Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mouse on the Moon

“Can my friends and I eat our lunch in your yard?” Andrew asked. He had been helping them move and they were looking for a quiet spot. I was still in the midst of my workday and was happy to give them shelter.

“OK, but tell them nobody gets to smoke anything in my yard or my house, got it?” Hey, you guys put two and two together and come up with five, ok? Asthma plus liability equals house rules. “And don’t let the cat out. You know how she is.” Alice has been going on adventures lately. We talked her out of the street this weekend. Apparently she didn’t get the word that she’s a housecat. When you’re an 18.5 lb cat, you figure you have superpowers and your name is Adventure Kitty or something. I think she’s downstairs making her Halloween costume right now.

“Oh, and my friends are bringing their mouse.”

Aw, how cute, I thought. Maybe I can meet the mouse before the cats do. If it has eyes, a wiggly nose and a reasonable disposition, I probably like it. I’ve been a “Squee” person since I was a baby, before anyone realized I Can Has Cheezburger. Work was pretty intense that day so it seemed late when I walked downstairs for a break.

My guests were still resting at the table on the patio playing a game I didn’t recognize, something with large numbers lined up, something that didn’t appear to involve gambling, hard feelings or anything other than idle recreation. There on my paint-flaked bench was a cage. We introduced ourselves.

“Her name is Velvet,” my new friends indicated toward the cage. Velvet clambered up the cage side and sniffed at me hopefully.

“Velvet is a rat, Andrew, not a mouse.” I tickled her nose. She is a lovely rat too, rats being loveliest when they are tame and in their cages. I've encountered the wilder kind too.

I had had a pet rat as a child, uncreatively named Rat-a-Tat for machine gun fire, representing my brother’s love of guns and warfare. Rat-a-Tat was a fashionable black and white, front half black, back half white. Velvet is all dark with pink nose and toes. She’s a dainty thing with a taste for fashion as it turns out.

“Don’t sit close to the cage because she will chew your clothes,” her loving owners cautioned. Having had a few rodent-chewed textiles, notably one really nice afghan that John’s sister crocheted, I wasn’t surprised. I sat on the bench with a prudent space between myself and Velvet’s nibble range.

“Velvet want a leaf?” I offered a crunchy magnolia leaf to Miss Nibbles who happily took it to her ratnest and crunched with vigor. We talked for a few minutes. Velvet came back for further possibilities, obviously comfortable with human companionship. Alice pawed at the glass door from inside the house. I bent to pull a sprig of grass and gave it to Velvet. She was happy with the gift and snacked away. We talked a while, then break time was over for me and I had to get back to my own personal hamster wheel. “Money makes the world go ‘round…” played in my head.
Tea Tarot
(c) Copyright 2011 Marcia McCord

It was a small gesture, to play hostess to a well-mannered rat and her friends. It provided a moment of stability at a crazy time. Amparo, meaning shelter, comes to mind. It was the name of a waitress friend of mine in Southern California, her good service being a small refuge from the workaday world. I was able to provide the 4 of Wands hospitality in some small way, if only a little shade from the sun, a fence to shield from the wind, a quiet spot to sit and relax without interruption.

Echoing the rodent theme, a news story popped up into my consciousness that there’s an unusual population explosion of non-native mice out at the Farallones. A two-and-a-half hour boat trip from San Francisco, this bit of rocky outcropping is for the birds—literally—and in the 1800’s was the target of egg snatchers trying to feed the hungry mob that was the booming of the Northern California coast. John and I took a fall whale-watching tour there one fabulous afternoon and saw the birds: storm-petrels, puffins and murres. How the mice got there, I have to wonder. I like to imagine they drive their tiny boats in the night past the border patrol but I have a feeling that they hitched a ride one way or another. This year’s population of mousies on the Farallones has exploded to something like 50 times the standard rate for an official rating of “a lot of mice.” Where there are mice, there are owls and a few owls have whooshed out to what must be like owl heaven. Of course, owls like to eat pretty much anything that’s the right size and flavor, so when the mice population drops, the owls stay for the endangered other birds, like storm-petrels. Owl heaven turns into Paradise Lost because mouse is apparently the perfect food and storm-petrels, well, aren’t. So, the owls, thinking they must still be onto a good thing, stay too long and they start starving. People blame the mice.

So now they are trying to figure out how to get rid of the mice without getting rid of everything else. Why would we spend money on this? Because little stuff turns into big stuff, important stuff, stuff that affects humans and their way of life and at that point the people who don’t care about mice and birds and some rocks out in the Pacific will start to notice and wonder why someone didn’t DO something. 
Fav Squee Mouse Photo

In order to understand things more easily, we separate them in our minds and analyze them a piece at a time. But we constantly forget that we are all part of one gi-normous system called probably inappropriately with the latest findings and theories of astrophysicians The Universe, not separate little universes. We’re like bad children, all of us, taking apart the alarm clock to see how it works then leaving it there on the bed for the cat to bat parts under the dresser, never putting it back together again so it will function. Then someone doesn’t wake up in time for something important and everyone’s in trouble, especially the cat. What do we do about this cat problem, we wonder?

It’s pretty clear to everyone lately that the mice rebel every once in a while, too. The current Occupy movement, which has put together a diverse set of characters no doubt, is working to show that Big Predators may be able to ignore one squeaker here and there but in chorus, the mice put up a pretty big racket. Listen closely. They might actually be saying something.

Tiring of the role of mice-as-pests which feed relentlessly on the hard-earned stores of grain, the Other Percenters are putting a human face on economic issues. It’s hard for me to think of my life and existence as being a drain on the harried wealthy. After all, I’ve done what they told me I had to do, pulled myself up by my bootstraps, succeeded despite the fatal flaws of being female and nowhere near Ivy League material. I took advantage of the opportunities for education around me, opportunities which for the most part don’t exist now due to the relative cost of education. I used my dull-razor brain with no advice from any mentor or sponsor and figured out how to educate, then re-educate myself so that I was employable at a level that allowed me to purchase a house on my own salary, in spite of the misgivings of the misogynist bankers in that town long ago and far away.

“Just because you made all A’s in all your classes,” the banker explained to me patiently while reviewing my loan request, “what makes you think you’ll be successful in your work?” Wow, maybe because bone-headed guys like you make me so mad I could spit and I have a happy talent for turning that anger into something productive for myself and others. The jerk finally accepted my loan application after calling my father and securing Daddy’s unwritten promise to help me out if I slipped on my payments.

Mouse hater, I say. The guy hates mice and yet insists that they stay mice. Pretty soon, like the Farallones, will the entire infrastructure be threatened? Will they say, what do we do about the mouse problem? Have they leaned too close to the cage so that we’ve nibbled on the cashmere sweater? Will even the wise old owls be threatened, those who fly silently whose perfect food is mouse?

This is no new story. I thought of Frank Herbert’s Dune and his hero Paul Atreides a/k/a Muad’Dib, the Mouse on the Moon. We are just as prone now as ever to need “…Frank Herbert's warning about society's tendencies to ‘give over every decision-making capacity’ to a charismatic leader. He said in 1979, ‘The bottom line of the Dune trilogy is: beware of heroes. Much better rely on your own judgment, and your own mistakes.’” And what fun! Here’s an Occupy poster, typo included, with that very allusion circulating on Facebook today.

The Occupy’s detractors say the message is diffused so it is bound to fail. Today’s mice read though. Will a hero arise among us? Or are we truly stronger being the diverse individuals we are with the illusion of separateness always before us. After all, if we can send a mouse to the moon, why not Wall Street? And will they blame the mice again?

Best wishes.


Quote from Wikipedia:

1 comment:

  1. Mr Goon's picks for week 7 are posted.