on these alongside

Two days ago I returned from a trip to find a small mouse floating in the toilet, a first in my 22 years in this house. Mildly annoyed with myself for having left the lid up, I fished out and removed the mouse, sorry to have inadvertently contributed to its demise. Even firsts become routine with duty. Making a mental note about that lid, I went on with living.

Today I went to a shelf to retrieve a woolen rug that I’d stored there for the summer. As I began to un-roll it, pecans began to fall out of its core, along with a few chewed bits of wool. The mouse: of course. My concern about the wool bits fell wholly aside in a flash, as it dawned on me what I was seeing. This small, now drowned creature had found a small paper bag of pecans a friend gave me this summer. They’re not particularly good pecans: small, unshelled, unmemorable. and nothing at all like the pecans of my childhood from Louisiana or Mississippi (and which I purchase pre-shelled every November, so I have a yearly reminder of what pecans are supposed to be): simply a gift that I would’ve eventually found a way to use.

To the mouse, though, they must have been a haul. Literally. Worth carrying to this perfect hiding space. In a drawer nearby, I found several of the pecans eaten neatly, their hulls laid aside. Far more had been placed inside the rug. For some undetermined period of time, these insignificant corners of my home have been providing succor to the little being who had moved in and now was no more.

Something about the pecans and the rug tore through the duty-face that keeps me carrying on most days. Something about the integrity of that harvesting effort—taking on edibles that I, the human, viewed as less than desirable–and planning ahead for the long cold months when I, the human, could not be relied upon to leave edibles out? Something about that skinned duty from me, and I stood chilled and undone before the bone-deep truths of life for every being—bar none—on this earth.

We come here and do what we do. Many of us, as with this small rodent and erstwhile neighbor, do it with integrity and verve. We put our hands to the wheels, our backs to the ploughs, our feet to the hot pavements, our bodies to the tasks: we throw all in, counting on something about our somethings to work out. And then, quicker than a flash, we depart, and all that we have cobbled together, all that we have scraped into small hidey holes for tomorrow, all that we have ever done? Stops. Just like that. Period.

Without the chewed bits of wool at the edges of the rug or the empty hulls in that drawer close by, I’d have been mystified as to how these pecans could have traveled several yards from where I left them to the center of that rolled rug. Most of the beings who exist alongside me do so without me ever noticing them. I am probably lucky to see as many as I do.

After my weeping left me in its eddies, I returned to the rug and the pecans spilling onto the floor and thought once about repairing the rug edge. Once, and unfinished. The thought vanished before it was done. I want those chewed edges to remain on that rug for as long as I am alive to cross or see it. I want to remember the fragments I know of this mouse I only knew after the fact. I want to honor the oneness of being here on earth: how we all come, do some things, and then vanish. I want to live in the space of that knowing until I follow the mouse on from here.

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