By Will Tuttle
On a solo meditation retreat high in the Tahoe wilderness
The third night in my little tent
I hear scratching sounds coming from my backpack,
Hanging on a nearby Ponderosa pine.
Check watch—1:15 a.m.—and put on headband flashlight.
Unzip the tent door and yes! There it is again:
Scurrying sounds in the pack—maybe one of those many squirrels around here.
Concerned about their sharp teeth, I shake it and open the top,
And command, ”Come on out!”
But nothing happens…
So I pull the pack off the tree and turn it upside down;
Everything comes tumbling out, but no little creature!
And, curiously, a single paper napkin has been chewed into hundreds of tiny pieces,
Like snow, fluttering to the pine-strewn earth.
Then I see her, a little mouse, still clinging on inside, and so shake once more.
Out she tumbles to the ground and scurries off into the darkness.
Checking the pack, I see the front pocket had been filled with mouse confetti.
It’s all cleared out, so I put everything back in
The food’s in glass and plastic jars and everything is fine.
Looking again now on the ground more closely, I suddenly see a worm-like creature;
Quite revolting looking, dark grayish brown, wrapped in a tight membrane,
With sealed shut eyes!
My gosh—a just-born tiny mouse!
There’s another, and another, and another; four in all.
Strewn about among tissue paper of their former nest, shivering and helpless in the cold.
Just then, mama mouse returns and walks right up to a fifth little neonate I hadn’t seen.
She’s right in the bright field of my headlamp, just three feet away,
Her brave dark eyes focused only on her task.
She picks up the little one in her front paws and raises him delicately to her mouth.
After a few seconds, he’s secured;
She turns and runs off with him into the night.
I realize this is the only way to save them,
So I turn off my light, head into the tent, zip it up, and lie down again.
When morning comes, I step carefully out, and yes, sure enough.
Mother mouse has taken all five babies away,
And she’s even taken most of the tissue paper nesting as well.
I send her love and apologize, and wish her family well.
Soon I’ll be packing up to leave, but I’ve been inspired
By the caring and the courage of mother mouse.