What we learned in the Chipmunk Kingdom this afternoon

Peeking up

This afternoon–this beautiful 72 degree afternoon–I aimed to set off to the depths of the forest.  

Would you like to come along?  Here are the ground rules.  We won’t be talking much while we’re in the woods.  We’re here to learn, to listen, to see what nature wants to reveal.  

 Let’s walk carefully.  The branches are noisy when they crack and splinter underfoot.  Let’s pause frequently and look carefully in crevices and on logs.  Hear the wind blowing in the spruce?  Doesn’t it feel exquisite to be back in the woods with springtime ready to burst around us? 

Stalagmite-looking creatures in the crevice of a rotting tree

 OK, good find.  Glad to have you along.  I like your sharp eye–the way you spotted the Incredible World inside that rotting tree.  You pointed silently and we snapped photos of that eerie quiet interior world of a dying tree.  Isn’t it magical?  Do you see how easy it would be to pass it by if we were chatting? 

 Now.  Here we are.  Let’s plop down beneath this old spruce. 

 “Why?” you whisper. 

 “I don’t know,” I reply.  “You never know why you do anything out in the woods.  You let your instincts take over.  They decide if you’re hiking two miles or if you’re sitting two hours.  We’re suppose to be here.  Let’s just sit….shhhh.”   

The dying spruce under which we sit. Can you move over just a bit?

 Now, let’s be quiet.  And I don’t mean simply not talk.  Let’s not even think.  Let’s just watch and listen and let nature speak.  When a thought arises, let’s return our gaze to the dried leaves, the rustling, the chickadees chirping. 

 Silence…golden silence.  The mind still.  Suddenly:  activity!  Everywhere!  Oh my goodness!  A fierce and wild rustling from all directions.  What can it be? 

 Without moving our heads even a smidgen, look out the corner of your eyes.  My goodness!  We’re sitting amidst a Chipmunk Kingdom.  We’ve been lured to the Chipmunk Kingdom by nature to learn something from the little ones.  Or maybe to simply experience their world.  

 Shhh…don’t you dare think much.  If you do, they’ll know we’re humans.  Let’s just be as still as the spruce trees. 

The Kingdom of Chipmunks

 The little fellas creep closer.  They pause.  Sometimes shake their tails in indignation.  Stare.  Their lower lip quivers.  Do you see their quivering lower lips?  They scamper off, atop branches.  The forest returns to silence.  Maybe ten minutes pass.  They return.  Three of them!  They stare.  One holds food in his mouth.  One of them dives after the other, and they scramble in a little chipmunk deviltry or maybe mating-craziness before they scamper off again. 

Surrounding spruce

 “How long do we have to stay here?” you finally whisper after an hour or so.  Or maybe you only thought it.  Or maybe I thought it.  

 “Until a chipmunk climbs on one of our laps,” I reply.  And I mean it.  We’re not leaving until then. 

Chipmunk approaches..

Suddenly I’m thinking.  Remembering a story I read somewhere.  Not about chipmunks, but about squirrels.  About someone sitting in the forest–just like us–when suddenly a squirrel ran in his lap and bit him!  Just like that!  To find out if he was food.  Oh no!  What if this little chipmunk runs into our laps, takes a look at one of our juicy plump fingers, and bites it?  What if?  Now my thoughts are running helter-skelter, faster than the chipmunks.  The chipmunks bolt for the Green Beyond! 

 “We can go now,” I say calmly to you.  “That’s enough for today.” 

 Here is what I learned in the Chipmunk Kingdom today:  

 1.  Chipmunks are cautious around unknown humans.  

 2.  Humans are sometimes cautious around unknown chipmunks. 

 3.  Anything can happen in the woods! 

 I’m sure you learned something equally profound.  And your lesson from the chipmunks today was…?  (And if you can’t bring to mind your lesson from the chipmunks, let’s re-phrase the question:  And your lesson from nature today was…?)

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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41 Responses to What we learned in the Chipmunk Kingdom this afternoon

  1. holessence says:

    My reminder from nature today was, “Just watch and listen and let nature speak.”

    Excellent!

    Now go back up to the photo of the stalagmite looking creatures. The one coming in from the left side of the photo on the screen looks JUST LIKE an open-mouthed, wild boar with tusks!

    • Kathy says:

      My goodness, Laurie, I believe you must have spent the afternoon in the boar kingdom!! Perhaps the chipmunks put this up outside of their domain in an attempt to scare away trespassers. Yikes! Looked like we missed the chimpunk’s attempts. (You know sometimes it feels like my imagination wants to completely take over this blog. Sigh…but smiling!)

  2. Emma says:

    Oh, I want to go to The Chipmunk Kingdom!! 🙂

  3. Sam Juliano says:

    I came over here to scan your post briefly and lo and behold I was drawn into this alluring place, brought to life by this lovely account of chipmunk encounters. Stunning tree photos!

    Looks like quite a great blog here!

    • Kathy says:

      Sam, did the chipmunks lure you in? Laughing…it was a magical afternoon sitting atop all those roots and inner chambers where the chipmunks frolicked. Come back again soon!

  4. Jessica says:

    My lesson is that you’re still as hilarious as ever Kathy. And you’re always ready with your camera. Is it knotted to your hair by now? Your chipmunk story reminded me of the mousey story I just archived from Gaia. I saw another mousey last week. I couldn’t sleep and it was the dead of night with a little moonlight peeking in the window. A little, but fat, mouse casually sauntered across my bedroom floor. It stopped and I had a staring contest with it. I didn’t even have to move. He scampered back to the closet to hide in the walls again.

    • Kathy says:

      Yes, Jessica, I wear my camera knotted in my hair now! LOL. That way you can’t lose it. Love your mousey story! They are such sweet things…but on the other hand…

  5. Your pictures are simply amazing. You must submit them somewhere and frame them for sale. Beautiful!

    • Kathy says:

      Why, Iris, thank you very much. Want to know a secret? I have only printed maybe one or two of these photos–ever. And gave one of them away. Maybe will put some of them in our little art gallery one of these days. But that would involve doing something!

  6. Reggie says:

    That was hilarious, Kathy, and I loved every moment! Thank you for taking us with you on your walk. It really felt like you captured all the little shifts in attention that happen when one is out in nature, all the funny, odd, or downright peculiar thoughts that flit into one’s mind. I don’t even know if we have chipmunks in South Africa – they look SO entertaining! And so pretty with that black-white-stripe on their backs! And I’m so thrilled that you got a picture of one!

    Please take us on another walk with you soon, Kathy!

    • Kathy says:

      Reggie, it was just as hilarious writing it as it was reading it, I’m sure. However, in the midst of the Chipmunk Kingdom, funniness had not surfaced yet. How interesting that you don’t have chipmunks in south Africa. They are sooo cute!

  7. flandrumhill says:

    No chipmunks here. I’ve twice been bitten by red squirrels. It hurts. Those little teeth sink right to the bone. I think you were lucky to get out before they attacked 😉

    • Kathy says:

      Ah ha! Someone HAS been bitten by a red squirrel! I knew they liked to munch on the unsuspecting. Not so sure about chipmunks though… Sorry to hear you don’t have the little fellas in Nova Scotia.

  8. Kathy my less from the Chipmunks today is it is more fun in a kingdom or community… and you never know when company is coming.

    My mom once did what you did today and she was so still for so long that they ran up the inside of her pant leg. They thought she was a tree. We laughed when she told us the story but she said it really wasn’t funny at the time because they scratched and it was a bit terrifying.

    I also like how you tell about how to see things in the woods. It takes much practice to be quiet and still the mind until you become part of the forest and then can see the other creatures – who have always been there. Great post – outstanding photos with an excellent story.

    • Kathy says:

      Terrill, it’s fascinating that we all learned something different from those little chippies. What a story about your mom having the chipmunk run up her leg! (Barry had a similar thing happen when a shrew ran up his shirt. Eeeek!!) The closest these chipmunks got to me was about three inches away. Glad you like the photos & story.

  9. Barbara says:

    Oh those darling chipmunks! Those are the best pictures of them I’ve ever seen! What a gift you have, Kathy, you should become a professional nature photographer and publish your on coffee table books! Some day I will walk with you in your woods…

    • Kathy says:

      Barbara, now that’s a dream! I probably would need a better camera to get that quality of photos! But you’re makin’ me smile…

  10. quietpaths says:

    Delightful! That little one was curious enough to let you take its picture. Loved the ramble in the woods.

    • Kathy says:

      Thank you. That little one was certainly brave to creep so close. And then not to run away when the camera shutter sang its little song before snapping.

  11. Jeannie says:

    72 degrees in the forest, what fun! I remeber learning that chipmunks live higher up than most lil’ rascals. Is that true in your neck of the woods too?
    Watching our little furry friends is so relaxing, melts all cares and worries away. All the wild creatures do, I enjoyed focusing on them here with you.

    • Kathy says:

      Jeannie, I’m not sure where these chipmunks slept. I do know they were playing underground on the roots of the dead spruce. They would go down one hole and pop up another. It was such a relaxing afternoon. I like meditating with the forest creatures. 🙂

  12. I learned to bring peanuts with me when walking through the woods. Thanks, Kathy!

    On a more serious note, that’s a good exercise if one doesn’t fall asleep doing it. Not that I ever had that happen to me. 😉

    • Kathy says:

      Peanuts, Scott! An admirable idea. I was wishing for some sunflower seeds on this occasion. Yep…could have been very conceivable that the chipmunk-watcher could fall asleep. Except the roots underneath were a little too hard for that.

  13. Trudie says:

    Sounds like you had a far more entertaining and fun-filled day than I did. I am jealous … Awesome pictures too!

    • Kathy says:

      Trudie, I am on a mission to see if even things that look the most boring–like sitting in the woods and doing nothing–can be portrayed as truly interesting, exciting, and fascinating. That’s my mission in life. Don’t always succeed…but we can try, right?

  14. I laughed so hard, Laurie. You had me with you every step of the way. What I learned today, from you, from chipmunks, from nature, or from wherever, is to delight in your curiosity and watch out for your fingers. I’m still laughing!

    • Kathy says:

      Hi Amber! Glad you enjoyed this little adventure. It certainly was fun. Delight in curiosity and watch out for our fingers! Too funny…

  15. Cindy Lou says:

    Spring IS bursting out all over…..can’t wait to get home and see how far it’s burst since I’ve been gone! The first couple of days down here were quite cold but yesterday and today were absolutely lovely….Kenzie and I have been to the park, flown a kite, taken walks, played in the water on the porch, cooked, planted beans and sunflowers! Oh such fun! 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Cindy Lou, you simply wouldn’t believe it. It’s 78 degrees right now. Spring is here! (Although we know how quickly that can change, don’t we?) Sounds like you are having a magnificent time with Kenzie. You have done so many wonderful outside things, haven’t you? Safe travels home.

  16. Isabelle says:

    Kathy, I so enjoyed walking in silence with you through the Chipmunk Kingdom ! A real treat, pictures and words. It reminded me of my own walk this afternoon to an isolated part of our woods with Nino-the-Beagle. He was very attentive, his nose filled with lots of new and interesting smells… I sat on a long and listened to the joyful songs of birds welcoming Spring. The sun was shining between the pine trees and I got the scent of a bonfire, its blue smoke was dancing in the light breeze. No squirrels to be seen but cheeky little birds hopping around, teasing the beagle. And I thought that Nature needs to be visited in silence to be fully appreciated; it also needs to be looked at with wonder, always and gratefulness. Thank you Kathy for sharing your beautiful story and thoughts.

    • Kathy says:

      Oh yes, Isabelle, I like your story and what you added to this. That sense of wonder and gratefulness. Oh, yes, indeed, so vital to our commune… I am now remembering your pictures of Nino and imagining your Spring walk. Beautiful!

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  19. Jessica says:

    My lesson was to think twice about letting furry wild critters on my lap. That doesn’t mean I will not let them though. LOL Somewhere I have a photo of me with a black squirrel on my lap. It was in Niagara, ONT for my 5 year anniversary (many moons ago). Maybe it is time to look for it.

    Thanks for the tour of Chipmunk Kingdom Kathy 🙂

    Jessica

    • Kathy says:

      Jessica, I am thinking right now that there is a fine line between fear and allowing. But, heck, how do we know? I haven’t a clue… I want to think that the chipmunks and squirrels could run around on our laps and never bite. Is that naivete or Oneness with nature? How do we know…guess we have to listen to our own deepest inner voices at the moment and try to know…at some place deeper than our surface fear or ignorance? Wow, thinking profoundly way too early in the morning!

  20. truels says:

    Thanks for the pictures and exiting story from your walk with the chipmunks. We don’t have those here – we have squirrels, and they have become less cautious now, so we now and then see them near our houses – also in urban areas. And also around my house I have seen one climbing in trees, but it doesn’t come close to us….

    • Kathy says:

      Truels, it’s hard to get close to the little creatures. Really hard. I sat for a long time this afternoon trying to lure a chipmunk to come close (with sunflower seeds!) but it didn’t work. You have to have Infinite Patience, I think.

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  22. Elisa says:

    MY GOD!! 70 anything…oh I recall that sort of sitting and thinking, not sitting and not thinking. I recall the mink that crawled into my lap and MY GOD!!! did not bite me phew. I can still get really angry at me or at the world when I cannot simply walk about in the state as above all of the time. I think it is possibly one of the largest contributors to my –not-being-able-to-do- it times. I feel as though i’ve been having a very large amount of those, though I bet I am focusing just as hard or not, at something else. It is different to notice the kinds of noticing, and how they can be made-or just are, very tiny and focused, or largely focused. I often say, gosh I love it all, but I can fret that I am having to give up one thing for another. I wonder if the word mastery means or doesn’t mean resolution or completion, finished, the end. Though I am squinting and thinking that I’d get awfully bored if there was a getting of things and then….nada.

    • Kathy says:

      I know what you mean about wanting things to be a certain way and fretting if they’re not. Hoping you are enjoying these late winter days, Elisa.

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