By Shelly Reuben
COLUMN: Summer of the Chipmunk

Sometimes, life gives you a gift. 

It could be an ideal mate.  It could be the dream house you’ve been fantasizing about for years.  It could be a miracle cure for a sickness that you thought was going to toll your last bell. 

It could simple pleasures, like sunny days and blue, blue skies with clouds so fluffy they look like a child’s drawing; it could be the smell of cut grass, and the whisper of pine needles being ruffled by a mischievous breeze. 

 

Or, it could be chipmunks.   

 

Initially, I named mine “Mr. Chipmunk,” revealing a lack of imagination that belies my career as a writer.  I could have named him Skippy (he definitely skips), or Scamp (he definitely scampers) or Dostoyevsky (he lives underground and Dostoyevsky wrote a book called “Notes from the Underground.”) 

 

But my little guy has a way of standing up and presenting himself, as if for military inspection, that seemed to demand a less whimsical and less literary form of respect.   

 

 

 

Hence…Mr. Chipmunk. 

 

Initially, I was convinced that my backyard buddy was the fastest moving chipmunk that ever lived.  If I looked to my left, I’d see him scurrying across the driveway into the garden.  If I blinked and turned to my right, I’d see him poised on the edge of my lavender patch like a swimmer about to dive into a pool.  If I blinked again, he’d be climbing up a pole as thin as a pencil to deposit himself (upside down) atop a bird feeder, and then stick his nose into the opening to fatten his chubby face with some other critter’s seeds! 

 

 

 

The sight of him with his eyes darting here and there and cheeks bulging to capacity was a real knee-slapper.  Until I’d blink again and perceive him once more at ground level, slimmer and smaller, and seemingly without a single seed tucked into his no-longer bulging cheeks. 

 

The greatest magician in the world had nothing on my backyard entertainer, for not only could Mr. Chipmunk be in two places at the same time, he could also simultaneously be fat and thin, big and small, puffy-cheeked, and as gaunt-faced as a cadaver. 

 

I fell in love with him.  At least, I did until I found out that I had fallen in love with them. 

 

Truly, it never dawned on me that there were two Mr. Chipmunks playing hide–and-seek among my lily of the valley … until a month went by … when I found out there were THREE !!! 

 

I only saw them together once.  Two on the porch steps, and one standing beside a downspout a few feet away.  They were all staring at me, and during that brief exchange of perceptions, I could almost hear them saying: 

 

“There she is!”  

 

“I see her, but where are the others?” 

 

“There are no others.” 

 

“But I thought there were three of them.” 

 

“No.  There aren’t three.  There’s only one.” 

 

“What shall we call her?” 

 

“Let’s call her Mrs. Human.” 

 

After that brief inter-species stare-off, the two chipmunks on the stairs scurried into a hidey-hole under the house, and the one by the downspout put on his Super-Hero paws and climbed up to my roof. 

 

I have spent the entire summer taking pictures of Mr. Chipmunk.  All three of him.  I cannot go outside without looking for them.  I cannot walk from my backdoor to my car without noticing tails bouncing joyfully over rocks, disappearing around corners, or darting under my car only to dash out the other side half-a-second later and vanish under an canopy of weeds. 

 

Last week, a friend came over to talk about books.  We were able to communicate more or less intelligently until we went outside.  Then, with each word we said, our eyes drifted to the garden, where Mr. Chipmunk, in one of his three incarnations, was standing and sitting and climbing and chomping (on seeds) so delightfully, that neither of us could concentrate on concepts, and the only way we could finish a sentence was to turn our backs on my comical geniuses and pretend that they weren’t there.   

 

In such a way has my summer progressed.   

 

Yes.  My irises were more beautiful than ever.  Yes.  My liatris are purple plumes of wonder.  And yes.  My poppies are eye-popping, my foxglove grew in elongated heaps, and my stargazer lilies send scents of sheer bliss through my kitchen window. 

 

 

But … Mr. Chipmunk poses for my camera.  Mr. Chipmunk makes me laugh.  Mr. Chipmunk can be in one, two, three places at once.   Mr. Chipmunk has returned me to a childlike state of wonder. 

 

This is the summer of the chipmunk.   

 

And I can’t stop smiling.   

 

 

 

Copyright © 2015, Shelly ReubenOriginally published in The Evening Sun, Norwich, NY - evesun.com Shelly Reuben’s books have been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon awards.  For more about her books, visit www.shellyreuben.com.