We wake thinking about leaving. These trips are always too short. Today we have to pack up. Somehow, all the equipment that makes it possible to survive up here—tents, sleeping bags, propane burners, assorted rope and tarps and boots—have to fit back into the tiny, rented car so that we can drive home. As always, we have too much food, and it’s not worth taking home, so David dumps little piles discreetly around the outskirts of our camp. Even the dog leaves them alone, full of last night’s leftovers. “Well, someone will eat it.” He empties out the pot of old mac and cheese. It sits on the big rock, looking utterly alien in its lurid orangeness. “Nothing’s going to eat that,” comments the mother-in-law. It sits. We continue cleaning up the camp. An atmosphere of melancholy sets in. Suddenly I see the little chipmunks that inhabit the area running around on the rock. Maybe they will become interested in the mac and cheese. One is drinking water from the pot, holding on to the rim with prehensile back paws. Another one grabs a piece of macaroni with what can only be described as hands and nibbles it tentatively. Then, it seems everyone wants some, because soon there are six or seven of them, running up to the pile of mac and cheese, grabbing a piece, and running off with it stuffed in their cheeks. Quite a show, and soon we are all watching, trying not to scare them away by laughing too loud or moving suddenly. “How much can those tiny stomachs hold at one time?” I wonder out loud. “Maybe they are squirreling it away,” says the poet husband, who is responsible for the feast being available in the first place. That little bit of wordplay is all that is necessary—-we begin free-associating a mythology for these cute little creatures as they run around, chewing furiously. Now that they are in possession of the orange creamy goodness that is our discarded mac and cheese, we imagine a new life for them in the coming winter, a new group of super- chipmunks who will worship the orange stuff that came from above. Isn’t that just like us humans, making story out of just stuff that happens. We anthropomorphize at the drop of a hat, spinning complexity as if it were the stuff of nature. It’s easy because we will not be here to find out what really happens. We can cast ourselves as beneficent gods, bestowing some kind of boon when we really have no idea what goes on underground in rodent dens when the snow lies thick over this ground and the wind blows down the mountain. For all we know, we have killed them all, poisoned them with food that we, after all, rejected.
I have published reviews on the web at thereviewreview.net and raintaxi.com. My poetry has appeared in various small magazines, most recently Bloodroot Literary Magazine.