Friday, January 7, 2011

Christmas Mouse

A great horned owl calls into the cold and clear predawn air.
I know that on a morning like this I will find a brittle layer of ice left atop the water bucket in the barn.
The ground is frozen firm.
We are in the dead of winter.


While the house is dark and still, I slip downstairs and through the kitchen to the laundry room, gently sliding the door aside and peeking tentatively inside. Separate from the hustle bustle of the household and warmed by the water heater within, this small, quiet space has become a sanctuary for our newest resident.


If I am lucky, as my day slowly begins, I will catch her in her last hour of wakefulness, watch her as she wraps up her nighttime routine snacking on walnuts and scurrying about inside the small plastic box on top of the dryer.
She was the first gift of Christmas—a little Christmas mouse.



At the height of holiday preparations, with just 2 days till Christmas and relatives soon to appear, I discovered while cleaning, that the smallest of house guests had already arrived. Tucked behind boxes of decorations still waiting to be spread across an empty tree and cowering in the corner of the back staircase, she was almost entirely overlooked—her small, brown form barely the size of the tip of my thumb. Defenseless and with her eyes still sealed firmly shut, she made no attempt to run from the advances of the vacuum. In fact, aside from a constant tremble, the tiny mouse scarcely moved at all.

Hoping that this inconvenience would magically disappear from my workspace as mysteriously as it had appeared moments before, I went on about the business of Christmas. After all, there were beds to be changed upstairs, groceries to be brought in from the car, presents to be wrapped and festooned with bows…and what of the dozens of cookies? There was simply no time in all this for a mouse—especially a mouse that was missing its mother.

When I returned an hour later and found her unmoved and still trembling in the spot that I had left her, the human guests now enroute from the airport, relocating her seemed the only option. But to where? White-footed Deer Mice live in the woods and fields all around our old house and often seek shelter inside as the weather turns cold each fall. To turn her out now would be uncharitable, at the very least. More likely, to one so young, a certain and frosty death.

I nudged her gently with one finger. She rolled onto her side on the hardwood floor and curled into a ball, quivering and listing with any attempt to walk. Realizing it had probably already been too long since she’d had nourishment and warmth, I scooped her up. Her tiny white feet were icy cold, and she wriggled into the warmth of my hand as I closed my fingers around her. At the very least, she needed heat. But, there would be no heroic measures. There simply was no time for a mouse.

Christmas Mouse

White-footed Deer Mouse, Peromyscus leucopus

From the over-stuffed laundry basket, I retrieved a warm and wooly orphan sock--one long-awaiting its mate and unlikely to ever find it buried beneath a pile of clothes. Snipping off all but the toe and folding it back to make a cuff, I soon had the perfect cozy, dark sleeping sack, which she immediately disappeared into.

bed on beanbag for warmth

The offer of a nice fluffy wad of blue and green dryer lint pleased her immensely, and she fussed furiously at it, pushing and pulling it into a thick blanket stuffed snuggly within the sock. Only for the aroma of peanut butter and oatmeal on the tip of a toothpick did she emerge, her tiny whiskered snout sniffing and lapping at the tasty treat. With the strength to take food, she might make it through the night. I fed her as much as she would take, left her with a small wedge of apple and some ground walnuts and tucked her into the woolen bed with a warmed beanbag beneath it. Beyond the dark and quiet of the laundry room we would have our Christmas.

lining her bed with flannel lint

"Not a creature was stirring..."


Christmas morning, she devoured a juicy blackberry, and by noon 2 bright, black eyes had opened to greet my frequent visits.





The boxes filled with Christmas have been packed away.
The busy rooms are quiet once more.
The house guests have gone to their homes, except one--
a little Christmas mouse.

I am waiting for the ground to warm, for the path to the woods to soften.
For I know the perfect place where she can be just a mouse, again—
beneath an old apple tree, where the ground is littered with black walnuts, and the field is filled with blackberries.
It will feel like home.



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35 comments:

Robin said...

What a wonderful story. Not many people would have done for this little treasure.
Good on you!

littleorangeguy said...

Now why is this making me cry?

Kat said...

We've rescued a few mice ourselves. The cats seem to think it's their duty now to bring us a new one every so often. I worry about hantavirus, as we just had a death locally a couple years back, but I can't resist their cute little faces and paws and tails!

Mary said...

I'm crying happy tears. As your good friend in SE Ohio would say, "You hit this one out of the ballpark."

Nina, it's an honor to know.

This story should be published.

Love ya,
Mare

nina at Nature Remains. said...

I'm being as careful as I can to reduce the chance of coming into contact with hantavirus. The details came up online as soon as I looked into mouse info. Now, I'm only opening the lid to leave food--no touching or disturbance to its contents to make anything airborne. And washing well.
She'll be outside as soon as I can summon warmer temps!

Little Orangeguy--you have a soft spot for little mice! Didn't you know?

Wren said...

Pft! Hit return too soon.

It is a very sweet story, and the pictures are adorable.

There are so many sad stories about animals being mistreated or neglected, it's heartwarming to read about the good people who care and help.

Maria said...

Lovely, soft story with beautiful pictures... Yum.

Mary said...

Oops. Wanted to say "an honor to know YOU."

(you know how it is, new computer and all...)

Catbird said...

I'd been wondering about your little visitor; I'm so glad she fell into the right hands. I touching story, beautifully told --as Mary said, it should be published. Thanks, Nina.

Carol said...

Wonderful story. The photos were great. I think you can tell those who truly love nature by the things they do.

elaine said...

touching.... and what wonderful photos. Such a cute little mouse <3

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Here is your first short story for your book. Nina, this is as beautiful as you are.

Angie said...

Oh my goodness!! This is the most adorable, precious 'story' I've heard in a long long time....thank God for angels like you, Nina. :D

Laure Ferlita said...

Again, thank you for sharing the story....have been wondering about how the little wild thing was doing.

I do hope you consider making this into something more....

Blessings to you and your mouse, Nina!

Vickie said...

Sweet, sweet story, Nina and your photos are beautiful.

eileeninmd said...

Cute story and your photos are adorable!

Katie said...

Sweet sweet sweet! Thoroughly enjoyed your post today, the perfect quiet ending to my holiday season. What a gentle soul you possess.
Blessings on you and your final visitor. :)

Arija said...

Nina, what a touchingly wonderful post. What a wonderful little Christmas gift even if you were too busy at the time. Maybe you just needed a newborn babe reminder, a really precious gift from the angels.

May this New Year be full of wonders for you!

KGMom said...

Oh Nina--your Christmas would have been so incomplete without this sweet small visitor. And had you abandoned her (him?) to fate, you would have been bereft.
Good work.

A Scattering said...

The story and photos are lovely. I think "not a creature was stirring" is my favorite shot.

giggles said...

ALl creatures great and small..... Lucky mouse... lucky us....

Lisa at Greenbow said...

This is such a sweet story. It reminds me of a friend that had a mouse that lived in the warm crevices of their fireplace each winter.

Maria said...

On a second look, I love how you offered the first photographs in a somewhat foggy light. Distant. We don't know that being yet. As your story unravels, the photos become more and more close up, more intimate. Brilliant!

Beth said...

beautiful and touching - thank you for this gift. Your way with words and the pictures are stunning.

nina at Nature Remains. said...

Thank you all for such an overwhelmingly supportive response--it's a little bit of a surprise, considering the subject, especially to an audience of mostly women, might be received otherwise.

I'll keep up with her as she grows--hopefully this will have a happy ending in a month or so. But, she already has the appropriate fear of me and is really hard to photograph. The first 2 photos through the plastic of the enclosure are about all I can steal.

Thanks for all your cheers for her success.

Toni said...

Nina, Only you could create a sacred place for this little one to stay till warm weather approaches.

When you write a book I'll be in line to buy it.
Have a wonderful new year.

KaHolly said...

What else is there left to say, Nina? My daughter and I were both enamoured b your story. Well done! ~karen

Ginnymo said...

What a heart warming story and I am so glad this little mouse is still alive and thriving because of a gentle, caring lady. I love little mice just as well as the bigger critters and have saved a few in my lifetime.. Great story Nina!!

Susan said...

Saw so many comments that I thought, oh well, I don't need to add mine..but indeed, I do...this is such a kind story that it makes me hope to find a mouse in here so I can be nice to it too! Excellent!

Heather said...

Ahh, yes, there's that sweet story you were talking about. It's wonderful to see it written in prose. Little mouse has a guardian angel, to be sure. Even though it might be afraid of you now, I'm sure it knows how lucky it is.

barbara said...

Wonderful story. I hope you are already writing novels and children's books!

Kathiesbirds said...

Nina, what a sweet Christmas story! Only you would rescue that little mouse instead of killing it! This story would be a perfect Children's book! When I was young I actually had a pet mouse bought from the pet store. It was so sweet but its urine was so strong!

Teresa said...

Reads like a wonderful little Christmas story. Any chance? :-)

Deborah Carr said...

When you share such delightful heart stories, such as this, you have no idea how many others will follow your lead...and perhaps take the gentle time to care for a helpless creature they may have otherwise overlooked. I see your heart and it is a good, kind one.

brochure design said...

great story of relationship between a mouse and man.
I too love animals, so i can understand their feelings.