Me and the Mice: A True Story

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Creature

A post by artist Helen Hawes:

Iʼve got a mouse problem.

I can hear them in the walls scratching their way through my hard earned insulation.

At night they party while I lay awake planning the next dayʼs strategy for all out warfare, dreading the morning when I know I will find their prima materia left behind in my silverware drawer.

They even appear now and then fearlessly scampering, in broad day light, across my kitchen or living room floors.

The tenants are concerned and threatening to move out.

I am catching four and five a day in my have- a- heart traps. Still they keep coming. I have trapped well over twenty so far. I am both frantic and ashamed of my franticness.

Like the mice, all my worst fears seem to be coming out of hiding.

Who will see my dirty house?

Who will discover what a bad mother I am, an irresponsible adult, unable to control things around me?

The mice are in charge here. Nothing I can do. Like aging and death, the granddaddy of all my fears, these mice just keep on coming. Desperate and angry, but still not ready to kill them, I spend a small fortune on sonar devices. I put them everywhere.

“Now,” I smile crazily to myself, “I can speak mouse.” I can tell them in no uncertain terms to leave and never come back.

With an evil chuckle, I carefully place the last sonar device inside my oven, a very popular gathering place. I collapse into bed, hoping for a morsel of peace.

In the 90 degree heat I can barely breath and dreams of small hairy four leggedʼs dance in my head. Between nightmares, I call on every available deity for help, praying that the mice will be gone in the morning.

Finally, in the first faint glow of daylight, exhausted from a sleepless night, I stagger into the kitchen, where horrified I discover I can still hear the dreadful clicking of claws and high-pitched squeaks. There is a celebration going on in my oven.

I am not proud of what comes next.

On this hot muggy summer morning in 1986, at 21 Line Street, in the countryʼs third most expensive city to live, beside myself, in a fit of fury and self loathing, I decide to incinerate the hateful creatures.

I turn the oven on to its highest temperature and leave the scene of my murderous intent.

I go and sit on the coach in the next room, glowering and white knuckled in my pajamas, preparing myself for the price of victory.

I didnʼt have to wait long. In a very short time, from the next room, I smell burning plastic, and see sparks coming from the wire that leads to the closed door of the mouse cafe.

My fire alarm begins to wail. I had forgotten about the sonar devise I put inside the oven.

I race into the kitchen, grab a Santa Claus cooking mitt from the hook, and yank the red hot mechanism out of the oven. I feel the heat burn through the mitt, yelp in pain, and let the device drop hissing into a molten heap on my tile floor.Then I too drop to the floor and sit crying and defeated.

Moments of black despair pass as I remain locked in the final stages of a losing battle. At last I give up. I surrender. The battle stops, the dust settles, with nothing more to lose or gain, I can see what is really here.

I turn and pick up the melted device and bring it towards me. Its double speakers are spaced like eyes and the burnt out wires are standing on end like a cartoon of someone startled. A melted seam along the bottom sags open to reveal a toothy grin.

Creature

There looking up at me is the funniest, most lovable face I have ever seen. The device has transformed while in the oven and melted into this unimaginable creature that now sits smiling in my lap.

I begin to laugh and laugh and then the tears begin to flow. I feel such a kinship with this silly frantic face, all frazzled and dazed, yet smiling in a wide grin.

Helen

This is me, more lovable than I had ever dreamed I could be.

In this moment I see how precisely in place everything is to bring this image before me, how perfect my antics, how perfect my fear, and most importantly, how perfect the mice. I sit thanking god for the mice that brought me to this moment of sheer delight in the perfection of now!

Epilogue: The next day the mice were gone. Their job here was done. They had received my unconditional love. I had tasted the bounty of surrender and laughed with compassion at my illusions of control.

The sonar device, a gift, gratefully received, now sits on my altar of metaphors.

Photos:

Top Photo: The meltdown personified

Middle:  Helen, in joyful recognition

Bottom:  Helen with her grandson

Helen with Grandson

Helen Hawes has been a practicing artist since she was six months old, when to her mothers dismay she was creating dramatic wall murals with the overflowing contents of her diapers. Later she worked with architects to continue the wall mural theme with more archival materials.  As her imagery and scale changed she began to work as a consultant for a software company in Boston.

Another aspect carried forward from her childhood is the joyful discovery of cross species communication that has been ongoing since the day she arrived. This has enabled her to listen “innocently” to her drawings, drawn blind and in collaboration with the “body in situation”, which is limitless. She works with groups and individuals sharing this process to empower others to ground themselves in a palpable connection between direct experience and unconditional awareness.

She lives and works in Vermont, where she co-owns a small creative arts retreat center (www.geryunant.com).  She is a Focusing coordinator/trainer,practicing artist, and walker in the woods..  She and her three sisters give collaborative Playshops, which intertwine each of their specialties, music, visual arts, writing, and animation, into a film that each participant takes home with them. To date the workshop has been given in Sweden, NewZealand, Vermont, and the next will be in North Carolina. Keep an eye open on Facebook for the Four Sisters’ Playshops.

7 responses »

  1. Mice. We keep a have-a-heart trap in the attic for the occasional field mouse that decides to overwinter in our house. They are the tiniest creatures. How do they generate so much poop? We can follow their paths all over the house. Last winter’s mouse not only climbed up into the parrot’s cage (while the bird slept, head-beneath-wing), not only ate the parrot’s food, but pooped in the food bowl! We set him/her loose in the forest.

  2. Thanks, Helen, for this reminder that if we can get past resisting to surrender, there are discoveries and yes, joy, waiting everywhere. Currently, I admit to having trouble locating the joy in the OVER SEVENTY chigger bites I got while cleaning up the shore line at a nearby lake. I know it’s there, mind you, but I’m just ITCHING too hard to look 🙂

  3. I have discovered how briliiant mice are. Returning from a week long trip we found remnant mouse fur at the exact location of placement of trap…… but no mouse or trap!!!! We combed the entire house, seriously. To this day we have never found the trap. Hmmmmmmm……love this post and fun to hear about the playshop retreats!

  4. We live in the country surrounded by woods and we often hear mice in the walls too. As long as they don’t come in my house, I try to ignore them. But on two occasions they have crawled up in our heat ducts and died causing a horrible stench to come out of the register vents. Once we had to duck tape the vent up for two weeks to keep the smell out of the house. I know they try to come up through the vents as my cats often lay by them staring and waiting. But in 30 years at this house, only once have we had one inside. My cat caught it and would drop it and chase it around. I finally caught the cat with the mouse in his mouth. I opened the door and shook the cat until she dropped it outside. A good reason to always have cats at my house!

  5. We had a horrible time getting mice to go into the human traps. Resorted to the nasty ones but I never slept well the night we set them and always made Cliff go look in it the next morning.. One year we just gave up, names her Miss Mousie, and watched her race through the family room every night. I’ve never had as many mice as Helen did though!

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