Lamentations of a Critter Catcher 


So, I have a cat, Satch, named after the great musician, not the great baseball player.  Satch has been with me for ten years now has me trained me pretty well.  I have a love/hate relationship with Satch, and I was recalling last night a good example of why.  A recount of the story from a few years ago now. 
I keep my kitchen clean, but living out here in the woods, it's bound to happen, one day something uninvited will set up house in your kitchen.  I had noticed a little scurrying going on in the cabinets lately and thought it could be one of two things - one of the wood roaches around here that are the size of '98 Lincolns, or a little mouse.  I have a bit of Buddhist temperament, in that I try to avoid killing things (other than blood sucking Alabama mosquitos) as often as I can.  I read that peppermint essential oil is a turnoff to these uninvited guests, so I arranged doused cotton pads with it until my kitchen smelled like a Scope bomb.  Then I searched the net and found what appeared to be a good solution for a "humane" way to get rid of a mouse in your house.   Here was the plan, which I implemented with exacting precision: 
1.  Take kitchen garbage can tall enough that a mouse Globetrotter on steroids will not be able to jump out of; 
2.  Create "ramp" out of cardboard with a lip overlapping the edge of the garbage can; 
3.  Take paper towel roll and fashion it into sleek little mousie tunnel; 
4.  Take cracker with peanut butter and tentatively perch on end of paper towel roll mousie tunnel above can; 
5.  At night presumably the sweet little mouse will scurry up the ramp, sniff alluring peanut butter cracker, and unable to control its passion, lean over to get treat and end up in tall trash can, humiliated but unharmed.  My plan was to the cover can with large piece of aluminum foil, poke breathing hole for mouse, drive mouse 2 miles away to open field and release.  Had to be some level of good karma in this approach. 
Three nights I had this contraption set up in my kitchen…and nada.  So, I spent the weekend at my mom’s house and left the little critter alone to pursue its goal, and when I got home…nada.  I put the contraption away, disgusted.  In the meantime, Satch knew it was around somewhere.  He would change between happy purring on "his chair" going in and out of naps to jumping up and perching before the cabinet like the Nosferatu version of Count Dracula.  Then, he would leisurely jump back up on the chair and go back to his napping. 
I was fast asleep at 3am one morning when Satch made his little cat sound that says "I'm coming up to sleep with you and nestle in your knees and purrrrr."  I thought, how sweet.  Then I notice he was batting something around in the bed - yes, you guessed it, the "little critter".  Can you guess how fast I got out of that bed and turned on the light and prayed that I could see well enough to find my glasses?  There he was, looking up at me happily, batting around a large, dead RAT.  I was creeped out beyond belief.  Still, I knew I had to get it out of the house.  So, I took a trashcan and covered it up, slipped a manila file folder underneath the can to be able to lift it and take it outside.  I dropped the thing twice with a sickening thud before getting it out of the house, each time making me feel like I had had a goldfish enema.  Finally got the rat out, the cat out, the creeps under control, and went back to sleep. 
At 5:00, the cat comes back in, sweet little sound from him, then unbelievable commotion and I am thinking "Oh God, he's brought in the rest of the RAT family.  I again jumped out of bed, turned on the light and he was torturing a beautiful little bird.  This time I scooped up Satch, who was in full bloodsport cockfighting mode, and threw him out.  The little bird ran into my closet shivering and terrified.  I thought the best thing to do was give the little bird a break so it could calm down and then I'd open the front door and let him go out peacefully to live a long happy life.  The lights are off, I'm back in bed, all's quiet, the cat door has been put up to keep the killer Satch at bay.  Then, crash, bang, the bird is freaking out and crashing into the walls and mirrors, and I know he's going to kill himself out of confusion and fear.  So, again I get up, grab my laundry hamper and trap the bird, fluttering with all his might.  I'm so proud of myself, I am setting him freeeeeee..... at 5am in the morning.  I open the door and release him, and I know all is well in the universe.  Then, Satch comes screaming out between my legs and the bird and the cat go off like a couple of rockets down the street in the blackness of night.  I'm heartsick and more than a little peeved.  I try to go back to sleep but no use.  So I get up and walk down the street in my gown carrying a broom ready to thwack the cat enough to get the bird out of its jaws, grateful it wasn't garbage day when the trucks come by at 5:00, as I know I looked like a slightly less attractive combination of a Maxine cartoon and James Cagney.  Thankfully, I think the bird outran Satch and all's well until another day.  It is now 8:30 and I'm going to bed.  
I love my cat. 

A Snapshot 

A Snapshot 


Tonight I went out by myself.  That’s a bigger proclamation than a lot of people might be able to proclaim.  It’s been easier for me than most, as I’ve had a little practice.  I feel a great compassion for people who have never had the necessity or the opportunity to have this right of passage.  The difference is, now that I’m older, I am a woman who goes out just to get out.  When I was younger I went out to be seen or see, spending my last 30 dollars just so I could feel I was part of something “Big”, Big being that unknown definition – it could be a man, a song, a conversation, a moment, just that “Big” that makes you feel you are alive.  I had some great times, but I fear they may have been over-romanticized or perhaps I just can’t remember what actually was.  

I fought going out tonight – I said to myself, “I’m tired, have nothing to prove to anyone, don’t feel like sitting alone in a restaurant.”  I went anyway.  Sauvignon Blanc, cheese tray in hand I sat for a while with my Kindle, enjoying my Italian cookbook and the sunset, thinking how proud I was of myself for getting out tonight instead of giving in to the urge to have an egg and salsa sandwich and go to bed early. 

I looked up, just as swallows were flying across grey-blue clouds in a blood red sunset.  I realized I was enveloped in the presence of greatness -- a looming, aged judge, covered with English vine, huge gnarly knobs and ferns, an ignored witness in the procession of time.  This great oak has lived here longer than all of its welcome and less welcome passers-by.  There must have been hundreds of conversations about this one who doesn’t love that one, because this one doesn’t do this or that.  Blessings or curses of age, youth or circumstance, something not as perfect, attainable or ideal as we in our ever-changing states of being would wish.  I imagined the old oak yawning. 

Then, just as I was about to leave, superior in my understanding of the benefits of getting older, I saw a living image of my former self.  A young girl about 16 setting up her little stage to perform for the night - ”Check, check, testing, check, 1,2, 3, 4.”  So shy, so inhibited, so young, a bird-like little chirp–so sure that God put her on this earth to sing.  I sat mesmerized, looking at her, thinking how fast the decades since that time have passed, and how I wish I still had that same kind of innocence, passion and ignorance.  I was a better singer then than she is -- meow.  But she is so much better than I am now in so many ways.  Sad to say, but true. 

I looked up again at the great oak, the vines twisting around its huge trunk.  I thought of my fingers, beginning to show the first signs of age, hard won due to hard work -- why are the imperfections so beautiful on the old oak but so worrisome on my own body?  Vines, knobs and discolorations overcoming the trunk of the great oak– why can’t I see the constraints in my own life as becoming a beautiful vine, integral in the overall composition of myself?  I thought of times I’ve photographed ancient trees in the wild  - how limited and disappointing the photographs have been, shrunken, passionless.  Does the old oak smile upon the young girl singing her heart out under its huge branches?  Does the old oak smile upon me for simply noticing it is there at all?  Does it matter anyway?