Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Twas in the Hours as Wee as a Mouse

     It's very early Christmas Eve, into the wee hours, and all the creatures are stirring, because of the Mouse.

     Robin Cat had carried Mouse into the cabin and set her on the living room floor to play the cat versus mouse game.  Lily Cat hurried over to join in, usually the more avid hunter.  This is approximately when House Security noticed the policy violation and began closely monitoring the situation.  Though largely keeping her cool, House Security began to experience a threat level approaching mild human panic.  Even bouncers have their limits.

     To initiate the games, Mouse ran off a short way.  Lily immediately cornered Mouse beside the Cat Jail and carried her to the bathtub and hopped in.  Robin followed and all three were soon in the tub, just standing there on eight little and four tiny feet.  The tub is the usual Mouse repository and destination when Robin or Lily can sneak one indoors past House Security, and, for the moment, all was still, a prelude, but to what?

     By now they were being observed closely by the House Detective, who doubles as  House Security.  There was no panic.  She knew exactly the risks and what to do, though was a bit leery.  However, without hesitation, in a closer brush with Mouse than preferred, she lifted Lily and Robin one at a time out of the tub and removed them from the tiny bathroom and shut the door.  Thereby Mouse's life was preserved.  It would also give House Security and the House Detective time to think.  Meanwhile, the cats paced impatiently nearby, adrenaline flowing through their dilated vessels.

     After quick deliberation, Mouse 911 was called.  First, there was no answer.  "Answer your phone!" reverberated soundlessly through the ether.  A second phone number is tried, and contact is made.  The stage is set.  Soon all the actors will be in place.

     Mouse 911 arrives within minutes and discusses the situation with Ms. Mouse 911.  As he's expertly briefed, his vision sweeps the room.  He notices Robin is detained in Cat Jail, a kennel in the general population area.  He notices the bedroom door is closed and assumes Lily is in isolation.  "Good call", he thinks.  He's worked with House Security before and is impressed with her threat assessments and general first responder professionalism.  There had been, however, that "bird flying around house" disturbance, but birds are another threat level entirely for Ms. Mouse 911 and her security team.
     The briefing having been completed and a couple of wildly hopeful plans having been floated, Mouse 911 enters the diminutive bathroom and closes the door behind him to the sound of bullfight trumpets flaring in his head.  He's brought gloves and a cardboard box and is ready for anything, perhaps even a mouse, but Mouse has other ideas.

     Where's Mouse?  How did she climb the tub walls?  Isn't that impossible?  Mouse 911 scans the bathroom for clues to her whereabouts.  There are no stockings she could be hiding in, hung with care or not.  There are several places she could be nestling in though, snugly at that, but there was no clatter to help settle the matter and nothing to his wondering eyes did appear.

     Mouse 911 now searches the bathroom more methodically for clues.  Where would Mouse 911 hide if he were a Mouse?  His gaze fixes upon the corner behind the sink.  He lifts the small pink pail there.  There she goes, running along the baseboard back toward the tub, a furry gray streak with her winter coat fully grown in and a long mouse tail!  She's cute!  She's gone!   She's become invisible again.  Moving the small metal shelves near the tub away from the wall, there's her tail!  Now gone again!

     Having looked and relooked pointlessly for 20 minutes for a rather invisible Mouse, in the litter box, on the shelves, in the medicine cabinet, under a plunger, inside various small pails, and behind the toilet scrub brush holder, and moving everything movable at least three times, Mouse 911 is beginning to doubt his senses.  Though usually not one to give up or get discouraged, he admits to himself Mouse is too smart for him and calls for Plan B to be activated.

     Ms. Mouse 911 agrees and stands down House Security and releases Robin and Lily back into the community without restriction.  They head straight into the bathroom, and the door is shut behind them.

     Robin is a sleek lithe part-Russian Blue athletic danseur of a cat, a handsome serious young man with strong communication skills, who strongly resembles Mikhail Baryshnikov if Baryshnikov had somehow been turned into a sharp-clawed patrol cat.

     Lily is a compact beauty, a sweet Holstein-marked black and white fireball spitfire sweetheart, alternatingly cuddly and commanding, a lighter-than-air gymnast who in much of her spare time seems to be comprised almost entirely of one tightly flexed muscle ready to uncoil.

     The two are longtime companions and intermittent sparring partners.  They are best friends and sometimes sleep spooning one another and wake up fighting.  It works for them.  They also between them have two expert noses and are an experienced Mouse-hunting tandem.  Mouse's chances of evasion have slimmed greatly.  She'd probably take a plea at the moment.  "Let me walk out of here, and you'll never see me again.  I swear!"

     Peeking in, Mr. and Mrs. Mouse 911 right away see that Robin and Lily have converged on Mouse, who is hiding, not behind, but under the toilet scrub brush holder in its corner.  Mouse 911 makes a mental note of that.  Mouse 911 now reenters the bathroom and closes the door behind him, clearly hearing a rousing chorus of Olé

     Four of the five known mammals in the house, not counting any living within the walls who would no doubt be listening attentively to the proceedings, are now squared off in cramped confrontation, with Mrs. Mouse 911 on the outside reconfiguring her security arrangements and hoping at least one of the four knows what they're doing.

     Mouse 911 takes and holds a breath and lifts the toilet scrub brush holder.  Using his jaws, Robin instantly snatches Mouse from the floor, head first, with only her tail sticking out of his mouth.  Now what?  Open Robin's jaws and grab Mouse with gloved hand?  Or pick up Robin and carry them both outdoors?  Since there are two sets of sharp teeth involved in the first option, Mouse 911 opts for the more logistically challenging cat lift, though unsure if it's ever been successfully tried before.

     With history possibly about to be made, Mouse 911 picks up Robin, holds him out in front of himself, steps out of the bathroom, and Mouse, lively and quick, immediately escapes Robin's jaws and suddenly appears standing sideways across the back of Robin's neck.  Robin, still being held up in mid air, is stymied and left hanging, literally.

     Robin's untenuous position aside, Mouse 911 faces a moment of truth.  There are a hundred safe hiding places Mouse can find within seconds.  Any second now a vigorous cat squirm could occur and Mouse could escape in a squeaker.  Mouse faces her moment of truth too, but Mouse 911 is the first to act.

     Robin is quickly set down, and before he can execute a danseur's grand jeté, with Mouse riding sidesaddle on his neck, in a lightning reflex, a flash, a twinkling, a gloved hand gently but firmly enough closes around Mouse's soft abdomen and neck.  No one wants to be smushed or bitten, and Mouse didn't ask to be brought indoors in the first place.  Mouse 911 is merely in the process of restoring nature's balance, and no mouse has been truly harmed in the process of this story unfolding.

     Mouse 911 looks down at this little life in his hand.  She's small but a bit chubby and plump.  He laughs when he sees her in spite of himself.  He can feel her warmth, her essence, through the glove.  She's no doubt in shock, scared, but not witless.  She feels.  She breathes.  She submits.  She waits.  This is self-preservation.  She's merely working out the timing and factoring in the guile and agility required.  She by no means has given up.  One way or another she hopes to survive.  She'll soon know.

     Now with the end-game at hand, Mouse 911 begins to experience a threat level approaching mild human panic, but it's more of an upbeat variety of the kind that develops when positive steps are being taken that could very well end in success, as in "This just might be crazy enough to work"!  Security!  Security!  Code Green!  As in Go!

     Following Plan B, Part 2, Ms. Mouse 911 runs to the back door, but Mouse 911 heads to the front door, now sans cat, wondering if Mouse can swivel her head around for biting purposes.  Ms. Mouse 911 notes Mr. Mouse 911's standard deviation from the plan and adapts quickly, running ahead to the front door and opens it.  Robin and Lily then notice Mouse 911 leaning out the open front door and wonder what the fuss is about before resuming their search for Mouse.

     Happy Christmas, little Mouse, and to you a good flight.  Dash away, dash away, and to you a good night.  May your scurrying be quick, your instincts clear, and your pursuers all thwarted.  You're a sweet little dear.

     And Robin and Lily and The Mouse 911's, after their interesting night of unpredictable fun, would settle in for a long winter's nap, with no kerchief or cap though with a cat in a lap, as their adrenaline recedes after their Christmas Eve flap.

    This was a tiny Christmas Eve miracle that was coaxed away from becoming a debacle.  With the New Year approaching, it's good to have a reminder that as history unfurls, Mouse-sized and larger, unpredictable though it can be, it can be kind, inventive, and with a good outcome for all, and that the future is not something set in stone but can be modified by the power to think, say, and do, and most of all care.  If we dare.  And this means me and you.

     Now tis the night after Christmas, and all over the house, not a creature is stirring, not even Mouse.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

 Love is a Force
Freely Given and Received

Love holds us together.
It's a bond and it's real.
Not mysterious. Not imaginary.
Not theoretical. Not a dream.

Nor a wish.  Or a hope.
Love is real. Love is a force.
It has power. We have power.
Do you want power?

You've got it.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Evening's Fox in The Urban Primeval

     I'd seen raccoons longingly press wet noses against a sliding glass door

      Possums playing dead at my feet, ambling through the night like a slow ground meteor

      A doe grazing along, leading the family to safety, bolting like lightning, looking you in the eye

      A buck lowering its rack to fight, diving magnificently off a low cliff into the water and strolling supreme almost unchallengable through its hinterland

      Spotted fawns hiding and quiet, hopping along innocently behind mom or auntie

      A newborn black fawn from 20 feet away, and incrementally through youth into adulthood

     Coyotes alone or in pairs, exuberantly zigzagging along a neighborhood street, crossing a creek, stalking the scent of prey with a periodic overnight signal howl to the dispersed pack

     A dead nutria with four-inch yellow-orange incisors, dragged up with pride by my dog

      A deer's liver and maybe its heart fetched by my dogs after a fresh coyote kill by the creek

      A tiny tan fawn on its side hunched-over Don Quixote-like in silence, a coyote portion buried in memoriam under a protective and sacred rock cairn

      A small doe washed up beside the creek after a thunderstorm deluge, a back leg broken, under its own rock cairn

      A dead pregnant doe hit by a car, with the unborn dead fawn's leg sticking out the birth canal

      A squirrel, once fed blueberries by hand, dead on the road, its partner standing grieving nearby

      Rats in trees, a mouse ouside on a windowsill grooming, one living inside the back of the fridge

     Snakes sneaking in the open front door and curled in coitus in my coiled water hose

      A six-foot rattlesnake pregnant with lunch stretched out asleep in the sun on our little pontoon dock at the lagoon (in April three years in a row), and you know it senses you watching

      A baby gecko pressing flat against the stucco, assessing its world

      Lizards in bushes, buckets, under chairs, everywhere, in silhouette on windowscreens hiding

      Big creek turtles who know where they're going venturing deep into the woods

      Big creek turtles laying eggs where they see fit, digging holes through solid rock-like dirt

      Black frogs the size of pinky fingernails, by the hundreds after hard rains, hop hip hop hurray

      Bigger frog cousins living in holes under rocks, dug into outdoor potted plants, waiting for night

      Huge long-legged loudly croaking bullfrogs making sex froggy style in the shallows

     All manner of beautiful striking everpresent birds, all sizes, many kinds, moving, always moving

      Cardinals red and tawny, their varied repertoire songs a songfest, jays with their sqreeeeds

      Circling osprey expansive white wingspread, eagle face, its loud calls echoed commands

     Tiny wren protects its nests, harasses and chases ospreys, buzzards and hawks high into sky

      Birds with sweet songs to soothe the hottest day, busy titmouse all business and a'twitter

      Blue and white herons glide by with unexpected squawks that would startle a pteradactyl

      Screech owl flies in picks off daddy long-legs from the deck, dive-bombs your head

      2-ft-tall hoot owl suddenly radically turns head instantly staring giant EYES into your wide ones, shivers

     Until today though, just after sunset this evening, I'd never seen a fox in our woods.  I had seen them previously, about eight to ten times, sometimes around sunset, but only when one would cross the road in front of my car's headlights.

     Curiously, each previous sighting happened on the same 100-yard stretch of sharp S-shaped curves while driving down a steep slope only three-quarters of a mile from the long driveway to our cabins.  So I'd thought it would only be a matter of time before I'd be able to stand in the same general patch of ground as a fox, but didn't think it would take 20 years to do so.

     What impresses me most about foxes seen through the windshield is how low they crouch while dashing so quickly, a fast-moving low-profile gray blur in the gray twilight, out of sight between tree trunks that hug the road before it dawns on you what you've seen.  Fox seems to estimate an observer's expectation of its height and then manages to duck just below that threshold.  It's quite a trick.

     Standing finally now on the same ground about 25 yards away, each aware of the other, I'm surprised how casually the fox esteems my presence at first, confident, even cocky, about its ability to elude me.

     My cat had been sitting upright on the roof of my car, with me standing facing him, both of us enjoying what the evening respectively brings.  I love the cool air and the day relaxing into the more subtle and quiet night.  Tsavo too but may concentrate more on the evening's signs, opportunities, and secrets.

     He'd been sniffing the air and soon craned his neck to get a better look at something behind me. He might have heard it even before he smelled it.  It was the fox, reddish-gray as best I could tell in the faded light, the most common color fox for my area.

     It was a small adult, walking slowly, and its very bushy tail stretched out behind it parallel to the ground and seemed even longer than its lean furry body.  Its smallish triangular head turned our way briefly before its pace accelerated and it vanished in about two seconds stage left behind a tumble of two-ton boulders.

     Tsavo craned his head further to see where it had gone, but there was only air where the fox had been, though cat eyes might have picked up swirling dust particles just beginning to settle toward earth.  That had been that.  The quick red fox.

    An hour later, from the deck of the cabin, I see a waddling possum move stealthily across the extensive stone patio, disappearing into the dense rim of the woods in slow motion.  The slower it moves, the less likely it draws attention to itself, making lemonade out of genetic lemons, a very effective evolved trait.  Playing possum is a leap or two further from the stealthy waddle, demonstrating how evolution is on a continuum, with logical leaps.  Fox evolved differently, a waddle versus the fox blur.  A habeas corpus versus near-invisibility.

     Another hour later and I'm outdoors hoping to spot Tsavo's eyes reflecting in my flashlight beam.  I want to bring him indoors, as I'd heard coyotes in the nearby wilderness area from early morning.  It's a couple of hundred acres of hilly forest with a creek, rills, and limesotne outposts where they den and from which they follow the creek upstream and access neighborhoods.  It's just across the road from us, and now that it was night it was more likely they might come hunt around the cabins.

     There's Tsavo now.  Will he approach and greet me with a head butt as he loves to do and that I cherish, or will he try to preserve his outdoor privilege a while longer in hopes of finding a mouse while staying on the upside of the predator game?

     Luckily for me, he approaches, tentatively at first, then more openly, and brushes his head on my pants leg.  I squat down, lower my head, and he gently bumps his head against mine a couple of times.  We exult, as usual, rolling on the ground, brushing heads.  It's everyone's birthright to belong somewhere.  I pet him for a moment or two, and then gently wrap my hands around him, scoop him into my arms and rise to my height.

     Within only a few seconds, from across the road and from up and over a rise come the happy buoyant howls, yelps and cries of a coyote hunting party, probably after a deer, or maybe a lost dog.  There'd been a new poster on a telephone pole out closer to the highway, a pit-lab mix maybe, looking lost.  Poor thing.  It would never before have felt death's sanguine threat, unlike deer who live with it every night.  Deer live the culture of and practice the skills for escaping.  At first, a dog may think it's making friends.

     Tsavo hears the coyotes too, no doubt more quickly and much clearer.  It's real to him, he knows the score, but only from one side of the equation, and despite his own skills and savvy, I know I've made the right choice, and we'll start the whole process again in the morning, and hope for the best as always.  For now he relaxes in my claiming embrace, with longing for whatever he will have missed yet brushing foreheads with me a few more times before we step onto the deck and enter the cabin.

     We're all pioneers in our own neck of the woods, the urban primeval, in a boundaryless realm of clashing and compatible cravings and needs, in an age when the frontier, this time, has found us.

     Oh, to be as quick as a fox, as engaging as a blur when needed, and as true to ourselves as a cat.

     In a parallel world, winter is approaching, and galaxies of fabled rappelling caterpillars are fast asleep in their cocoons and chrysalises in trees, having inched countless miles upward, dreaming finally of wings, and gathering strength and an appetite for spring.

     We sit in front of the screen, still for once, wondering what's next, the screen a two-way sieve.

The fox photo is from stock and was taken near Bastrop, about 40 miles east of where I live.  The fox's fur that I saw tonight was a lot bushier, its winter coat.

Larry Piltz
Indian Cove
Austin, Texas

Thought Xperiment @JEWanon  # jfds ;lfjrjfsdr There's a fluid stasis as the basis for those thoughts that hound ...