I have never felt more like a refugee from nature as I did the other day when I walked into my kitchen to find a chipmunk standing in the middle of the room staring at me.
He and I both did a double-take–and he ran to the cabinets, and disappeared somehow into the bread drawer. (There are crevices and passageways that we homeowners have no idea about, I’ve realized.) I called a friend and said, “There’s a chipmunk in my bread drawer.” It seemed like something that another human being should know about.
She said, “We’re not afraid of chipmunks. They’re adorable.”
I said, “They are surprisingly less adorable inside than outside.”
“Just open the bread drawer, and he’ll run out and go back outside, and that will be that,” she said with a sigh, as if anyone would know to do that.
But of course that’s not what happened. True, he leapt in the air (we both did, actually), but instead of running outside to safety, he chose to go behind the shelf where I keep the cookbooks–and it was only an hour or so later that I noticed him making a mad dash for the screened porch, which is where he had come in. Once he was on the porch, I was able to scootch him over to the door, and out he went, back to the natural world.
I’d like to think he was relieved, but he came back the next day, and the day after that, though, paying a quick visit to the bread drawer each time, although he never ate anything, I noticed. (My husband said, “Would YOU eat anything if a giant was chasing you?”)
Ha! If only animals thought of me as a giant who was in the least bit menacing. This summer there has been a revolution by animals, and they don’t seem to fear us at all.
There was the mouse in the tub, who didn’t even look frightened when I discovered him and helped him, via shoe box, to resume his life in the woods.
And there was the snake in the garden, who wasn’t the least bit impressed by all the snake-discouraging marigolds I’d planted, attempting to save myself some startled moments. Not only did this snake NOT MIND these marigolds, as he was supposed to, he actually slithered around in them for a long time, draping himself across their leaves, burying his face in their blossoms. For hours. As though he were intent on making a point.
And as if that wasn’t bad enough, he came back the next day to do it again, too–and when he got startled by a passing cat, he vanished into a crack into the shingles of the house, where he no doubt has a large and loving family awaiting him.
Feeling faint, I staggered to the phone and put the house on the market.
Then there have been the hawks, who have taken up residence in our treetops–raising loud, hungry families that scream and wheel around our yard day and night, staging fights with other hawk gangs as necessary, conducting flight schools for the young–and swooping down to catch tiny animals (but not, apparently, snakes and chipmunks). They sound like a colony of pterodactyls, frankly.
Two bears were recently reported wandering on the elementary school properties less than a mile from here.
And my friends on the next block were awakened recently in the middle of the night to find that something kept landing in their hair while they slept. When they turned on the light, they discovered themselves face to face with a BAT. Fortunately they were able to come to their senses in time to trap the thing; otherwise, as the animal control people explained, they would have had to have rabies shots, because apparently vampires bats bite you so delicately, you often don’t know you’ve been chewed upon.
Clearly, we are under siege.
No wonder I was hardly startled when I looked up the other day to see THIS MONSTER looking in at me while I was writing my novel. It was just hanging on the screen, staring in at me. Perhaps it was the Novel Police.
“I’m working,” I said to it. “Please just keep your opinions to yourself, since this is just a first draft…and if you’re hungry, the bread drawer is right there in the kitchen, on your right.”