It happened again one evening a couple of weeks ago, while we were relaxing and chatting with some dear friends. My wife, Devi, who periodically over the years has asked, begged, or cajoled me to tell the story of the mouse family, prevailed successfully upon me once again. People always seem to enjoy this story, so I thought you might, too.
It took place around 1974, after I had built and moved into a geodesic dome. This was in the days before we were married, and I was able to be a little more casual with my interior-decorating motifs. The inside walls of a geodesic dome are made up of many triangular shapes, and it required both more skill than I possessed, and more effort than I felt inclined to expend, to cover them with wood, sheetrock, or some other type of fancy-shmancy interior. So I decided to go with the traditional, time-tested design theme of uncovered insulation. I freely admit that shiny tinfoil doesn’t appeal to everyone, but in those days it worked for me.
One evening while I was meditating, I heard a squeaking sound coming from inside the insulation. It didn’t take an advanced degree in investigatory science to realize that there was a mouse family living there. But this presented an immediate question: What to do about these unwanted visitors? Not wanting to kill or even hurt them, I decided to scare them in the hope that they would relocate to a different neighborhood. I stood close to the noise and loudly clapped my hands several times. Much to my amazement, the mother mouse ran out with a tiny baby in her mouth, about the size and appearance of a pink bumblebee. I clapped again and she panicked, dropped the baby, and ran back to the nest. Carefully I took the baby and placed it in a wide-mouthed one-gallon glass jar.
The squeaking eventually resumed. Seeing how well I had done the first time, I clapped again and the same sequence of events repeated itself: clap; scare the mom while she is running with her baby; watch her drop it and run back to the nest; collect the baby and place it gently in the glass jar with its sibling. I was getting the drill down pretty well by now. Again I waited for the squeaks, and repeated the whole routine. After an hour or so, I had collected four babies, and there were no more sounds from the nest. I had corralled the kids, but how to nab the mom?
As I sat quietly, the desperate mother worked up the courage to try to rescue her family, and ran out toward the glass jar, which I had placed nearby. With a flash of inspiration, I carefully balanced a ruler on a strut of the dome and extended it over the mouth of the jar, forming a sort of bridge. The mother tentatively ran across it back and forth several times, retreating each time the precarious ruler started to tip. Finally she went too far, and her weight tipped the ruler, and her along with it, into the jar. I quickly put some grass in the jar, and gave them some much needed family time. In the morning I took them into the woods and set them free.
There are many spiritual lessons to be learned from this story, but I’ll let you figure them out on your own.