And a big thank you to Tara Brach...as if on queue, she speaks here much more eloquently to what I've been writing about.
Immigrants Welcome Here…I saw this sign high on the government building in Madrid in 2015 as a taxi rushed me towards the airport. My heart read the sign and responded with a sense of peace.
One morning last week I saw signs of a mouse in my house….scat on the counter and there, under my sofa cushion, a small pile of kibble from my dog’s bowl tucked between the cushions.
That evening I pulled out my “live” mouse trap and placed it on the floor with almonds inside and went upstairs to bed. Within moments I heard the soft clang of the door of the trap. With a slight annoyance, since I was already in my pj’s, I went downstairs and picked up the small cage. Inside was an energetic, large eyed mouse….so sweet. Though I knew it would likely be a less than cogent move, I skipped quickly across the dark street and opened the cage for the mouse into the rocky hillside. This would likely be less than effective but, hey, its done.
I went back inside and set the trip again and went to bed.
Early in the morning after a wakeful night, conscious of the trap, I went downstairs to find another mouse in the trap. Was it the same one? Who knows. Though it was only 5:30 am I pulled on some pants and jumped in the car with the cage and drove a few blocks away and released the little guy. Apparently they have their ways to navigate back home, but I thought this might be far enough away to prevent a return.
With a smug sense of success and what I thought of as a kind move on my part I returned home and began my day. I set the trap again, thinking perhaps there were several mice in the house. For two days I caught no more mice so I put the trap back into the corner of the kitchen storage area. Subconsciously I felt an energetic brush of my hands together as if for a job well done!
On THIS morning, however, a lesson of Biblical proportions appeared, literally from above…burst in on my bubbles of righteousness. In my morning routine walk to the kitchen, my eyes blinked as I saw a tiny form on the floor near the door. I bent down to find a tiny baby mouse, eyes still held closed, body still warm and moving slightly…an intricacy of divine mammalian life. I picked it up. I looked closely at it and imagined that it has crawled out of the nest …hungry…alone…seeking its mama.
My heart sank. No doubt I had separated this tiny mouse baby from its parent.
How was I not like what our president is doing now on the border to Mexico? You might say, its only a mouse. yes, it is a mouse. It is also a child, a baby, a helpless life dependent on another.
We can so easily disregard something in an effort not to feel what we have done. I did this, this morning. I thought, the humane thing to do would probably be to kill it, but I couldn’t find that in me, so I placed it outside in the garden and went inside. About an hour later I couldn’t shake the feeling of what I’d done. I kept muttering apologies to the world…I felt awful. I was hiding. So I went out and picked it back up. At least I could hold it and tend it as it died.
I picked it up and put it in a little nest with fur in it. I held it first in my hand as it wriggled and seemed to be nosing for its mama.
I watched my desire to “get on with my day”.
I felt like a monster in that. I saw the dark movement of my shadow aspect that couldn’t be bothered to be with this small death.
Inside, I looked around and couldn’t figure out where the mouse nest was.
Then, an hour or two later…suddenly, another tiny infant mouse was in the same place. I realized in the moment that it had fallen from above. I looked and looked and could see no way for it to have fallen from anywhere that a nest could exist.
I knew though, from the mark on the floor, that it had fallen from above. I was shaken by this mystery. I picked this one up too and held it. Whispered to it. Held them together. Later I saw a small crack by the heater vent above and imagined that this is where the nest was and these tiny ones, now without a mother and so without food or nourishment, were wiggling themselves into their own great fall.
I placed a pillow on the floor where they’d landed in case more fell and placed the tiny bodies in my garden again. In the coming hours, they passed.
My heart ached.
I felt ethical and moral when I had marched for the immigrant families on Saturday…feeling that I wouldn’t ever do such a thing. So much lays hidden to us…so many blind spots we have that we don’t consider and can’t even see.
How many times have I separated families, caused deaths to infants, turned away from death because it is too painful to look at? I realized that I was more adept at looking at death after the fact, than during the process. I have heard myself say that my fear was not of death, but of dying. And so it is, I do not want to watch it happen. I feel so powerless there. I see now that at times I have been blind to how I have participated in hurting others. I don’t want to see how I have hurt others. I am avoiding my own pain in not wanting to see theirs.
I sit here now, looking at the empty pillow by the door…wondering when the next small life might land there. Will I take the time for it? Its strange how so many of us see lives as less important when the creature is smaller than us or if they are less like us...a different race, religion, gender, sexual preference, species...
I ask for forgiveness. I give thanks for waking up to what I was doing so unconsciously. I apologize for my mistake in this.
Do I want mice in my house? No, but neither do I want to make innocents suffer by my desire for convenience. Obviously this is not the same as dividing families at the border, but it is so much the same, and a lesson for me. It was helpful guidance in my desire to see more of my blindspots.
When I think back at the sign I saw in Madrid, I ask myself the question of whether immigrants are welcome in me when it comes to mice, to allowing others to share my home, in including and even inviting some seemingly foreign thought or feeling into my heart, when it is uncomfortable or inconvenient.
Can I hang such a sign on my heart?
Immigrants are welcome here.
Aren’t the majority of us immigrants into the US? Into many countries? How many of us are native?
We so want to hold up the stop sign to things that are “Other” to us….whether inside of us or outside.
As painful as this was to experience my desire not to see what I’d done this morning, I am grateful for waking up to it.
This is the task, is it not?
To see how much we are like those we call Other, and to stop long enough to see...and feel.
1. Becoming Seed
2. Blooming Forth