Wilbur and the New Neighbors

We have new neighbors.

They poked their heads up from under the deck outside the screen door of the a-frame. Woodchuck (groundhog) pups making themselves at home.

woodchucks

Woodchucks at the cabin

It was Groundhog day all over again at the cabin. Years before we inhabited the place, a woodchuck had decided to come inside the cabin. The humans were away when Wilbur  — we’ll call him Wilbur — abandoned the family under the deck to settle more comfortably inside the cabin. Maybe Wilber needed to get away awhile.

Kay and I come to the cabin to get away. Now we want to get away from the woodchucks — or have Wilbur and his family taken far away from us in traps baited with luscious carrots, fresh lettuce, celery, and other yummies that doesn’t grow naturally here along the marsh’s edge.

The pups are kind of cute, in a non-dog kind of way, if you love all Nature. “Something there is that loves a [woodchuck],” wrote Robert Frost one night, revising his “Mending Wall” poem when three woodchuck pups after he’d had too much wine. Or maybe Frost had just read Psalm 50, as I did this morning, the day after the pups introduced themselves to Kay: “All the beasts of the forest are mine…. I know every bird in the sky, and the creatures under your deck are in my sight” (Psalm 50:10-11).

Many years ago a woodchuck was eating all the lettuce in the Broomall Nursing Home garden up the street from my boyhood home on Church Lane. When Wade, the nursing home caretaker, complained about the disappearing lettuce, two excited eight year-olds decided to become the good stewards of Wade’s garden. With Wade’s help, Ted Bonsall and I built a box trap of wood and hardware wire, and caught the woodchuck. But, hey, what do you do with the woodchuck you just removed from the nursing home garden? Ted and I were advanced planners, we had built a large cage of wood and chicken wire in the backyard. Having succeeded as trappers, we turned the woodchuck loose from the box-trap into the large cage loaded with carrots, broccoli, and lettuce. The next morning, the cage was empty!

There’s a reason they call a woodchuck a woodchuck. It had gnawed through the wood and the chicken wire on its way to freedom, relieving us of having to answer the bigger question of what to do with a woodchuck when the snow starts falling. The woodchuck got away from us before we wanted to get away from it.

Sixty-seven years later, I wonder whether the Wilbur in Minnesota ever made a prison break in Pennsylvania.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, northern Minnesota, June 8, 2018.

A Man and His Dog

Barclay and Gordon

Barclay and Gordon

Few bonds are as close as a man and his dog. I sorely miss Barclay, the soccer dog, who’s living with his “sister” Kristin while Kay and I are “somewhere else” for a long time.

Kristin reports he’s doing well, eating all his food, taking his medicine, and happily playing goalie with his ball.

I wonder if Robert Frost had a dog. After writing “Mending Wall,” – Something there is that doesn’t love a wall….”, he might have thought, “Something there is that loves…a dog.”

 

 

Cuba: The Embargo Wall

“SOMETHING there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,

And spills the upper boulders in the sun;

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.”

Robert Frost, “Mending Wall”

Two human beings passed abreast through a wall yesterday: the invisible wall between the U.S. and Cuba.

The wall was built by human hands. It’s coming down by human hands. Like the Berlin Wall and “the Iron Curtain” that went up during the Cold War between the East and West.

Here in the States the story was that the wall and the curtain had gone up to keep people in. And that’s what I thought until the summer of 1966 while living “behind” the wall with the Schulz family in Bratislava as The Experiment in International Living’s Chicago Ambassador to Czechoslovakia.

A visitor from the West was immediately struck by the absence of bill boards. There were no advertisements like in Chicago. Bratislava struck me at first glance as a gray place, a dull place, a colorless place, a depressing place. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

“The wall isn’t there to keep us in,” said my hosts at the third floor walk-up apartment at #7 Legionarska Street. “It there to keep you OUT.” Their story was altogether different. They were trying to keep Western materialism, Western greed and commercialism on the other side of the wall.

They build the wall, they said, to make possible the building of a new character: a more generous, less predatory, more social community beyond the old desaparities of wealth and poverty.

“Today Robert Fronts-Diaz, who owns a Twin Cities translation and communications business, says the U.S. embargo was ‘an opportunity for Cuba to build character… Since I was a little kid, I wanted the Cuban embargo to be lifted,’ Fonts-Diaz said, his voice breaking with emotion. ‘I am very deeply touched that my request has been fulfilled,’” [“For state’s Cuban, change was a long time coming,” StarTribune, Dec. 18, 2014]

“SOMETHING there is that doesn’t love a wall….” In the end, over time, they all come down

[Eternity] “spills the upper boulders in the sun;

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.”

They departed…by another way

Video

“And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, [the wise men] departed for their own country by another way.” – Gospel of Matthew 2:12