bunt sign

Wednesday, October 24, 2001

So today I'm sitting out on the porch at one o'clock — it gets earlier every day, my afternoon rest period, but so do sundown and darkness and the cold, cold night — and my attention was drawn away from my book — Seventeen Against the Dealer, by Cynthia Voigt — to what sounded like someone or something — depending on how you look at it, I guess — eating daintily somewhere in the grass close by.

And I couldn't read. I couldn't concentrate, and I couldn't think about anything except staring at the ground to see what the noise was. I thought I saw a blade of grass move, but then I noticed that they were all moving in the breeze. Then I saw a clump of grass disappear underground, as if sucked into hell.

I sprang to my feet and grabbed the shovel. I wasn't thinking about killing anything (this time), just desperately curious about what was going on. But it's not even that. I was curious to see if I could find the source of all this activity, more than I was about the source itself.

For one thing, I was pretty sure it was my gopher (or mole, I still don't know but let's call it a gopher). When I'd first heard the noise, I figured it was just another lizard in the grass. That's all it usually is, whenever I hear faint sounds penetrating the quiet afternoon. If it's a bird, I can see it; if I can't see it, it's probably a lizard.

It wasn't a lizard this time. (Or a bird, either, obviously.) As soon as I was sure it was more than a lizard (or rather, something bigger than a lizard, because "more" seems overly judgmental), I (as I already mentioned two paragraphs ago) grabbed a shovel.

And dug and dug and dug. I found the hole right away, and I stuck the handle of the shovel in as far as it would go, ripping away the ground. When I couldn't make any further progress that way, I dug some more, until I got to another arm of the tunnel. I followed it as deep as I could, until I almost broke off the shovel's handle in it.

All this activity produced nothing, really, except an unsightly new trench that I'll just have to fill up again, since it's right outside my back door. The gopher is still living under my yard. If I stuck shovel handles in every hole I see, all around the yard, it would look like a samurai graveyard, with shovels as monuments instead of swords.

enhanced gopher hole

This started as a tiny hole, but then I got carried away.

Even after living here for over a year, my relationship with the natural world that was here before I came (and will be here long after I'm gone) is not well-defined. Sometimes I just react, the way I did today when I heard the gopher. At other times, it's a matter of benign neglect (or just plain neglect). I don't have a master plan.

Sure, I kill rats, and chase away cats (because they refuse to kill rats), but I feed the birds and leave the lizards alone. I'm forever pulling up any plant that I don't like the looks of, but I let the garden area run wild with whatever will grow there. I'm not sure what logic there is behind these decisions. I'm not even sure if I need a master plan.

Often I wish I had a better handle on what I should be doing here. If I knew a little more about gardening, I'd know which plants to cultivate and which to discourage. With a more extensive background in such matters, I might know how to handle the gopher situation more efficiently. Flooding their tunnels and filling the holes seems to do no good.

On the other hand, my system fits nicely with the way I manage the rest of my life. I keep house and even do my job the same way. Everything gets done, eventually if haphazardly. The less pressure I put on myself to do things a certain way, the happier I am with how they turn out. I've survived without a master plan, and I wouldn't know how to create one anyway. I've lived this way too long to try to make rules now.

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