It started with the rock. Actually, it started for me with the rock. For you, the story would start elsewhere, I’m sure. I came across the rock, now your rock, in the backyard shortly after my husband and I moved into the house. I was struck by the granite’s natural beauty, its graceful belt of pale stripes. I moved the rock from its cradle of broken bricks and overgrown grass to a spot on the corner of the deck. There I could see it from the window in the kitchen door, and from there I would soon see you, too.
At first, the novelty of seeing you drew me to the window. Then I began to meditate on our similarities, not the fact that I’m a small mammal, too—not chipmunk-small, but human-small—or that I’m omnivorous. Instead, my thoughts turned to how we are both solitary creatures who construct intricate tunnels.
Back in mid-March when the civilized world was forced to shelter in place, I developed a heightened awareness of my tendency to burrow, as well as my need to emerge. Teaching from my burrow, rather than in the classroom, confined me to a solitary labyrinth that I tunneled through by writing. The writing—the blog posts that I composed for my students and the comments that I posted for them— distracted me from the uncertainty that came with COVID-19. Writing had a calming effect. Yet at the same time, all that tunneling within a tunnel meant too much solitude.
Moving to a new burrow and returning to the classroom—the actual, not the virtual, classroom—has roused me. But I am not up to speed. The back-to-back trials of navigating remote instruction and packing my life into boxes led to a state akin to your annual torpor. I am still crawling out, even as the tunneling act of writing continues to help me make sense of it.
Now, as I continue to forage for the right words, I pause in my writing and picture you back on your perch, contemplating life. The stripes in the granite reflect the ones that border your curved back.
I don’t know whether you visited the rock before I moved it, or whether you simply like the corner where you found it. I only know that seeing you stake your claim has brightened the quiet moments when this human has watched you from the window.
Thank you for welcoming me home.