poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘groundhog

groundhog burrow

with 14 comments

On my walk in the snowy grey woods, I checked on the burrows of the Groundhog (Marmota monax) near our picnic table.   I have read about the winter habits of the Groundhog and I know he enters true hibernation this time of year.  He does not wake through the winter to feed.  For this reason, I was not surprised to find the snow around the main entrance untouched by any tracks leading to or from the burrow.  The snow has buried the other burrow entrances.  Sleep well, Groundhog family!





groundhog excavates

beneath the fir, a meter cubed of dug

and snug and sifted dirt, disturbed

observes from veiled backdoor

under fibred curtain, dangled root

twisted tunnel, tilted floor


eats well and sleeps but

wakes, stumbles down his bleary halls

for green but white still sifts between

the burrow walls, tells his mate shove over

settles back to hibernate



© Jane Tims  2011




Written by jane tims

December 31, 2011 at 8:06 am


with 4 comments

If the space you occupy, your niche, has benefits to nourish, lift and sustain you, it also has its pitfalls, its dangers.  Animals know this and their adaptations to their habitat are as much about avoiding danger as they are about obtaining food or shelter.

Think about the Groundhog family in the grey woods behind our house (see post ‘the location of our picnic table‘ August 20,2011, category ‘wild life’).  The Groundhog’s tunnels are designed to provide shelter and food storage, but they are also designed for checking out the enemy and for quick escape.

Like the Groundhog, I try to prepare for the pitfalls.  I have an emergency kit, including water and a flashlight, ready for severe storms, unexpected floods, and power outages.  In spite of this, when our basement was flooded last December, I found I was poorly prepared and all I could do was concentrate on the small steps toward return to normalcy.

The path through the grey woods has its own pitfalls.  When I go for walks I have to beware of fallen trees…

roots ready to grab an ankle…

branches reaching to poke an eye…

and the risks of not looking around, and missing something special and ephemeral…



soft places in the earth

hollows in the leaf layer

deadfalls to snag the surest ankle

roots that reach for the body

and chasms to claim it


gaps in the greyness of pine

spaces to spill sunlight

admit the riot of leaves

and the keys of the maple


holes in the layer of cloud

snags in the curtain

knots in floorboards

eyes in the blackness of night


flaws in the fabric

seams to part and peer through

paths we have crossed before

in other ways


© Jane Tims 2005

'red mushroom'

Written by jane tims

September 26, 2011 at 8:04 am

the location of our picnic table

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Back in our grey woods is a place we don’t visit regularly any more.  Our picnic table is there, in a mossy area among mature spruce and fir, at the top of a slope.  It overlooks a wet spot in the woods.  In the spring the wet area becomes an ephemeral stream, and a series of vernal pools among the mosses and ferns.

down-slope of the picnic table is a ferny area with an ephemeral stream... the dark areas in the photo are pools of water

Once, almost 28 years ago, the space was perfect for our new picnic table.  The table was given to my newborn son by his Great-Aunt Jane and we took considerable care in choosing its location. 

our picnic table in the woods

In years past, we took a picnic lunch there regularly.  Sometimes I went there to write.

Today I pass the table when I follow the path through the woods, but I haven’t stopped to eat a picnic there in years.   Another family has taken over, probably of Groundhogs (Marmota monax).  They have built a labyrinth of burrows among the tree roots in the soft soil of the slope.  Where each burrow exits is a mound, the remains of deep-earth excavation.  One of the six burrow openings is larger than the others.  My reading tells me this complex of burrows and exits provides quick escape from predators, a place to store food, and a place to hibernate.

the main entrance to the burrows, under the roots of a fir

Once this place was the ideal location for our new picnic table and our family picnics.  Now the same site is perfect habitat for the Groundhog family.                                                    


concerning the location

of our new picnic table


share a meal with the unknown

to make it your friend


we find a clearing

near the path

where the sun will shine at noon

where we will not have to cut the trees

where the neighbours’ voices

and the passing cars

are quiet 


we load the picnic table

into the cart

haul it through the woods

behind the Yamaha


we eat peanut butter sandwiches

and applesauce

drink cola

and sunshine


we laugh

make friends with the woods

and with each other



© Jane Tims 1983

Written by jane tims

August 20, 2011 at 7:32 am

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