a curious hole

A couple weeks ago I was out in the back yard tending to the bird feeders when I saw A Curious Hole dug in between the roots of a giant maple tree.

 

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NOTE: The peanuts weren’t there when I found the Hole. Pretend you can’t see those yet.

 

I got all excited because I was fairly certain it was a Steve-hole (all chipmunks are Steve), and thus Steve-Watch 2017 officially kicked off.

Steve-Watch activities include, but are not limited to:

  • obsessively watching the suspected Steve-hole from the kitchen and bedroom windows at every opportunity,
  • getting overly excited whenever something moves in the leaf litter around the suspected Steve-hole and adjacent environs,
  • crushing disappointment and cursing of sparrows that have the nerve to look vaguely Steve-like in the leaf litter,
  • leaving handfuls of peanuts, sunflower seeds, and dried berries near the Steve-hole as tribute / Steve bait, while simultaneously making a specific clicking noise with my mouth so that any Steves in the area begin to associate said noise with me and also a bountiful supply of delicious snacks (this is rooted in science, people. I don’t just make this shit up. Well, not ALL of it, anyway),

…you get the picture.

It should be noted, by the way, that these are not whole-household activities. Mark will happily watch Steves out the window with me, but he participates in none of the pacing, muttering, or HIGHLY SCIENTIFIC baiting / grooming activities that I engage in. It’s fine. He has hobbies I don’t share. They’re hobbies that don’t include making friends with painfully adorable woodland creatures so clearly they’re INFERIOR hobbies, but that’s cool. Whatever floats his boat.

ANYWAY.

Yesterday afternoon I was standing at the kitchen sink, washing a frying pan to make dinner in, and I saw a scuttle in the leaf litter outside. Muttering about useless fucking sparrows, I leaned closer to the window and squinted (note to self: buy binoculars, and maybe also stronger glasses), trying to confirm my suspicions.

Except it wasn’t a sparrow at all.

“Steve!” I yelped, and then I went full Hodor: “Steve! Steve! STEVE! STEEEEEEEEEEEEEEVE!”

As I watched one adorable Steve scuttle up the maple tree and perch on the edge of the abandoned bird house, more scuffling at the base of the trunk caught my eye.

Another Steve poked his / her head directly out of the Steve-hole. I jumped up and down.

“ohmigod, two! TWO STEVES! DOUBLE STEVE-AGE, OH MY GERDDDDD!”

Mark had gone upstairs a few minutes before to…I don’t know, something. Maybe he was in the bathroom? (Sorry if I interrupted your post-work poop, babe). He came thundering down the stairs to see what all the commotion was about and found me stuck in front of the kitchen window, pointing and doing my excited dance with a frying pan in my hand.

“Did I hear something about a Steve?” he asked.

“Two. TWO STEVES.”  I gestured toward the window with the frying pan. The Steve that had been in the Steve-hole ducked back down out of sight.

“Two? I only see one, up there on the bird house.”  Mark side-eyed me.

“THERE WERE TWO, I SAW THEM. The one in the hole just popped back down but it was totally there a second ago.”

He smirked.

“Are you sure you didn’t just get so excited that you started seeing Steves everywhere?”

“Absolutely not. You cannot gaslight me about Steves. There were DEFINITELY two. Look, look! There goes the second one off into the brush!”  I flailed at the window and then realized I should really put down the frying pan.

“Ok, if you say so.”

He patted me on the shoulder and then wandered back into the living room to do whatever whack-ass inferior non-Steve-related things he does.

I had been almost ready to start dinner when this whole thing started, by the way. Steak, salad fixings, potatoes, were all sitting on the counter waiting for me to do something with them. I looked at them, looked back out the window at the frolicking Steves, then turned to the other end of the counter and grabbed a handful of peanuts from the bag sitting there.

“I gotta go make friends, I’ll be back!” I said over my shoulder on my way out the door.

Out around the back corner of the building, I started making my very scientific clicking noise, alternating with talking in soothing, Steve-friendly, sing-songy tones.

“Steeeeves? St-EEEE-eeeves. I have delicious peanuts, Steeeeeves. I just want to be your friend, Steeeeves.”

It sounds creepy as fuck when it’s typed out, but I assure you, it was soothing. SCIENCE.

Birdhouse Steve eyed me from its perch. Steve-hole Steve was back at that point. It sniffed in my direction but didn’t move. I crept closer, crouching down as much as my fatness and bad knees would allow, continuing the (scientifically proven, patent pending) clicking noises. A rustle off to the right broke my concentration. I turned to look, just in time to see a third Steve poke its precious snoot out from under some leaves.

THREE STEVES, PEOPLE.

Troix Stéphanes.

Tres Estebans.

I about lost my god. damned. mind.

My stifled squeal of excitement sent Birdhouse Steve bolting down the tree and over the bank, but Steve-hole Steve and Leaf Steve both stood their ground. Leaf Steve was clearly a juvenile – not a BABY-baby (because holy shit, you’d have heard THAT screech around the fucking globe), but one young enough to not be hyper-vigilant yet. It skittered around under my lilies with very little concern, stopping to eye me now and then as it munched sunflower seeds. I crouched down more and offered an un-shelled peanut in Leaf Steve’s direction. It sniffed toward the peanut a few times and even came within about eight inches of me, but in the end wouldn’t take the peanut from my hand.

And that’s fine. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

My dream of a personal cadre of tiny chipmunk ninjas can wait.

World domination is worth being patient for.

gifts from the cleaning lady

Most days at work I’ll have a cup of tea, or more rarely, coffee. Around mid-morning the perpetual cold in my office will start to seep into my bones and I’ll need to enact self-warming measures or risk going into torpor (I’m half pterodactyl, you know), so I’ll grab my coffee cup and head for the kitchen. I return a few minutes later with a nice, hot beverage to go along with my renewed dislike of mankind in general. I sit down. I return to the tasks at hand. I slurp the hot beverage and feel the threat of torpor lessen. When I finish my drink, I set the cup off to the side of my desk and promptly forget it exists until the next time I want a hot drink. Washing the cup out while I wait for the water to heat up is just part of the ritual.

Except on Mondays.

On Mondays, my cup is pristine. There’s no ring of dried tea. There’s no quarter-inch deep puddle of coffee that I’ve abandoned because it has become so thick with grounds that it’s undrinkable. The inside of my coffee cup gleams white like new-fallen snow, and it never fails to make me smile.

Now don’t be fooled into thinking that this small miracle of tidiness is in any way due to foresight on my part on Friday afternoon. Oh, no. That kind of planning ahead isn’t how my brain works. If it were solely up to me, the coffee cup would sit all weekend and the Monday hot drink ritual would be just like every other day.

No, the Monday Morning Clean Cup is a gift the cleaning ladies bestow upon me. On Saturdays they come in and whisk around changing bin liners and wiping down bathrooms. They vacuum the carpets, they dust behind our monitors, they haul out the trash. They have plenty to to keep them busy on Saturday mornings. And yet, one of them always takes a couple minutes to pick up my cup, carry it out to the bathroom on the landing outside my office, give it a wash and a dry, and set it back on my desk.

You could argue that it’s just part of her job. Or that she’s getting paid by the hour, so the time it takes her to collect, wash, dry, and return coffee cups is more money in her pocket at the end of the day. Those points are fair enough. But do they take any of the shine off my clean coffee cup? Do they cheapen the tiny joy I feel when I go to make my hot drink of a Monday morning?

Nope.

The clean cup is a gift because I decide to see it as such.

I’m by no means immune to cynicism, to assuming everyone has ulterior motives. I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I have a dislike for mankind in general, and that’s not something I just throw out there for LOLs (the pterodactyl part is still up for debate until someone pays for me to have DNA testing done, though). I’m not refusing to believe that the cleaning lady is personally benefiting in some way from washing my coffee cup every Saturday. I choose to be thankful for it anyway. It’s not like my mug would be any cleaner if it had a final rinse of pure altruism. My tea wouldn’t taste any better if I knew that the person who cleaned my cup was doing so of their own volition with no monetary motivation or sense of duty. The gesture is no less meaningful because someone else is benefiting from it.

This unconditional thankfulness isn’t something I’m good at, but it’s something I think is worth trying to practice. I am reminded of this every Monday morning when I go to make my hot drink and find my cup sparkling clean.

So really, the cleaning lady has given me TWO gifts, one far deeper and more consequential than the other.