Recently, on a trip to South Beach with my husband, I spied a bird I wanted to identify. Without averting my gaze, I reached over to open my glove compartment hoping to retrieve my binoculars. As the door fell open, a surprise awaited me: The tiniest, most delicate paper shavings thickly blanketed the entire space. Being born and raised in Southern California, such a sight wasn’t familiar to me; but my husband knew immediately. “You’ve got mice!” he declared. Ugh. I didn’t want to worry about this, especially since I knew an option for removal involved the crushing of an innocent creature just trying to survive.
The following week, a friend and I were zooming and she told me her latest horror story: Her car had suddenly and mysteriously petered out in the middle of a country road leaving her stranded for over an hour. After closer inspection, it was discovered that a rodent had eaten its way through the electrical wiring under her hood. And the tab for that meal cost my friend over $700!
#(%&!#@*$*!? Oh, my, I could no longer procrastinate about dealing with my little uninvited visitor. S/he needed some strong discouragement before potentially wrecking similar havoc on my car and pocketbook.
Of course, I put off the predictable next step—cleaning out my glove compartment-- for a week. But it wasn’t because I was squeamish about what other rodent deposits I might find; it was because I didn’t want to endure any more of the sorting, prioritizing, rejecting, saving, giving away, packing and cleaning I’d been doing with long-neglected house cupboards and drawers since the pandemic began.
I unearthed close to two dozen assorted items during that torturous exercise. (See the photo, mouse “nibbles” removed.)
What was even more perplexing than the objects I couldn’t identify, e.g., the mysterious, barrel-shaped stainless steel _____ (?) and a telescoping rod with something resembling a rake at one end, (a cleverly-compact back scratcher?)—were the number of objects in multiples: binoculars, Christmas ornaments, pocketknives, plastic utensil sets, sunglasses, fingernail files… Based on the amount of delicate confetti probably used as nesting material under my hood, I’d guesstimate I stashed at least two pounds of paper napkins in the compartment from San Juan Espresso and Gere-a-Deli’s in Anacortes. I still can’t fathom how I ever fit it all in such a compact space.
The prize for the most unique item: a large Ziploc bag containing an empty plastic bottle, a smashed half-roll of TP and the latest portable, designed-for-women-- well, I’ll let you use your imagination to fill in the blanks on that item.
The most sentimental find: a 3” x 4” mini photo album of my daughter--aged five months to five years--I thought had gotten lost in our move to the island in 2006. My eyes moistened as soon as I held it in my hands.
It turns out my uninvited guests have been both a nuisance and blessing. I won’t enjoy trapping them with peanut butter and relocating them elsewhere on our property, with no guarantees they won’t rediscover my cozy below-hood sanctuary. But they’ve helped me realize that, of all the items once crammed into that glove compartment, some significant and costly, the only one that truly matters to me, the only one I’d grieve over if I found it mangled and partially chewed, is the photo collection of my daughter. Sure, I need my car registration and proof of insurance; it would undoubtedly be a hassle to replace such documentation. But they don’t hold the precious memories my daughter’s chubby face and silly poses do. Nor could they ever elicit the predictable tears of gratitude, regret, grief or joy. I don’t believe in accidents. I guess I needed that reminder.
As I’ve been continuing to traverse my sixth decade of life, I’ve definitely noticed how much more mindful I am of time passing, of a sense of urgency to separate the wheat from the chaff while there’s still time. The pandemic has only intensified this awareness. “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” That ancient Chinese adage feels fitting here: Thanks to my rodent teacher(s), this student received a wee lesson on the wisdom of taking current inventory… and of paying special attention to what’s (still) most important to her—to me, today.
May I, we & all beings remember to remember what brings us meaning.
Deb Langhans has worked in the wellness field as a coach/counselor, writer & speaker for over 25 years. She currently owns & operates Journeys to Healing on San Juan Island where she offers "wholistic" life coaching, mindfulness & grief recovery coaching, reflexology, Inner Journey Collage© & a developing line of products designed to encourage healthy habits.
Most services are available in Deb's studio or via phone or Zoom. For more information or scheduling, please go to www.journeystohealing.com (website). email@example.com (email), or 360.317.4526 (texts preferred).