A mouse has moved into our living room. We’ve named him Patrick.
Last night as I read on the sofa he crept out from under it again only instead of scurrying across the room as usual he stopped in the middle of the rug a few feet from me and just sort of sat. At first I thought he was freezing in place, knowing I was watching and might be a threat. But after a while he began to look comfortable; he sort of settled in, and the two of us just watched each other watching each other for a long time.
I said, “Patrick, you’re gonna have to go.”
He said, “I dunno. Seems like there’s plenty of room here.”
He said, “What’s for supper?”
So I walked to the hardware store and bought a catch-and-release trap for Patrick, spent an hour learning how to set it up, smeared some organic cashew butter on the trap, and moved it near the sofa.
The instructions say you should release the mouse two miles from your home. That would mean, like, somewhere on the UC Berkeley campus or maybe in Emeryville near the Home Depot or maybe in the park near Lake Temescal. I think Patrick would like it there best of all.
Assuming I can catch him.
The thing is: he might not choose to enter the trap. He might prefer the Tibetan rug, the place I roll out my yoga mat–when I’m doing yoga, though lately I haven’t been doing yoga much.
Has Patrick noticed this? Is he mocking me?
Is he the Krauncha to my Ganesha–the companion of the god who removes obstacles but also puts them in our way when our striving has become self-destructive? Is the mouse himself an obstacle on loan from Ganesha: something to distract me or to remind me that no place is really just mine or that if I don’t use my place well, for its best purpose, the place will be overtaken by someone else?
Exactly one week ago, on that exact spot on the rug, I led a yoga workshop on grounding: how we can find peace of mind by noticing ourselves in this moment, in this particular place. We notice the earth beneath our feet, the precise details of it: the bare feet on the rug, toes extended, weight shifting into the heels, ankles, calves . . . or we notice the mouse on the rug, a charcoal gray figure in the field of rose amid gray and gold geometric shapes, the black tail curving into the symbol of the citrus fruit called a Buddha’s hand.
We notice that we are here, now, without judgment, breathing in and out, sharing space with this fellow creature . . . who threatens us intuitively, epigenetically.
“You’ve gotta go, Patrick.”
. . .
I’ve spent all week thinking about how I will incorporate a Land Acknowledgement into my online class. About how I will have each of us learn something about the place we are, here, now, as we embark on our learning together under the auspices of California College of the Arts, whose campuses are in Huichin and Yelamu, also known as Oakland and San Francisco, on the unceded territories of Chochenyo and Ramaytush Ohlone peoples.
We acknowledge those places too, from afar, from wherever we are “sheltered in place” in places we mostly call home. My home is half of a rented apartment inside a house that was built 100 years ago by a farmer who somehow worked this land and dealt with critters like Patrick, perhaps Patrick’s ancestors who, when you think about it, belong to this place more than I do.
For an instant, Patrick or I might determine what happens on this land but we cannot control it. We occupy it. It’s where we begin, in each present moment, to look around and make sense of things. Take stock of ourselves and our options. Aristotle would call it our topos, our seat, our starting point for argument or dialogue.
Where I might say, “It’s unfair, Patrick. But I can’t let you stay. Because I’m afraid of you, I’m afraid you might carry disease. I’m afraid if you stay you will breed, make a family, make me uncomfortable, make me sick.”
“It’s you or me, Patrick.”
“Don’t make me kill you.”