We've been camping for the past few weeks. A friend, who knows that I never go anywhere without my computer, wondered if I might be spending my time “boiling down the sap of my life stories”. And I have been. But I won’t post them until I’m sure I’ve boiled them down enough so all the sweetness is revealed.
In the meantime, because it’s raining (again!) I thought I might share a little story.
Just before we left on this trip, I’d received an invitation to rent a writer’s hideaway retreat for a week in September. I was excited about the opportunity: a charming oceanside cabin off the beaten track at a very reasonable price. What could be bad about that? Then I read the fine print: there was a warning about bears and cougars, and the road to the cabin was very steep and washboardy, and might not be navigable in the rain. But the clincher was this: are you comfortable with knowing that mice enjoy the residence as well?
Mice. There’s a big difference between the occasional errant mouse checking out the premises, and a family of mice making themselves at home, running over your bed at night.
Well, the gods must be laughing now, because guess what? A few days after setting up camp here, late one evening while I was quietly reading, a mouse scurried into my line of sight. I jumped up, and of course, he disappeared down some mouse hole that we couldn’t find. But overnight, he left his trail of calling cards behind. The next morning, we bought a few mousetraps, baited them, and then went to bed.
In the middle of the night, Al heard something and got up to check. Poor little mousie was running across the floor with a trap hanging from one of his appendages. Fortunately for him, as he frantically ran down his hidden exit, he was able to leave the trap behind (and no, there was no amputation of any part of him left behind.)
You would think this would be enough of a warning that he would never make another appearance. But no, he showed up again the next night. Unfortunately (for him) that was the end of that story. He died happy, though, chewing on a piece of extra-old cheddar. Mousie was dispatched into the underbrush. Perhaps an owl would find him. And that was that, we thought.
But the saga continued. Mousie must have had a friend, because the next morning we found more evidence of mouse visitations. Not only that, but our friend who was camping next door was very annoyed with us. She’d had her own visit while she was quietly reading, and she claimed we’d sent him over. We lent her a few of our traps and that night we waited with baited breath (ha ha) for the night visitor to make another appearance.
Our friend won the mouse lottery. Another mouse was dispatched into the underbrush. This is really the end of that story.
But not quite. When I told the story to my daughter-in-law, she said, “I wonder if the mouse appearances have a message for you.” Was there something I needed to learn from the possible mice in the cabin and the real appearance in our trailer?
Well...maybe. I’ve been reading a bit about “living life on the edge” in a book called This One Wild and Precious Life by Sarah Wilson.
She says when you move away from the safety and security of your everyday life and move out to the edge of your life, where the boundaries are less defined and you’re not sure what’s going to happen next, you will find that you are more alive. You pay attention more closely, and you begin to grow towards the edge. Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, “Do something everyday that scares you.” When I turned down the writing retreat, was I avoiding mice, or was I avoiding challenges to my safe life? Was it more than just mice that had me rethinking the invite? Was it that I suddenly realized a week all by myself (except for the mice) might not be the idyllic experience I’d imagined? Perhaps in my quiet times, I’d be confronted with issues I needed to address. Maybe it was easier to stay home.
How often do we choose the safe path, the one that causes the least anxiety, and thereby forego the thrill of discovering new perspectives? How often do we worry about issues needlessly, and thereby miss the blessings of fresh visions? I’m glad Emma challenged me to to pay attention to the mouse appearances. It pushed me towards the edge, and that’s a good thing.
One can overthink this, of course, spending your life questioning your decisions and worrying about lost opportunities. So I also listen to another voice: that of my 6 year old granddaughter Grace, who wrote a song for me on my birthday. Here it is – you can make up the tune yourself.
In case you do not read "firstgrade-ese" English, here's the translation:
“Wories, wories go awai
Wories don’t bug me aneymore.
I don’t like you aneymore.
I don’t like the way you treat me aneymore.
Goaway wories goaway.
This song you can sing wen your worede then your wories will go away.”
Thanks, Grace. And no more worries about mice, kiddo. I’m over that!