There were mice. But the house was in the country, where fields dissolve into hedgerows, that eventually grow up to be tall, dark, forests, whose branches easily camouflaged soft-eyed does. There were mice, in various shades of grey. Silently scampering, they would go about their business collecting our escaped pillow down, strands of colored string, and numerous cotton candy-like bits of pink insulation. Blissful, in an economic way, they tended their nests with our odds and ends. Or, there were mice whose fur was brown. Night owls, these deer mice fastidiously horded piles of seed, often making round trips of 100 feet or more, over and over again in a single evening. When the moon was full, these forays were treacherous. Hugging the sides of the garage, or large rocks, or tree trunks, I'm sure they bravely, but nervously dashed to and fro, hoping to outrun their shadows. And we would find these hard earned stores of sustenance hiding in the folds of a bath towel, or under the futon, or gingerly tucked away in our boots. Take heed of the word sustenance, that is to say "food." Akin, to our squashes, potatoes, and onions that lie dormant in our root cellars, or our pantry rows of strawberry preserves and peas, all of us, just trying to carry on.
Such as. . . . .the shrew, who traverses the tunnels, that are made by the mice, that are within the walls, of our house that George built. Their pointy snouts lead the way, purposefully, on a mission, on the prowl. Not unlike bats, shrews, as a species, eat massive amounts of insects. Shrews, as well as bats, who we should be regarding as friends.
And, not to be outdone by the mice or the shrews, are the voles, and lemmings. Stocky, these mammals remind me of "teddy bear" hamsters or miniature guinea pigs. So, at any given time, but mostly when the winds howl and the snow flies, within the diminutive world of our abode, mice dash across countertops picking up crumbs, shrews hunt, entering holes alongside the floorboards, or exiting through the closet, and voles and lemmings shuffle along, sometimes bumping into other occupants.
We were not too surprised when we began to hear the galloping of larger creatures. Their telltale chitter chatter, and the energetic stomping of little hindquarters unmistakenly spelled "squirrel." During extra blustery seasons, when the wind chill often dipped, it was not uncommon to hear them snuggle behind the paneling as we turned off the lights to burrow into our own flannel sheets. On rare occasions, they might chose this very spot to nurse their newborns. The soft cries, melting into satisfied mews, a lullaby that set us adrift upon the gentle waves of sleep.
When the solstice approached we dressed, then lit our yuletide tree. A gentle radiance of yellows, blues, reds, and greens dappled our light-colored quilt creating a cozy aura conducive to dreams. As in years gone by, and in years to come, our house; that has witnessed tiny pink births, miscellaneous furry deaths, and errant chipmunks stuffing their cheeks with food from our dogs bowl.
Was it any wonder, when late one night while reading in bed, my attention was drawn to a subtle movement, and turning my head in that direction, I was pleasantly surprised to see, a most beautiful visitor staring back from under the Christmas tree. She was delicately poised on compact haunches, though her body was long; yet lithe. But for the dark of her eyes and the tip of her tail, her fur was perfectly white. "There's an ermine over there," I blurted out, though I was met with disbelief, "look," she silently moved in a slinky-like way, under the garland of wooden beads. We saw her again from time to time till she exited our house once more outside, to make tracks in the snow with delicate feet, under opaque, starry nights, nature's heart complete.
Go organic! Adopt a lifestyle that includes patience and understanding of nature's methods of balance. Be tolerant of smaller lifeforms that pitter patter when the lights are out. What's here today, will probably be gone tomorrow. Our motto: let them come. Mi casa su casa!