something to bury

| May 16, 2013 | 2 Replies

Tuesday morning I found a dead field mouse. It was in the shed where I keep my bike.

where I keep my bike

My breath caught on the sharp edge of the morning bustle. This mouse is here for me, I thought. I set my bicycle aside. I pulled a leaf  from the earth and stooped beside the mouse, ready to pick it up by the tail.

But the mouse was still breathing.

still breathing

The movement of its breath astounded me. Such an inconsequential thing: a millimeter in, a millimeter out. My whole world of Important Plans vanished into thimble-sized lungs beneath a swatch of gray fur. I squatted in the shed watching the deepening sleep of a small, small creature.

I picked it up. It weighed nothing. A tissue. A pamphlet. I set it out on the wooden ledge in the sunshine.

on the wooden ledge

The lilacs have begun to open above that ledge. Can a dying field mouse smell lilac blossoms?

lilacs in bloom

I wept to watch the mouse so close to death. Not a river of tears. Just a fountain turned on and then off again. I wept on my bike ride to school. I wept later in the day, three or four times. Thinking of it now, I still could cry.

When you’re about to get married, you spend a lot of time smiling. Monday morning we put the invitations in the mailbox.

mailing the invitations

mailing the invitations

When you’re about to get married, you find yourself hurrying between Important Plans at dizzying speeds. After school on Tuesday I had a voice lesson to teach, then a dress fitting, then dinner with Jade.

Meanwhile time stood still on the wooden ledge. No scavengers came along, not even the ants. On Wednesday afternoon the mouse looked much the same as Tuesday morning. It had stopped breathing.

Wednesday afternoon

I took my landlord’s shovel from the shed and laid the mouse to rest.

shovel

laid to rest

Many years ago I killed half a dozen mice, when they took up residence in a kitchen I hardly remember. We used those merciless old-fashioned traps. I can’t recall what I did with the bodies.

Tuesday’s field mouse lies in the earth under the birdbath.

under the birdbath

Between all the smiling and the hurrying, much in my life is coming to an end. My years at Stoneridge. My residence in my beloved apartment. My singleness. I cannot bury these things. I cannot watch them take their final breaths beneath the lilacs.

It takes two minutes to dig a grave for a mouse. Not everyone would bother, of course. Perhaps that’s why the field mouse came to me. As I returned the shovel to the shed, the rain began to fall.

raindrops

Category: beauty, death, love, outside, pain

Hannah Lynn Mell

About the Author ()

Hannah Lynn Mell grew up a missionary kid in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Now she lives in Rowley, Massachusetts with her exquisitely kind husband David and their charming three-legged cat, Thomas. She's worked with singers since 1998 and loves to help people of all ages free their voices.

Comments (2)

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  1. Doug Bowker says:

    That’s a really nice posting Hannah, and even perhaps instructive in a number of ways. I feel a little bad now that a month or so ago I found a dead mouse under our outside table (a sudden frost I think did it in) and was too “busy” to think it through the way you did. At the time I just bagged it up and put it in the trash can.

    I feel bad about it not because it was so terrible to dispose of it that way, but more for the missed opportunity it presented. I actually think maybe I was concerned our dog would smell it decaying and dig it up, which would not be good for anyone! But I also could have just buried it deeper, or with a stone a few inches above it and it would have probably deterred her doggy curiosity.

    And I also like how you took its picture; an opportunity to really “see”, to contemplate to small thing that is still an important part of the whole. I don’t know what it is exactly, but whenever I read your musings I feel an extra sense of gratitude and appreciation for my day. And what’s better than that? Thanks.

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