What do these two pictures have in common? The one on the left is Thelonius Monk, legendary jazz pianist. The one on the right is (a look-alike of) Thelonius Chipmunk, legendary resident of our patio.
When we first moved to our current apartment in July of 2004, it did not take us long to make the acquaintance of the chipmunk whose burrow had an entrance just off of our first-floor patio. He could frequently be seen scampering across the cement deck, frolicking onto a low brick wall by the front door, scurrying down his hole in the mud near the tree in front of our bedroom window. Since he was sort of like an outdoor pet, we named him: Thelonius. (Yes, we’re jazz nerds that way.)
During our second summer as neighbors to Theolnius, friends from Texas came to visit us – friends who had never seen chipmunks before. One of them (*cough* Rishi *cough*) pointed out our sliding glass doors and exclaimed, “What is that on your deck, a hamster?” No, that’s Thelonius.
In the spring, we looked forward to seeing Thelonius emerge from hibernation. In the summer, I waged friendly wars with Thelonius over his propensity to molest my flowers. The first time I tried to plant flowers, I set a large box planter on the ground; every morning, the soil would be flung across the patio, and the roots of the flowers would be exposed. I was baffled by this – and blaming the Canadian geese – until one day I caught Thelonius red-pawed. He was perched on the end of the box, digging a corner of dirt up wildly, until he noticed me watching him through the glass doors and darted off with a guilty look. I bought a plant stand, and that seemed to place the impatiens safely out of his reach. This summer, I added a second stand and pot, and I planted begonia bulbs. I guess bulbs were more tempting to a chipmunk busy stocking up for winter, because he managed to find a way to climb and dig them up. We had a stand-off one day; I sat on the sofa trying to surreptitiously observe how he would get up the 3-foot-tall stand, and Thelonius tried to sneak past my watching eyes (hiding under the threshold of the sliding doors, crouching on a doormat, slinking into a bucket). He won that battle of wills, and I never did figure out how he climbed into the planter. That felonious Thelonius…
Did you know that chipmunks chirp? Sometimes in the mornings, we would wake up to a high-pitched sort of squeak repeating over and over. We thought it was a bird. But it was Thelonius.
A few weeks ago, I realized that I hadn’t seen Thelonius for a while. I’ve been on the lookout for him, but he seems to be gone. My dad once scoffed at our certainty that the same chipmunk had inhabited our patio during our entire tenure here, so we did a little research and learned that chipmunks have a lifespan of two to three years. I guess Thelonius has reached the end of that span. It seems strange to contemplate another year of leasing here without him. I hope he had a happy chipmunk life and a peaceful end. (I really hope I didn’t poison him by introducing fertilizer to my begonias in a desperate attempt to get them to bloom in the everlasting shade that falls on our patio.) After recent rains, the little hole that enters Thelonius’ burrow seems to have been permanently covered up.
Rest in peace, Thelonius Chipmunk. Unincorporated Lisle just won’t be the same without you.