Once again winter weather has settled on my New Hampshire home. As with every blow that Mother Nature throws at me, I find myself, shovel in hand, digging my way out. Paths to the shed and to the generator need to be kept clear. The roof needs to be cleaned off and the mailbox cleared out because god-forbid the postal worker gets out of their truck.
It was while doing this work that I saw a mouse making its way through the snow and it was having a hard time. I thought it odd to see a mouse in the snow, his dark body, as small as it was, in sharp contrast to the snow. He was a sure target for any hawk flying over. I stopped my work to watch. The mouse seemed to be having a problem with one of its hind legs. Then it stopped, exhausted from its ordeal, it curled up in a ball and seemed to resolve itself to its fate.
I was brought up hunting, fishing and caring for the land. I was bought up believing, as my Native American ancestors did, that all things have a spirit and The Creator made us all equals. We are all part of the circle and though some have to die so others may live, we humans were put here as guardians, not usurpers. I was taught that we all have a purpose and I have been told by many wise spiritual people that my purpose was that of a protector; to protect all that can’t defend themselves; to protect the weakest of us all, animal or human. I decided that this mouse was not going to die on my watch.
With gloved hand I scooped the mouse up, his eyes staring intently into mine. He didn’t try to escape or bite me. He just stared. I gave him a quick once over and saw that there was a piece of ice on his rear foot. I needed to do something so I asked The Creator for guidance. Cupping the mouse in my hands I breathed onto it, the warmth of my breath warming it and more importantly, melting the ice on its foot. The mouse came back to life. Its nose twitching and its whiskers started moving. With the ice gone I gently placed him in a sheltered spot, out of the wind and the snow. It didn’t take long to scurry off, seeking shelter.
Why is this important? After all, we are hunters and we kill things, right? Well, we are also human beings and outdoorspeople, which is more than hunting. We are part of the circle. Being part of the circle means being able to both take a life and to save a life. You can’t do one without the other and call yourself an outdoorsperson. There was no need for me to kill the mouse or allow it to die a painful death. I wasn’t going to eat it or use its fur to keep me warm. It posed no threat to me or my family. But there was a need for me to step in and help.
Perhaps that mouse and its offspring will end up feeding a coyote, fox or bobcat. Perhaps those animals will end up being trapped and the trapper being able to cloth and feed his or her family from the sale of the fur. Perhaps that fox may have kits that will turn around and eat more rodents that are doing damage around the homestead. You just never know, but that one act of saving the mouse completed the circle.
My ancestors had a saying, “We are all related”. My wife has another saying, “What goes around; comes around”. Both indicate that the actions of one have a ripple effect and sooner or later will affect us all. Maybe the spirits will smile down on me and if there is ever a time that I need help they will remember the mouse.