The sigh floated up through the tunnel, a dark wisp twisting and turning through the winding dirt until at last it reached the surface. It hung there briefly, a small, dark cloud, before dissipating into a thousand droplets of despair.
Far below the ground, the woodchuck lay on her back on the dirt floor of her burrow. It had been a bad week. Actually, it had been a bad three and a half years, but somehow everything seemed compounded in the last few days. She was tired of being sad, sick of watching the news and even more terrified of not watching it. She knew it made sense to back off a bit and take her ignorance into hibernation, but if she didn’t stay informed, how could she call herself a citizen? She sighed again, and watched the exhaled breath float above her head, already starting to surf the current of breeze that occasionally circulated through the tunnel.
“Philomena, it’s going to be okay,” a soothing voice whispered next to her ear. The woodchuck startled at the sound of her cousin’s voice, sitting up quickly and banging her head on the ceiling.
“Shirley, how did you get in here?!” she shrieked, rubbing the rising bump. “And how did you know I was worried?”
“Phil, I know you so well that I always can tell when you’re upset. Also, there was a toxic cloud of black vapor that looked like a dementor just imploded hanging above the entrance of your burrow. No one does despair quite as visually as you do.”
“Shirley, I heard there was going to be a coop! It must be the chickens — you know they get very protective about where they lay their eggs.”
“Phil, it’s a coup, which is not exactly the same thing, and it’s a fowl thought but the chickens are not involved. It’s about claiming the election is rigged, but nothing is going to happen if we all vote. There are more of us and we just have to get organized and make sure everyone knows what to do. Here, I brought you something.”
Shirley thrust a paper into the woodchuck’s paw. It was a list of names of animals from various parts of the forest. “It’s part of a letter writing campaign. We’re sending hand-written messages to try to convince all of our relatives to vote.”
The woodchuck considered the list before her. Damn, she had a lot of cousins. “I can’t write to all of these groundhogs!” she exclaimed. “I don’t have an opposable thumb!”
“You don’t have to write to all of them,” Shirley replied. “Just take the top five on the list and start with those. Doing something will give you a sense of control, and maybe that cyclone of sighs hovering over your burrow will finally dissolve.”
After Shirley had crawled up the tunnel toward home, the woodchuck sat and thought for a long time. Could this possibly make a difference? It really didn’t seem like it could. This was a waste of time, because who would listen to a simple woodchuck? What a dumb idea.
She noticed something sitting on her dresser. It was a delicate, white lace collar. She touched the fragile piece, and then slowly tied it around her neck. She inhaled deeply, but her exhale this time was not a sigh, but a deep, cleansing breath. She picked up her pencil and began to write.
You may not get a letter from the woodchuck, but you could write to some other groundhogs —or voters! Go to https://votefwd.org/bigsend and check out The Big Send!