you'll stop by again.

In the meantime, here is a picture I took last night during a sudden 10-minute hail storm. I'm lucky that I haven't been flooded out, but I am so tired with all this rain!

01 June 2008

Presidential Reading Recommendations

In today's New York Times, several authors were asked to recommend books to the 3 current Presidential contenders. Michael Pollan's recommendations are pertinent to anyone concerned about the environment and justice issues:

I would urge the three presidential candidates to read — or reread — two books from the 1970s that could help them confront the deepening (and now deeply intertwined) problem of our food and energy economies. Long before either climate change or the obesity epidemic were on the national scope, Wendell Berry’s “Unsettling of America” made the case for a way of life and a kind of agriculture that might have averted both — and could still make an important contribution to solving these problems. In “Diet for a Small Planet,” Frances Moore LappĂ© shone a light on the wastefulness and environmental costs of meat-eating, predicting that humanity’s growing appetite for meat would lead to hunger for the world’s poor. Together these two visionary writers — who fell out of favor during the cheap-food and cheap-energy years that began in the ’80s and are just now coming to a calamitous close — still have much to say about the way out of our current predicament.

As a lover of literature, I enjoyed Gary Wills recommendations the most. Can one ever go wrong with Samuel Johnson, regardless of the era or political crisis of the day? (See page two of the article).

You can read the entire article -- including recommendations from a diverse group of writers such as Junot Diaz, Barbara Kingsolver, Scott Turow, John Irving, Steven Pinker, and a most succinct response from Gore Vidal -- here.

Cross-posted at EcoJustice08.