A 17th century Korean poet wrote:
By Therese Park
Mountains stay put thousands of years
But streams always go and go.
Isn’t life the same as waters?
Once gone, they never return.
The mountains refer to the things that are solid and unyielding, while streams symbolize the trivial things we deal with every day, such as taxes and bills, visiting doctors, a bad economy and listening to unpleasant news. The poet also points out that whatever we are or we do or we have today will be gone someday, never to return.
While North Korea is threatening to use nuclear bombs on the U.S and South Korea day after day, and the Pentagon gives conflicting reports — one day they say North Korea is not capable of launching nuclear-armed rockets and the next day, they say it is — I, a senior citizen, choose to think about things that give me inner peace and a sense of belonging. After all, we live on this planet for a limited time, and who can guarantee that tomorrow will be here for sure?
Spring is finally here. Finches, sparrows and woodpeckers are swarming about the feeders, competing with squirrels, and I hear trills of some nameless songbirds imitating opera singers.
One morning while making myself coffee in the kitchen, I saw through the window at a woodchuck walking along the bank of our backyard creek and was elated. This could be the same one that lived in the creek wall last year, the one that wouldn’t pose for a snapshot for me. How many times I tried! But it somehow knew my intention and vanished like smoke. Then I didn’t see it for a long time; I thought it abandoned us.
Then one day in early fall, it showed up. But this time, it wasn’t alone; a miniature furry creature was following behind it. This taught me two things: the one I had seen earlier was Mrs. Woodchuck, who, while hiding, gave birth to the small thing I was looking at now. My motherly instinct kicked in and I wanted to go out there and pick it up. But I had to ask myself a question; Would I have liked it if a stranger touched my precious newborn? Absolutely not! Besides, to woodchucks, we humans could be dangerous monsters capable of swallowing them without thinking twice about it.
The baby woodchuck could hardly catch up with its mother, and at one point, it rolled to the lower level of the bank amid grass and rocks. Mrs. Woodchuck came to the rescue, and they both disappeared into a brush nearby. Then winter settled in with icy wind and snow, and I didn’t see them at all. But now that the flowering trees are blooming and the sunlight bright and warm, one of them has returned to our backyard. But why only one? And which one is this, mother or the junior?
Woodchuck habitat includes a wide climate range, according to an encyclopedia. However, they are not currently found in the western half of the U.S. because they like cool temperature. Then, how did two of them end up living on our property here in the Midwest last year? My hunch is that the old trees on both sides of our creek provide cool temperature, and though heavy rain causes the stream to widen and roar like Yangtze River of China during early summer, small animals and birds find peace, solitude, water and camaraderie in our backyard.
Though I only see one woodchuck at the moment, I’m not worried. Sooner or later the other will show up, and the mother and child will reunite here on our property. Most things in life pass us never to return, but some do, like your favorite season and what comes with it.
Overland Park resident and retired musician Therese Park has written three novels. Her most recent, “The Northern Wind: Forced Journey to North Korea,” is available at www.thereseparkbook.com and Rainy Day Books.