Monday, January 27, 2014

Winning the Battle, Losing the War

Blog #25 for Fun-a-Day. Time is a-passing.


I wrote in another post that I was so enamored with Vermont, that finding a couple of mouse poops on the countertop didn't trouble me.

Well, I was wrong. The mouse situation has not improved, despite my best efforts to remove the habitat and put up deterrents. In this weather-- temps hovering in the low teens and in the negative overnight, these mice are here to stay. Earlier, maybe a week ago, we heard a mouse scratching and scratching at the wall. We assumed it was trying to get into the living room in our naiveté.

Most striking is how every little thing, even a crumb or an oil spot, is a feast for this thing. I can't keep things clean enough. The countertop where we do most of our cooking is now clear of all cookbooks, laid with cayenne and peppermint oil. Despite this, there are daily leavings from our new, or not so new, residents.

This house is old. I am talking 1860s old, or some decade in the 1800s, anyway. Why should I be surprised? And it's not like I haven't lived with vermin before. Growing up, we contended with ants and moths. In college, I had my first taste of roaches. After college, Boston was roaches and rats. New Jersey was ants. Philadelphia was roaches, fleas, mice, and earwigs. West Chester was mice and centipedes. Why should mice wig me out?

Everyone, or just about, has mice issues in this neighborhood. I've heard many opinions, and a constant refrain of-- you need to borrow a cat. Luckily, our neighbor in the house has two cats, and we are leaving our doors open in case they want to come hunt in our kitchen.  The truth is that if you live rural, you have animals living off the leavings, the warm spots we leave behind. But this is hard for me, harder than other infestations, other issues.

I think what's different is that every mouse poop is a reminder that there is a closeness to life out here that I didn't really experience elsewhere. Nature is getting ready to snatch things back at a moments notice. I don't think that's wrong, or that it is my Manifest Destiny to conquer nature. I know nature will win, in the long run-- and by that I mean the time telling of the planet, not the time telling of human generations. I know this house is a blink in the eye to the planet. That's right, and also that's not my timeline.

On a warmer day this winter I circled the barn out back, pulling vines that had been left to crawl up it. I felt like a savior, just a little. But I'm not fooling myself-- they'll grow back, and stronger. They, and the mice, are the constant battles/relationships I will be contending with in my life here. The natural world has an array of teachers/mentors/combatants waiting for me, and I need to figure out how I am going to relate to them.

I also think that we are not planning to move again, and hoping and working for this to work for the long haul. The long term solutions to all this house's, and this land's challenges rest with us. We have to solve it. We have to work it out. There isn't a landlord, a job, a municipality to figure it out for us-- not in the long term.

So it's humbling, and feels sometimes like a war. My positive attitude and willingness to engage with all God's creatures is not consistent. Frying a sausage in a pan and realizing there are mouse leavings in it does a lot to chip away at that. But I'm learning. I actually took my son to the mall today to get plastic containers at a big box store. Now our blankets and pillows are safe. Score 1 for thinking proactively on habitat removal.

We'll see what the next days and weeks bring, but for now I am committing to not shying away from this new relationship with nature, knocking at my kitchen door. I hope I don't write about mouse poop again, but I get the sense I'll be living into and learning from this for years to come.

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