I saw the first sign on top of the fridge: smaller than a grain of rice, and dark brown in colour: a mouse turd. But smaller than the average mouse turd. Which made me wonder if it might have been emitted from a shrew or vole… There was no question that some member of the rodent family had been in the house. Then I caught a whiff of putrid decay. I couldn’t tell where it was coming from, but trusted that all would be revealed in due time. Since I had a lot to do upon arrival at Monkey Valley, I let the matter lie… (but not the turd!).
That evening and the next day I discovered more turds, in the usual places: on the window sill by the kitchen sink, on the peach satiny loveseat (always an attractive place for rodents, and who can blame them), on the floor at the edges of the living room, on the window ledge in the upstairs bathroom. They varied in colour from reddish-brown to black. With one turd I could be in denial, and hope it might have just fallen out from a crack in the logs, and actually be an old turd. But with all these turds on places I had cleaned and swept only a week ago, there was no denying it was new rodent activity.
Then came further proof, in my footwear by the door. In one slipper was a small piece of rodent bait, carried and stored there by the enterprising creature. In the toe of my snowboot I found an almond, chewed by tiny teeth at either end. The little animal had been caching food for the winter. This is a little bit delightful, giving me a glimpse into the ways of the wild creature, while also annoying me because it’s not really possible to wash all my shoes every time I come home to Monkey Valley, and who wants to put her foot in a shoe where there has recently been mouse turds and rodent poison?
Still, I let the mystery continue to unravel. The second morning home, I had some phone calls to make, outside on the top balcony, in the -6 degree morning. So I put on my snow boots and parka, and spent almost an hour on the phone calls. When I went back downstairs to put my snow boots away under the shelf, I noticed a greyish shadow. Aha!, I thought. I bet that’s the little creature. And it was, a little grey mouse with brown fur on its back. Very desiccated. It must have eaten some of the poison. I was glad the mystery was solved, and that the mouse would no longer be leaving little turds all over the place.
Ahimsa: the practice of non-harming
(If this seems callous to you, dear reader, I hope it might improve your opinion of me if I tell you how I have struggled over the years with humane ways of catching mice in live traps, and releasing them into the wild, and crying when Donald catches and kills them. It is not something I take lightly, to kill a mouse, and in the end I decided that having a hygenic space was more important to me than the life of the mouse. This is the one exception I make to my practice of ahimsa or non-harming of other living creatures. It sounds like an excuse, and I know the Jains would do it better. But I do lay each little corpse under a tree outside and wish it blessings on its soul.)
Then I noticed something that almost made me throw up. There were white things, bigger than a grain of rice, all around the mouse. They weren’t moving. Luckily. But there was no doubting they were maggots. Yuck!!! One of the grossest, most disgusting things on earth, in my experience. I guess they must have frozen to death before they could spread very far. A point in favour of letting the house get cold while I am away…
So the immediate order of business was to get rid of the mouse and maggots, and clean up all around there. The universe has such nice ways of showing me I am not in control… I sometimes wonder (well, often, actually) what the hell I’m doing here! But then there’s silent snow falling through the trees, or a deep, starry black night, and I’m glad to be at Monkey Valley.