It All Began With a Chipmunk
I’ve been mulling this post over in my head for weeks, but every time I sit down to write I seem to get lulled outside. By the time I’m done with my new country chores, my creative flow has, well, flown.
The initial title of this tale was “A Chipmunk, a Tick, and a Moose”, but as I procrastinated, the list of animal sightings kept piling on until the long title seemed ridiculous. Each sighting deserved its own blog post but that never happened, so sit back, this might be a long one.
When I first laid eyes on my soon-to-be new home, I noticed a chipmunk scurrying in and out of the big boulders that cradle the back side of the house. Although I have a weird fear of mice, I like chipmunks. It turned out that he (I feel like it’s a he) would be the only sign of animal life I would see all fall/winter.
I kept asking the Universe “Where are all the animals?”
Were they watching me from a distance? Laughing at the city gal who’d moved in on top of the hill?
Spring came and with it the sound of millions? of peepers (frogs) at night who live across the road in the swamp.
I don’t need earplugs or an eye mask to fall asleep anymore. For a person who has craved peace and quiet for decades, this is heaven on earth.
I wake up to the sound of birds, not cars and construction.
The birds are tweeting now, after days of steady rainfall. I’ve never loved the rain as much as I do here. It’s delicious writing weather so no more procrastinating allowed.
Back to my animal sightings. Or lack thereof. After my chipmunk friend, nada. And then the tiny beasties appeared. I want to get this over quickly and not dwell on them.
Yes, they’re animals. More specifically, they’re arachnids. IDK, I really don’t even want to write about them. They are disgusting.
I’m the type of person who traps spiders and errant wasps in a jar and sends them back outside. Even flies.
But ticks? The concept of loving all of God’s creatures has taken a wrong turn for me.
They are everywhere here. I live atop a meadow and they love tall grass. My backyard is a forest and they love hiding out in the leaves on the forest floor.
Every person I talk to says the same thing “They’re really bad this year.”
Ticks love the warm parts of your body. I’ll leave that to your imagination. I’m tired of looking at myself naked in a full-length mirror, something everyone says you must do every time you come in from outdoors. A proper tick check.
They hang out on the handle to the shed. Outside of my doors. In my car. I found one in bed a couple of weeks ago.
The first tick incident happened after an exhilarating day working in the yard. I took off my work glove and there was one of the little arachnids firmly attached to my hand.
If you spot them early you can flick them off before they latch onto you and do their feasting thing.
This one was happily embedded in my hand.
There are all kinds of “do this and don’t do that’s” regarding the removal of ticks.
All I know is that it’s one of the few times I wished I didn’t live alone. I could have thrust my hand out and screamed “Get it off of me!” at whoever I was cohabitating with.
I came home from the farmer’s market on a hot humid day and found one happily burrowed in my abdomen.
I sat down for lunch one day and tucked my hair behind my ear to find one there. WTH.
Once you’ve had one of these buggers attached to you, every time your hair brushes against you, or you feel any sensation on your body, fear kicks in and you think “a tick!”
That’s all I’ll say on the subject. I cover my ears when someone tries to tell me fun facts about them. I don’t want to know. They have lightened up a bit and I’ve heard they’re not as bad until another upsurge happens in the fall.
Unless, of course, you live on top of a meadow where the grass is already up to my waist.
After the ticks (or rather along with the ticks) came the dreaded black flies.
I didn’t understand what someone meant when I asked her if she would be up to her house in May/June and her reply was “I’ll be up after black fly season.”
Evidently, New Hampshire (maybe all of New England?) has what they call “Bug Season”. It’s no joke.
First come the ticks, then the black flies, then the deer flies (happening right now – they literally take chunks out of you), and somewhere in between, the mosquitos arrive.
Honestly, the mosquitos have been a piece of cake as far as I’m concerned. And the upside is the army of dragonflies that swoop all around eating them!
But, the black flies? They relentlessly swarm around you – especially your head/face. Evidently, they like our carbon dioxide. They’re teeny tiny gnats really, who can deliver a bite like nobody’s business.
Some people get welts the size of tennis balls. I’ve already had two that got infected and I have scars to prove how much they have welcomed me to New Hampshire.
Like the ticks, I really don’t want to know the gory details about black flies.
I’m not gonna lie, May and June were brutal. I could not be outside without getting eaten alive. I finally succumbed to getting a full-body/head/face netting outfit (thank you, Bug Baffler) that works like a charm unless it’s hot and humid, in which case it’s a sauna. I came pretty close to a heat stroke one day.
I have never complained so much about bugs in my entire life. I started pining for winter. And, all the while, I kept wondering, “Where are all the (real) animals?”
And then THIS happened.
One day during the height of black fly season my friend called to say she’d just driven by my house and saw a Moose (with a capital M) across the road in the Nature preserve.
It was about dusk and I grabbed my good camera which had a telephoto lens on it. I hurried down to the road but didn’t see the Moose. What I did see and feel were swarms of black flies wanting to feast on me. It was cold and fortunately I had a hoodie on but they were chomping on my face (it took weeks for the bumps to heal).
I finally turned back in frustration and stopped in my tracks. There, on the side of the road, in front of the hill I live on, looking directly at me, was a Moose.
So, I went from “Where are all the animals?” to seeing the largest land mammal in North America. Right in front of my house.
I stood there, motionless. Well, while swatting away black flies. Someone had told me that a Moose can charge and is surprisingly fast so the city girl stood frozen, in Awe.
Then, this most graceful animal walked across the road and effortlessly climbed up the embankment onto the hill.
I snapped a photo and for anyone who doesn’t believe me, my mailbox made its way into the frame.
Later, a friend who grew up in the Northeast and knows these things said it was a male, maybe about two years old and 700-800 lbs. He said that the Moose would probably grow to about 1500 lbs!
About a week later, I was standing by my door, looking through binoculars at the Nature preserve across the road and saw the Moose splashing in the water. I heard him snorting, too. That’s how quiet it is around here!
I’ll bet if my story stopped here you’d be pretty impressed, right? Well, there’s more.
A few weeks later, I opened the door and stepped out onto my patio, coming face-to-face with a large snapping turtle! We both froze, staring at each other, and then she turned and “ran” into the tall grass.
Later that day, I saw her again, this time in the herb garden I’d planted next to the patio. She was in the corner, up against the house, facing the garden gnome who I’d put there to guard the herbs. 🙂 He even scares me.
When I went back later, my Turtle friend was gone. I had no idea what was going on so again, I consulted with my friend. He said she was likely looking for a place to lay her eggs and must feel comfortable around me!
You cannot imagine my joy in all of this! I have loved turtles my entire life. When I started learning about animal spirits/guides and the like, I immediately thought of Turtle. Capital T.
As a young child growing up in Detroit, we sometimes spent a week on Crawford Lake at a place called Kubakaska Cottages. Trust me, this was bare bones cottage living. And I loved every moment of it.
I was terrified of water back then and the lake was too mucky to even want to swim in it. But every morning I would turn over the rowboat (usually a frog would jump out from the wet sand) and row across the tiny lake to be with the turtles.
I would sit for what seemed like hours just watching them sunning themselves on the logs, sliding off and taking a dip, seeing their little heads popping above the surface of the water between the lily pads.
Once I brought a Turtle home with me and kept her in one of those plastic thingies from the 50’s with stairs and a palm tree. I would put water in the bathtub and let her swim in there but in the end I felt bad and released her back into a lake.
As I grew older I would recognize myself in the Turtle. I would retreat into my shell when the world was too much for me and I needed protection.
I love what Kim Krans says about Turtle in The Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Guidebook.
“Ancient Soul, Grounded, Trusting, At Home in the Self – It is wonderful to be in the presence of a Turtle personality. Like the Beaver, the Turtle has a strong relationship with the Earth and Water elements simultaneously. This helps to ground and connect them to the deeper truths of life, no matter where their travels lead them. Turtle energy is behind all great writers and storytellers as they collect life experiences under their shells for later use. The most potent Turtle energy helps us close all the other books and begin to tell our own true tale.”
The day after I saw the Turtle in my herb garden, she sauntered past my kitchen window and settled onto the rocks out back. Later, when I went to run to the post office, she was on the driveway, right next to my car tire, so I had to wait until she left.
Meanwhile, I was reading up on snapping turtle habits. They often travel quite a distance from the water where they live to find a place to lay their eggs. They like to go up hills (check) and they like sandy spots (check – I noticed a lot of sand when I dug my herb garden).
A couple of days later, I went to water my garden in the morning and found an area right next to the house where she had been that was all sandy. Once turtles have laid their eggs, their mothering is over and they leave. Baby turtles are completely equipped for their solitary life.
But…turtle eggs are delicious food for predators. Snapping mamas can lay up to 50 eggs with the hopes that some of the eggs survive. If any of them do survive, they will make the arduous journey – digging themselves out of the ground and finding their way back to the water. In this case, down the hill, across a road, and back to the swamp. Truly miraculous, isn’t it?
The day I found the pile of sand, I fretted and fretted, knowing that we’re supposed to let Nature take her course. But, I’d also read that some humans will try to give the turtle eggs a better chance at survival by putting wire down to protect them.
I made a trip to the hardware store for some wire and laid it on top of the area, securing it with some heavy rocks.
The next morning I went out to check and was dismayed to find two holes burrowed underneath the wire. While I’d been worried about a fox or coyote or something else, this looked like the work of possibly my chipmunk friend. 🙁
I had an encounter with him early in the spring when I saw him scurrying into the rocks. I called out “Hey, little one! Would you like to be my friend?” Swear to God, he came out from the rocks and sat down, staring at me for a few seconds before going back inside his home.
I’ve been leaving sunflower seeds out, hoping to fill his belly so he won’t be hungry for turtle eggs but just yesterday I found another hole under the wire. 🙁
Speaking of my chipmunk friend (or turtle egg eater), I wanted to mention what it’s like driving the country roads around here. There are barely any cars but kamikaze-like chipmunks who seem to wait by the side of the road to dart in front of your car with their tails standing straight up in the air! Sometimes they’ll stop in their tracks and do an about-face, returning to the side of the road.
So, in addition to the Sandwich police laying in wait to issue a speeding ticket, darting chipmunks are a country living hazard.
Snapping turtle eggs take roughly 80-90 days to hatch, so I have many weeks of fretting ahead of me. A sad part of this story is that two friends who were up visiting a week after I found the nest told me they saw a dead snapping turtle on the road in front of my mailbox.
At the same time they were telling me this we saw hawks or turkey vultures circling overhead. Later, when I went to check my mail there was nothing left. It could have been the mother who I saw in my garden or another turtle coming to or from laying her eggs. Snapping turtles can live to be over 100 years old as this one might have had she/he not been killed by a driver going too fast around the bend.
This tale of “Where are all the animals?” is coming to a close with, I have to admit, some icing on the cake.
Last month on the full moon, I was out back watering my first-ever vegetable garden. It was about 6:00 p.m. and I was daydreaming, thinking that I hadn’t been back in the woods with the trees in a couple of days. I looked up and saw a Bear lumbering down the path, not fifty feet or so away from me!
It was getting dark in the forest and honest to God it was like a mirage but it wasn’t a mirage, it was my first ever bear sighting in the wild.
It happened in just a nanosecond, but was enough to stop my heart from beating.
Holy moly. Equal terror and Awe.
For so many years I have dreamt of bears. When I started doing shamanic journeying there was almost always a bear involved. But, I’d never seen one in the wild and definitely had a fear of that happening every time I was walking in the woods.
I admit to being a little reticent going back there now, although I ventured in last week with two friends who have lived here in “bear country” for many years. We saw some fresh signs on the ground that the bear might still be around.
I consider it a great honor that this happened, although my heart still pounds in my chest when I think about it. I sing a little louder now when I’m out back working in the yard or watering my garden. And, when I go up or down stairs I close my kitchen door because I’ve been warned too many times about bear-through-screen-door incidents.
Other than the woodchuck who walked by my kitchen door the other day (pretty sure he ate the lettuce and celery tops that were flourishing in my garden) the animal sightings have slowed down.
Oh, wait! Two deer were nibbling on foliage on the edge of my driveway outside my kitchen window this week.
And this morning when I checked on the vegetable garden something had eaten the broccoli, red cabbage, and pulled down a few of the sunflowers which are just starting to flower. My poo-poo-ing of a fence is looking dumber and dumber.
There’s never a dull moment around The Bear Den now that the animals have come out of hiding. I will admit that I try and pay better attention when I’m outside instead of my usual head in the clouds behavior.
I have plant stories piling up, but I’ll leave that for another time. Thanks for letting me share my adventures with you!
P.S. The Monarch butterflies have arrived and they are dancing in the meadow! I am so blessed to be here.