I’ve Got Mice Pre-quel
Along with more traditional winter rituals such as decorating trees and eating too much, last year I found myself entrenched in a battle of sorts with the “seasonal inconvenience” that took up residence in my home, i.e., field mice. When I bought my 1922 “fixer-upper” nine years ago from an 80-year-old hoarder who never cleaned and certainly never threw anything away, it was obvious that rodents, and possibly wild birds, had long been a part of the interior landscape. Judging from the formidable droppings in the basement, I’d guess the array included raccoons, pack rats, and/or skunks. By the time I finished renovating, the mice were gone… until last year. (Perhaps it was a mistake to hang a bird feeder so close to the porch.) The once-outdoor mice spent all summer feasting and when it got cold, simply made for milder climes, namely my house.
In accordance with my spiritual beliefs and general philosophy, I prefer to respect rather than destroy life. For example, I have an agreement with all spiders: “You leave me alone, I leave you alone,” and often relocate rather than smash them. (It should be noted that, along with being limited to spiders and not roaches, this agreement is not so much due to heroic altruism as self-interest, as I know I’m vastly outnumbered.) This is not to suggest that I condone or enjoy living with mice; on the contrary, the filthy little creatures can be very destructive. And loud. But if you look at them, really look… they’re awfully cute and not so different from those sold as pets. They can’t help that they are filthy little creatures.
I just wanted to find a way for me to live and them to live. Apart. Thus, rather than taking the quick & convenient dCon route — I’d tried that once but the resulting foul, inaccessible odor emanating from under the fridge ruled it out — I committed to the “humane elimination” journey. Live traps. Homemade traps. Relocation. A journey that continues to this day, as the last four babies I caught a few weeks ago are coming of age in a bin in my living room. When it’s warm enough, I’ll relocate them to a certain chicken coop, where they will have access to food and shelter not near someone’s home, and they can fend for themselves against roadrunners and excitable hens. I’ll keep the location of this coop a secret in case, by some unlikely coincidence, one of my vast readership recognizes it as his neighbor’s.
Regarding the cup pictured here: Sometime in December, after I’d successfully rid my house of approximately 17 mice that were granted a second chance at life elsewhere, I threw a bunch of cups on my potter’s wheel, then covered them with plastic as they dried. The next day, I came back to trim the bottoms and found this. At first, I thought I’d accidentally dinged it, but on closer examination I realized that this was not a human act. The teenytiny bite marks and tooth impressions on the inside gave it away: a mouse. Although there had never been evidence of mice in the studio (a separate building next to the house), somehow, one of them had come in, crawled up the 4′ table, under the plastic, carefully chewed this half-circle, and left. Not so much as a turd marked its visitation.
I left the cup just as I’d found it, glazed the inside and fired it. Because I could never “make” something like this again, I decided it was perhaps the most valuable thing in my studio. I gave to the mice, they gave to me.