Groundhog Day

I went for a walk yesterday hoping to cure a bad case of cabin fever. The break in freezing temperatures had me dreaming of springtime as I walked along the slushy trail.

Suddenly, a groundhog with big brown eyes scurried past me. There was nothing so very remarkable in that, nor did I think it was so very much out of the way to hear the groundhog say to itself, “I’m late! I’m late!”

“Whatever are you late for?” I asked the groundhog. He glared at me as if I was stupid and put his short stubby arms on his hips.

“Are you kidding me, lady?” he said gruffly. My blank expression further aggravated him.

“It’s-th Groundhog Day!” he shouted with a lisp due to his very long teeth.

“Oh, I guess it is,” I said. “I’m sorry, but I thought only certain groundhogs participated in the Groundhog Day tradition.” 

“Oh boy, here we go,” he said. “I guess-th you’re referring to my crazy Uncle Phil up in Punxsutawney. You know they locked him up, right? Nutty as a th-squirrel that one. Thinks-th he can predict the weather.”  

Pretending to jump in fright, he sarcastically mocked, “Oh, I’m th-scared of my shadow! I better go back into my burrow. There’s going to be th-six more weeks of winter!”

Looking at me incredulously his tone changed, “Geez, lady, really?”

Though a little miffed at his attitude, I was intrigued. “But you said yourself that today is Groundhog Day.”

Standing up on his back legs, he took a deep breath and slowly explained, “February th-second is Groundhog Day. It’s the day we groundhogs come out of our burrows to…” he stopped talking and nervously wrung his front paws.

“To…” I urged him to continue.

“To attend the Annual Groundhog Day Dance-th!” he blurted.

“Aw, you’re blushing!” I said. “Anyone special you’re hoping to see?” 

“Yes-th,” he said swaying back and forth. “She’s just the th-sweetest, prettiest groundhog I’ve ever th-seen.” 

“Well,” I said smoothing a messy tuft of fur on top of his head, “you might not get a second chance, so be nice.”

“Wait just a th-second,” he said disappearing into a hole in the ground. He reappeared proudly wearing a bow tie.

“Perfect,” I said.

“I gotta run, lady. Happy Groundhog Day!” he hollered as he hurried down the trail.

I looked up at the cloudy sky. “Thank goodness,” I muttered, “six more weeks of winter just might have made me a little crazy.” §

 

 

 

 

 

The Lady and the Bird

The sun had just risen on a cold, crystal clear morning. My pals and I stopped for breakfast at one of our favorite spots that serves a daily smorgasbord of thistle, suet, mealworms, peanut butter and, my personal favorite, black oil sunflower seeds.

After a delicious breakfast, I was ready to enjoy the sunshine. I made a flourished circle around the feeders. “Good day, Chaps,” I said to my friends as I flew away cheerfully.

I spread my bright red wings and felt the wind at my back. What a gorgeous day! Not a cloud in the… WHAM! I hit the glass door hard. Lying on the porch, I saw my impeccably groomed feathers slowly flutter to the ground around me.

So this is how it ends. Blasted windows. Goodbye friends. Goodbye blue sky. Goodbye…wait a minute. I’m still alive! 

I tried to move but couldn’t. My heart was beating unusually fast. I couldn’t catch my breath, and I was getting so cold. My thoughts turned to the red-shouldered hawk we’d seen hanging around. And just yesterday, there were two red foxes in this very yard. I was a sitting duck, so to speak.

The lady came out of the house wrapped in a blanket. “Oh no,” she said. “You poor thing.” She knelt down to get a good look at me. I slowly blinked my eyes to let her know I wasn’t a goner yet. She hurried back inside and watched me from the other side of that stupid glass door.

Suddenly, I felt myself being lifted off the ground. Whoa! What’s happening here? This is highly unusual. I’m going up to heaven. Yep, that’s what’s happening. Goodbye beautiful world!

The next thing I knew I was lying on a soft blanket in a box inside a warm house. I couldn’t have fought it if I wanted to. The lady sat next to me on the floor and said a little prayer. “You’re going to be fine. Just warm up and rest,” she said. I heard her on the phone with her husband, the man who keeps our feeders filled. “Don’t bring it into the house,” he said emphatically. “Okay,” she said.

For the next hour or so she stayed with me. It was an odd scene. Me, a wild cardinal, in the kitchen of a woman who chatted as if she’d invited me over for tea. I was starting to feel like my old self. My breathing returned to normal, and I could wiggle my feet and cock my head in that adorable way I do.

“Well, look at you!” she said. She secured the box lid, making sure it still allowed a couple inches of breathing room for me. “You sure are handsome,” she said admiring my impressive scarlet crest, ink black markings, and perfect beak. I puffed up a little and fluttered my wings. They work! My wings work! I’m going to live! 

The lady set the box on the porch, shutting that dumb sliding glass door behind her. “Well, Mr. Cardinal, let’s see if you can fly,” she said lifting the lid. I gently flapped my wings. Yep, they work. Well, this has been a morning for the books. 

I settled back on the soft blanket for a few seconds and looked at the lady. Thank you, M’am. I’ll be seeing you. With a tear in her eye, she said goodbye. I flew out of the box and showed off by doing a little loop. I perched on the porch railing and looked at her. If I’d had a hat, I would have tipped it. May I kindly ask one more favor?

Please don’t clean your windows quite so well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

City Mouse, Country Mouse

 

The past few years my husband I had many discussions about our retirement plans. Consideration of family and budget helped narrow our choices, but we were still undecided. The question remained ~ did we want to live as the proverbial city mouse or country mouse?

Sometimes we dreamed of living in a sharp condo in the city. “We could go to concerts, sporting events, and restaurants,” Mike said. “You know how I love the arts,” I added. “We could be patrons of the theatre, ballet, and symphony.”

Yes, we would enjoy the life of a city mouse.

Sometimes we dreamed of living in a secluded cabin on a lake. “We could hike, kayak, and swim,” Mike said. “You know how I love nature,” I added. “We could be surrounded by peace and quiet.”

Yes, the life of a country mouse would be wonderful.

On little more than an instinctual whim, this past spring we moved to a lake house in woods. Recently, we spent a weekend in Chicago visiting our daughter who lives and works amid the hustle and bustle of the city.

We sipped champagne in a swanky bar while listening to a jazz trio play Etta James. We strolled through a museum, standing inches from beautiful works of art. We dined at hip restaurants and tasted trendy cuisine. The city was exciting and energizing.

From inside a taxi, I watched throngs of people rush past each other. The driver blared his horn and braked sporadically to avoid unpredictable pedestrians. It reminded me of driving the winding roads near our house, stopping for animals that run out of the woods without warning.

The crowds in the crosswalk turned into forest animals. Deer tottered in high heels, foxes talked on cell phones, and hipster turtles strolled slowly across the road. I shook my head to stop my silly imagination and realized I was a little homesick.

We were sightseeing at Navy Pier, Chicago’s busiest summer tourist spot. To escape the crowds, we found a table tucked in the corner of a restaurant patio. Instead of looking at the magnificent view of the Windy City rising up from the shoreline of Lake Michigan, Mike and I quietly watched a handful of birds enjoy a pile of discarded French fries.

He looked at me and said definitively, “Honey, I’m a country mouse.”  I smiled and winked, “Me too.”

The city will always be a nice place to visit, but we’re thrilled we followed our intuition and retired to the country. True, there isn’t nearby shopping, restaurants, or cultural entertainment. But we drift to sleep to the soothing sound of crickets and bullfrogs in the still, starry night. We rarely find ourselves in a line of cars or people. And we will never tire of working and playing alongside our forest friends who live in our neck of the woods.

And so, in the simple life of a country mouse, they lived happily ever.