The sun warmed her whiskers as the blind woodchuck relaxed in the meadow. Closing her eyes, Philomena sighed deeply and was grateful for spring, the season of renewal. She was wondering what her next big adventure would be now that she was retired, when she heard snickering above her face and sat up just in time to catch a couple of rabbits getting ready to poke her with a stick. They shrieked and leaped into the bushes, one of them giggling back at her, “Sorry! We thought you were dead!” They then proceeded to mate right in front of her. Honestly, sometimes it was like the porn channel out here.

No one recognized her anymore. She had been replaced as the furry weather savant on Groundhog’s Day and was dismayed when no one realized it was her cousin Kevin who was making up shit now about his shadow. Apparently, some people think all woodchucks look alike, which seemed a little bit racist to her. 

The woodchuck had been an exemplary representative of her species and felt slighted that no one remembered her. She crawled down into her burrow and thought about going back into hibernation when she heard the ping notification of a text. She was stunned to see that she had been selected to be in the National Directory of Famous Rodents! All she needed to do was send them $100 and a short biography, and she would be immortalized next to other famous rat-like creatures such as Micky Mouse and the Rodents of Unusual Size from The Princess Bride.

She had never heard of this book before, but it must be legitimate. Only a few words were spelled wrong on their website, so that was a good sign. This would be her legacy! She would keep this book on her coffee table and casually leave it open to the page that featured her.

There were two problems here: number one, she had no money. But she did have her cousin’s credit card, and she was certain that Shirley would be happy to pay for this tribute to the woodchuck’s weather predicting skills. 

The second problem was a little more complicated. She needed to write a bio for the book, and she couldn’t hold a pencil. This lack of opposable thumbs was so annoying sometimes. If only there were a way to get someone to do it for her . . .

Shirley had told her about this new technology that could do exactly that! Quickly, she opened up the link her cousin had sent her and punched in a few pertinent details that she wanted mentioned. To her astonishment, the screen immediately filled with glowing praise! 

“Meet Whiskers, the remarkable blind woodchuck who has become a legendary figure in the world of weather prediction. Despite losing his sight at a young age due to a tragic accident, Whiskers developed an extraordinary ability to forecast the weather, particularly on the momentous occasion of February 2nd each year. This incredible talent earned him the esteemed title of the “Weather Prognosticator Extraordinaire.”

It went on and on for six paragraphs, finally concluding with:

“Beyond his weather-predicting prowess, Whiskers has become an inspiration to many. His resilience in the face of adversity reminds us that even when faced with challenges, we can overcome them and thrive. He serves as a powerful symbol of the indomitable human spirit and the boundless wonders of nature.”

The woodchuck was stunned. She had no idea she had been such an inspiration to the world. Sure, the bot had misgendered her but that wasn’t a big deal—she could just change her pronouns. It also seemed to think that she was really blind, as opposed to just short-sighted, but she always wore her shades so who was she to correct people? The biggest problem was that her name now was apparently Whiskers, but she could put up with that since society seemed to have benefited from her in such a grand way. Then there was this:

“His intuitive understanding of weather patterns has even led to breakthroughs in scientific research, furthering our understanding of climate and the interconnectedness of the natural world.”

Apparently, she had solved climate change. Who knew?

The woodchuck felt revitalized, full of energy and ready to continue to spread her good deededness around the world. 

Her first act would be to get some new business cards printed up; they would read:

Weather Prognosticator Extraordinaire!

The parts of this column in bold blue were generated by ChatGPT.

The woodchuck is grateful for the help in writing this post, but kind of terrified for the world as the robot overlords are clearly already here.


The alarm blared in the middle of the night, and the blind woodchuck groaned and batted at the screen until it stopped shrieking. It was very dark and cozy in the burrow and she dreaded the thought of rousing herself enough to even roll over. Waking up early from hibernation was a bitch. 

She shivered a bit at the cloud of cold air that was hovering just above her DIY down quilt— a bunch of ducks had molted right outside the entrance to her burrow, and she had gathered all the loose feathers into a plastic bag that had been blowing around the meadow. The tote of downy discarded plumage had kept her toasty for the past few months and made getting up all that more difficult. The bag had a weird smiley face on the side that kind of creeped her out, but she tried to ignore it. Sometimes it felt like the eyes followed her.

She pushed the blanket aside to finally get up when a sudden realization struck her: this was February 2, her busiest workday of the year, but now she remembered that something had changed. She flopped back in the dirt and a huge smile, bigger than the one on the plastic bag quilt, crossed her face. She had set the alarm out of habit but now she could ignore it. She had retired!

No more waking up at dark o’clock to get to Punxsutawney in time for the big reveal, especially during an ice storm; no more being groped by clueless mayors with freezing cold hands as they tried to hoist her into the air or feeling guilty about the bag of Snickers she had consumed that made the hoisting more difficult. And best of all, since it was almost impossible to tell woodchucks apart, she would still get the snaps for doing a great job! 

When she had made the decision to leave the Official Groundhog Predictor position, she had been uncertain if it was the right choice. (It had actually not been her choice at all, since she had overslept, missed last year’s ceremony and been replaced by her cousin Kevin; but she was very good at bending the story to flatter herself and had come to believe her version was the truth. She could even visualize the fantasy retirement party the town had thrown her, although they had been too cheap to get her a gold watch; she got a stick instead.)

She snuggled deeper into her maniacally grinning sleeping bag and thought about all the things she would do now that the unencumbered time stretched endlessly before her. Maybe she would write a screenplay; a blockbuster film that would replace that other movie about groundhogs that had become synonymous with doing the same thing over and over again. She hated that people assumed her days were an endless loop of sleeping and eating and then sleeping, although she had to admit it had been an apt metaphor for watching the House repeatedly not voting for Kevin McCarthy for five days in a row.

Maybe she would write a biopic about what it was like to carry the responsibility of predicting spring on her shoulders all these years, how the world had counted on her to use her shadowy skills to let them know when it would be warm enough to wear a tube top. She was exactly the right rodent to write this film. Maybe they could even get Bill Murray to be in it again, although this time he would be the one with the mayor’s hand up his ass! She chortled to herself and thought she would get right on that, just as soon as she slept for another three months.

The Blind Woodchuck is correct; February is the best month to sleep through.

The Covid Craft Chronicles

(The woodchuck is in hibernation. Here is another random chapter of The Ripple Effect)

Last week, sneezing with what I assumed was my typical snotty grandson cold, I tested positive. This was a bit of a shock, as I had convinced myself that I was one of those people who were immune to the virus, having never gotten it before. It was a very mild case—many of the Felix colds have been far worse—but I was back in lockdown two weeks before Christmas. Why couldn’t I get sick when I had nothing to do?

Somewhere around the fifth night of isolation, I was visited by a spirit. It hovered above my bed and tossed handmade Christmas gift tags at my face until I sat up with a start. I screamed when I saw the apparition, and through a swirly cloud of vanilla bean and bergamot scents, realized that I was being visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present: Martha Stewart.

“Martha, did you die so you could show me the error of my ways and guide me through past crafting errors?” I moaned. 

“I’m not dead, you idiot,” she snapped at me. “This is a dream and the Paxlovid has apparently made you hallucinate me. What do you want? I have to get over to Snoop’s to shape the buffet table napkins into the Twelve days of Christmas.”

“Why have you come to visit me? Will there be other spirits coming tonight as well?”

“The only spirit I want to see is an Aperol spritz, so let’s get this over with. Why are you using all this free time feeling sorry for yourself? You’re barely sick. You are wasting precious crafting minutes lying on the couch watching stupid Netflix Christmas movies. Get up and make a damn wreath out of pinecones.”

“But I don’t have the correct supplies!” I wailed. “And I can’t go to Michael’s because I’m in quarantine!”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake—have you learned nothing from my magazine? Use what’s around the house. For example, look at all those take out containers piled up. Did you even turn on your stove this year? It looks like all you did was order Indian food.”

Prison had made Martha mean, but she had a point.

So in the spirit of being environmentally correct and getting Martha out of my bedroom, I gathered up my recyclables, a two year old bag of cranberries I found in the freezer and some fir branches I cut off my sister’s tree. And voila! I made luminaria out of garbage!

Don’t despair if you get sick this holiday season—there are plenty of ways to keep yourself entertained while you sit alone and everyone else is having a good time. And if you arrange rosemary and sage sticks into a pentagram and slide it under your bed, you may be able to keep a certain perfectionist bitch out of your dreams. 

It’s a good thing.

Electile dysfunction

The woodchuck looked at the queuing menagerie and contemplated screaming. How hard was it to dip your paw in ink and blot it next to a picture of who you thought should run the forest? Every single animal had a question or couldn’t remember what precinct their burrow was in or had a conspiracy theory they wanted to argue about; she had no idea voting was going to be so loud.

When her cousin Shirley had asked her if she wanted to be an election judge, she hadn’t been listening closely (which was always the best way to have a conversation with Shirley). Hearing the word “judge”, she had somehow taken that to mean that she was going to be on Judge Judy’s show; she relished the idea of testifying against all the animals she felt had wronged her. Unfortunately, now she was surrounded by all those same crazed creatures trying to “make their voices heard”. She was trying to stay impartial, but honestly, did anyone really want to hear what the possums had to say?

She looked around, bewildered, at the various pieces of technology as someone shouted at her that there was a mealy worm gumming up the ballot scanner and she needed to stick her paw in there to dislodge it. She couldn’t get the printer to work in her own burrow—why had anyone trusted her with this stuff?

The woodchuck hadn’t planned on voting in this election. She had decided to go into early hibernation and hoped to sleep through the whole thing. But the meadow and the forest had strange vibes about them lately, with the Foxes whispering stories about how the election was fixed before it even took place. They had brought in animals from other places to watch the polecats who were trying to keep order; there was a chameleon outside the voting area changing from camouflage to hot pink and then back again, which she guessed was supposed to be intimidating but just made her giggle. You could tell they weren’t from around here because the temperature had dropped last night and all the lizards sleeping in trees had frozen and fallen to the ground. They had thawed out by morning and gone back to the line to stick their tongues out at the waiting voters.

The big Muskrat who owned the river had stirred up all the birds and now the chattering about how they communicated with each other had become deafening, threatening to drown out what was actually at stake. The woodchuck wasn’t completely sure what Democracy was, but if it meant that she would never again have to listen to that semiaquatic water rodent try to ratsplain electric vehicles to her, she would be happy to vote for it.

Shirley had tried to explain to the woodchuck how important the issues were, but the roaring in her ears drowned out her cousin’s voice. Everything felt like it was on the verge of collapse. It was confusing and scary and she had to keep resisting the urge to go to sleep—she had never met an ostrich, but she envied their ability to stick their heads in the sand. Around the meadow, she was still known as the blind woodchuck, after her faux paw of staring directly into the sun during an eclipse; but also for her habit of willfully denying what was happening around her. She knew now, on this November 8th, that she had to reject that nickname and take off her sunglasses.

She gulped down a few stinkbugs for the caffeine hit, and handed out another ballot.

The Blind Woodchuck may have a brain the size of a pea, but even she understands how important it is to vote!

Vacation, all I ever needed

Shirley poked her head deep in the woodchuck’s burrow and shouted “Hey, cuz! Are you home?”

Home-home-home echoed off the dirt walls, and then silence filled the deep hole as dust floated through a rogue sunbeam that was trying to infiltrate the darkness. Shirley sighed and waddled off to find another woodchuck to gossip with, but she was worried; she hadn’t seen her cousin in weeks.

Far beneath the meadow, in a side tunnel that had been dug specifically for this purpose, the woodchuck chuckled to herself and ate another Snickers bar. A few months ago, she had planted a sign at the top of the burrow that said Gone Fishin!, a little hint she hoped the other groundhogs would understand meant that she wanted to be left alone. Instead, animals kept dropping by to put in orders for scallops or tilapia. 

We live in the dirt, miles from water thought the woodchuck. Did they really think she was going to bring them back scallops?

This time, she had told Shirley that she bought a jet ski and was planning a real vacation to try it out. It had been like posting a notice on Groundhog Twitter; the news had spread faster than monkey pox, or as she called it, the chimp bumps. The woodchuck hated chipmunks intensely and used every opportunity she could find to mock them. The little beasts had been by several times before asking where their tilapia was.

But the jet ski story seemed to have done the trick, and she had been left alone in her cozy burrow for some time now. The silence had been wonderful, the lack of information regularly stuffed into her head by Shirley about her cousins and other woodland animals freeing up space for her to think deep thoughts and to watch that Harry Styles spitting video many times over. She didn’t think he would really do that to Chris Pine, but she would have to watch it a few hundred more times to be sure. 

The problem with watching cutting edge crime scene videos while scrolling for other angles was that it was hard to ignore the rest of the internet. The place with all the sunflowers kept popping up, and she found herself worrying about the grain that was going to waste that could have fed so many. The wildfires everywhere seem to be spreading, and sometimes she thought she could smell smoke even deep in her burrow. That ice shelf that was about to collapse was keeping her up at nights, and she knew once it went, she really was going to be able to get tilapia for everyone because they would be swimming in her burrow.

The worse thing was that the Weasel was still everywhere, despite having been driven out of the forest. Why was everyone still talking about him instead focusing on more important things, like how few monarch butterflies there were this summer, and democracy?

The woodchuck was slowly coming to the realization that it wasn’t her cousins and friends she needed the vacation from—it was the constant stream of fear and bad news that churned through her mind both night and day. It didn’t seem fair that she should have to worry about this stuff; her brain was the size of a walnut and it’s not like she could fix any of it. Besides, she really wanted to discuss the Harry Styles Spitting Video with Shirley. She just had to figure out how to let everyone know that she was back from vacation without letting any of them ride on her jet ski.

tick . . . tick . . . BOOM!

The woodchuck shifted uncomfortably in her burrow. It was usually snug and cozy in there, but lately she had been scratching herself obsessively. She had made peace with the various parasites that roamed freely through her fur—she was, after all, just one cog in the great forest ecosystem where the circle of life was often represented by uncontrollable itching—but something about this invasive feeling was more draining than usual.

She cursed her lack of neck as she craned her head around as far as she could, but still could not see her hindquarters. With no reflective surfaces in the burrow, it was impossible to get a glimpse of what was going on back there. She’d once had a tiny compact with a mirror in it, but it had been accidentally left outside and smashed to bits when a raven pecked itself to death in a fight with another bird who looked exactly like him.

She knew she was going to need another set of beady eyes to help out here, so reluctantly, she texted Shirley. Her cousin was the biggest gossip in the meadow and would no doubt share this with everyone she met, but the itching was driving her crazy.

When Shirley arrived, she was already talking non-stop about a variety of subjects that held no interest to the woodchuck, such as drought and fires and climate change. She interrupted her cousin with a scolding hush, and explained the weird creepy crawly feeling she had on her haunches. Shirley sighed, for she knew her cousin was the most narcissistic groundhog in the field. “Turn over,” she ordered, and started searching through her fur.

“Holy Vampire Weekend,” Shirley murmured under her breath. “Well, honey, I hate to tell you this, but you are the host of some uninvited party guests. There are about a dozen ticks snacking on your backside.”

The woodchuck’s mouth opened in a silent scream. For a creature who lived in a dirt hole under a meadow next to a forest filled with deer, she had an unreasonable fear of ticks. 

“Getthemoffame! Getthemoffame! Getthemoffame!” she shrieked, twirling and squirming in a frenzied dance of revulsion. 

“Now, calm down, girlfriend,” Shirley soothed. “Eventually they will drink their fill of your blood and let go. Why don’t you just let them have their fun and leave them alone?”

“Shut your damn mouth and take these tweezers,” the woodchuck muttered between gritted teeth.

“How am I supposed to use tweezers to remove a tick when I don’t have opposable thumbs?” 

Moments later, after the woodchuck had duct taped the tweezers to Shirley’s paw, a snarling tick was slowly eased out of her haunch. Shirley popped the gnarly insect into her mouth and bit it in half with a loud crunch.

“Oh my God, you’re eating them,” moaned the woodchuck.

“They’re very satisfying; they explode with a pop!” chuckled Shirley. “It’s like an amuse bush before dinner—you know, one of those little appetizers that has sticks and twigs in them? Only this one has ticks and twigs!” She collapsed into giggles, slapping her leg; Shirley thought Shirley was the funniest groundhog in the forest.

After the final insect had been removed, the woodchuck lay on the floor of the burrow, weak with blood loss and terror. “Ok, honey, you’re done. You can stop moaning now.” 

Shirley took one more quick look at ­­the rash on her prone cousin’s now tick-free backside and murmured, “That reminds me, I have to go to Target later.”­

Just because the author of The Blind Woodchuck occasionally writes about real-life scenarios in no way means that she came home from a camping trip with an actual tick in her ass. Stay out of the woodsnature is terrible!

In the Forest Primevil

The woodchuck hadn’t slept well. A strange fog hovered over the meadow last night, and an occasional moan had slipped into her burrow. It was probably the wind, she told herself, trying to dismiss the uneasy feeling.

But a text from her cousin Shirley confirmed her suspicions; there had been a baby bunny massacre in the next meadow. Four tiny furry rabbits had been found scattered near a burrow, the nest of sticks and feathers and dryer lint pulled from the hole; something had dug down and pulled them out one by one. Shirley said the forest was in an uproar because a predator was obviously in the area. Some were pointing paws at an owl or a hawk because of the strange noises during the night, but Shirley had her own theory: feral cats. 

“They are so entitled,” she complained. “They think they can have it both ways. They get to live outside but someone supplies them with food and a box of hay, so they aren’t exactly surviving on their own.” Shirley hated feral cats.

The woodchuck didn’t really like them either, but she doubted the cats were involved. Most of them were too fat and unwilling to go after an entire burrow of bunnies. She paced around her snug quarters, wondering what she should do.

“Hey!” A shout right next to her ear made her jump straight up. She realized that the Fox had stuck his head into her tunnel and was staring at her upside, like Spider-Man. “What are you doing in here?” she shrieked.

“I’m investigating that murder that took place last night. Those babies were over six weeks old, and that means there was an illegal procedure in this meadow. Have you seen the mother rabbit? If you help me find her, I’ll give you some of the $10,000 reward.”

“There is no way I’m helping you,” sputtered the woodchuck. “The mother rabbit had nothing to do with that. She was probably out looking for food and is now devastated; you’re just making it worse. And what are going to do with money? You already know they won’t serve you at 7-11.”

The Fox stuck out his tongue at her and disappeared. He and his kind were becoming quite ruthless, and it was worrisome. They seemed to think they had the power to set rules for the rest of the forest, even though woodchucks made up more than half the population. For all she knew, he had been the one to drag the bunnies out of their burrow. Foxes liked to munch on the little ones, and there had been rumors that they were hoping to ensure a domestic supply of snacks.

The woodchuck was not particularly maternal, so she hadn’t paid much attention to what the foxes seemed to be trying to do. She’d born a litter before but once was enough for her—it had been way too crowded with five extra little groundhogs in her burrow, and she’d been happy when they were old enough to leave. She really didn’t want to do that again. Plus, her cousin Shirley had nearly died from having too many in a litter, and the Fox seemed to think that was just fine.

She enjoyed mating season, though, and wasn’t planning on stopping that no matter what they told her to do. It was none of their damn business. As she pondered her past escapades, the woodchuck wondered if she had mated with any of her cousins. There were just so many of them and they all looked alike, so who really knew? Trying to avoid her own species, she’d once gone out with a hoary marmot, but its name was a little too close to what she’d seen scrawled on the bathroom wall. The meadow had a complicated dating scene.

She felt like she should do something to protest what the Fox was trying to do, but that seemed pointless. There were woodland animals marching all over the place and it just made them easier targets for hawks. She was starting to see those flyers again that told her to Get Out the Vole, which she now understood was not a small rodent. She’d always had a problem telling L and T apart, but it was hard to read in a dark burrow while wearing sunglasses. Besides, she would be hibernating in November, and it was just so much easier to stay asleep. It wasn’t like not voling had gotten them into this situation in the first place.

The woodchuck is by nature fatalistic, but that doesn’t mean we have to be. Keep marching, keep writing letters, keep using sidewalk chalk in front of Susan Collin’s house! And in November, Vote Blue all the way down the ballot!

Road(ent) Rage

The groundhog was mad. No, mad didn’t seem to be a big enough word. Angry? she thought. Pissed off? Infuriated? So many different synonyms, yet none of them seemed to capture the bowel clenching fury that filled her squat body and made her fantasize about infecting others with rabies.

The calendar was just a few weeks past the drunken burrow blast she had attended where Shirley had poked and teased her until she had finally come up with a resolution. “Okay!” she had shouted at Shirley, who was her dearest and most annoying cousin. “I will be nicer in 22!”

“We’re gonna need some kind of new metric to measure that,” Shirley slurred. “Because you are the least nice woodchuck I know! Uh, I mean that in a good way,” she laughed/snorted, and then hiccupped.

The groundhog was offended by that assessment of her character and vowed to never speak to her cousin again. Upon further reflection, however, with less alcohol in her system, she recognized that her reaction unfortunately supported Shirley’s statement.

I used to be nice, she mused. Well, nic-er. What had happened to her? She should be deep in hibernation now, not dreaming about leaving claw marks on the ankles of little girls picking the daisies that grew around her burrow in the meadow. Obliviousness would be a welcome state right now. 

Instead she was worrying about that damn plague again, nervous about the gossip that the deer were infecting each other. It would be rutting season soon, and then the damn germs would be flying all over the woods as the idiots locked antlers and tried to prove who had the biggest horns. It was like watching Below Deck; you couldn’t look away.

She’d also heard from her cousins in Arizona—they didn’t seem to be too concerned about the most recent disease strain, as they already had hantavirus and possibly bubonic plague. They were comfortable with the 120 degree temperatures that were the new normal in the desert, saying it was a dry heat, and not mentioning that a rodent could be cooked to a crisp if they didn’t wear a hat.

But now they were worried about some human named after a movie house who had decided to destroy democracy by stopping all legislation from being passed. The groundhogs who lived in the mountains of Appalachia that had been strip mined bare knew of one of those, too. Apparently stupidity was contagious as well.

Focus on something nice she told herself. Think about baking sourdough bread or creating a vision board that would manifest a brighter future. She could do this, she could, and with kinder thoughts, perhaps a kinder woodchuck would emerge.

Her phone buzzed with a text, and she saw that it was from the Mayor of Punxsutawney. It read that with February 2 just a few weeks away, she would need to report in person for her job. The working at home option was off the table.

She was going to bite him when he lifted her in the air.

The writer behind the woodchuck has no advice on how to be nicer in these trying time, although she is trying.

The Adventures of Woody the Dog and Grandma CatFood

Woody stuck his head out the window, his ears flowing horizontally with the rush of speed. He was very excited. He loved riding in the car! There were whiffs of new smells everywhere as they zoomed along, and each one held the promise of adventure! He sniffed again, but now something on the road seemed familiar. Wait! There was the big lake he loved to swim in! He hoped they were going there! Nope, they passed it. Darn.

They traveled on. Wait! That was the dog park where he accidently peed in the wading pool! He hoped they were going there! Nope, they passed it. Too bad. He was quite certain he saw the tennis ball he had left in the weeds when they drove by the big grassy area, but they did not stop there, either. Woody was a bit disappointed, but he knew wherever they went, he would be thrilled. He paused a moment to consider if they might be going to the vet, but then put the thought out of his mind. It was too nice a day for a shot!

He saw a tree he was sure he recognized and let out a bark of joy. He hoped they were going there! Nope, they passed it. No, wait! The car was slowing down! It was stopping! He knew where they were – It was GRANDMA CATFOOD’S HOUSE! He loved going to Grandma CatFood’s house!

He stood impatiently as his mom connected his leash. Why was she so slow? Didn’t she know where they were?! He pulled her along as fast he could and up the steps to the porch. The door was flung open, and Grandma CatFood exclaimed, “Woody is here!”

Woody didn’t even pause for a pat. He raced through the house, not even slowing at a delicious smelling sock. He passed the two horrified cats who knew what was coming but were helpless to stop the inevitable. He came to an abrupt halt in front of two small ceramic bowls, and before anyone could grab them, completely licked clean the crusty remnants of cat food all around the edges, as well as the mat they sat on and the floor all around it. The area was pristine, as if it had never once known tuna.

“Oh, dear,” said his Grandma CatFood. “I forgot to put the bowls away again. Woody is just too fast.”

Woody smiled his great doggie grin and licked her hand with his smelly Purina breath. Of course he was fast. She wouldn’t be called Grandma CatFood if he were slow!