by Frances Edstrom
My neighbor and friend, Cynthia, came over to help me carry presents from their hiding places all over the house, and she wrapped them, too! I am dismal at wrapping, and she loves to do it. All her corners are sharp, and she never has too much or too little paper. It’s what all those guys in the eighties liked to call “win-win,” except that I feel that I won a little more than Cynthia did.
As we were retrieving boxes from the basement, I came across a dead mouse. “Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse,” especially this particular mouse. It was sort of embarrassing, finding a mouse in the house. Normally, had I found a dead mouse, or even a live one, it would be John’s job to get rid of it. I never paid much attention to what he did with them. Not one of those “need to know” situations, as far as I was concerned.
So what do you do with a dead mouse? I sized him up and figured he would be perfect for the toilet. I thought briefly of the strain on the septic system. Then I remembered last summer, when the dog found a dead bird and brought it into the house. He didn’t chew on it or bat it around. He just wanted a friend, I think. I picked the bird up with a paper towel, took it outside and threw it far into the woods.
Gone but not forgotten. Later that day, the dog returned with the same dead bird. Who would have guessed he was such a good retriever? I had no idea what to do with the bird, so I locked the dog out of the house. He stood at the big picture window in the den with the bird in his mouth. He stood, and stood and stood. Finally, he became bored, or duty called, and left the bird on the window ledge. The poor little bird body was there for a couple days, unmolested by the dog. One day, it was simply gone. A cat or a crow took it away, I think.
Our crows are active this time of year. They are funny birds, walking up the driveway as if coming for a visit, or strolling their lawns. They don’t fly into windows or hang around feeders, and aren’t afraid of cats or dogs. I sometimes expect them to pull out pocket watches or light up a cigar. I love them for their compulsion to keep the place clean.
Out in the country, we live mostly in harmony with our wildlife. We do feel a shiver up and down our spines when the coyotes set up a howl. We imagine their prey screaming in agony. Or it could just be Coyote New Year’s Eve and the young ‘uns are out of control again, drunk on juniper berries.
On Christmas morning, we will wake up to a winter wonderland, unsullied by plows and sand and black piles of snow. I like it here.