I’ve been to the pyramids. Huge, massive things, each with the footprint of a New York city block. No matter how much beer the ancient Egyptians poured down the slaves’ throats, I can’t imagine how one pyramid was ever built, let alone multiples.
I’ve climbed down a laddder into one (just ahead of -- or below -- a woman in a full abaya.) And down. And down. There was something almost magical about the little room in the bottom in the deep dark lit by wavering torches in the still, dry air..
Because, as we know, Egypt is dry. While the mummies place in the pyramids were eviscerated and wrapped, the Egyptian desert is dry enough that, even untreated, bodily remains often naturally desiccate, leaving preserved, leathery skin wrapped around an assembled bone structure.
Virginia weather is the opposite of that.Virginia is humid. In the summer, it’s even more humid. However, it seems mummification conditions exist in our garage. No, really. About a year ago, while lifting a wastebasket so I could sweep out the garage, I came across the dried out bodies of two – not one but TWO – chipmunks. I guess maybe they ran into the garage last winter during a snow storm and starved to death, poor things. It was pretty interesting, though. Their fur was a dull brown, the stripes faded into one dull brown. The bodies were flat, like sad, furry versions of Flat Stanley. At first I thought they were, I don’t know, some kind of cardboard cutout or strange, lost doll, but closer inspection (whoops! Not too close!) proved them to be naturally mummified chipmunks.
A couple of months ago, I was stumbling out to retrieve the morning newspaper. When I pushed the button to open the garage door, something plopped down from the guide rail, four inches from my face. I jumped back (you would, too, if huge, wild animal tried to jump on your head. It might be a Celery Root attacking!) Then thwump! and scurrying feet on the cement. A chipmunk (sure, it seemed little as it ran away) raced across the garage floor. It looked like it had avoided being run down by the heavy door along its track. Turns out, it didn’t.
When the contractors had all but finished with our kitchen make-over, I again swept the garage. (Man, I’ sounding like a really tidy, organized person. Trust me, these are the two times I swept the garage in the last two years.) I was pushing the new molding over to the wall and bent down to remove a piece of the old molding that was mixed in. Underneath that was a – you guessed it – pancake flat chipmunk mummy.
What’s up with this? Is my garage the current Temple of Chipenhotep, dead chimpmunk Pharaoh of small rodents? In the dark of night, when I can’t see, do the rodent residents of Oakton gather under my car for vigil and prayer? A thousand years from now, will their dirty, little rodent feet scuttle in and wonder (the chipmunks, not the feet) at the amazing structure that housed their dead?
What can I say? This is the kind of thing that occupies my mind.