Poor Will's Almanack: March 29 – April 4, 2011

Mar 29, 2011

Poor Will’s Almanack for the first week of Middle Spring, the 18th Week of the Natural Year

I keep my birdseed in plastic container inside a small shed, and the other morning I forgot to put the cover back on.

When I went out to feed the birds the following day, I discovered at the bottom of the container, a mouse peering out from the mug I used to scoop the seed. It had jumped down, hulled numerous sunflower seeds, but then had been unable to climb out.

So I took the container outside to dump the cup and mouse, and feed the birds. But when I looked down once more, a second mouse appeared from out of the cup and then a third: three fat, frightened mice packed into a coffee mug, coming out to look at me and then retreating and stuffing themselves so tightly into the mug that only their tails stuck out.

I started to imagine their panic. And the more I thought about what they might be feeling, the more I projected my own fears and regrets upon them. Suddenly their predicament stood for all the foolish, reckless, thoughtless, ill-advised things I had ever done in my life, things so stupid that I try to forget them all the time but never quite succeed.

So I made a sort of general confession of my failures to the mice, and it felt good to talk to these compatriots in crime. And slowly I reached down and lifted the cup, spilled its contents close to a space under the shed where the mice could escape. They stood for an instant in the sun, their fat black eyes searching mine, and then scurried for safety.

For a few days, they were on their best behavior. I decided that they had learned from their mistakes and mine.

Then yesterday, I found a small hole gnawed into the side of the seed container near the tightly fastened lid. This time, there were four mice in the mug.

Next week on Poor Will's Almanack: notes for the second week of middle spring. In the meantime, forgive all the rodents in your life. Even though it won't keep them away, you'll feel better.