Practical Animism, indeed.

I was sitting down to study this week’s Practical Animism lesson before my online class on Zoom. Ok, I was googling hanging cocoon chairs. But the intent was there. My daughter was about to bake cupcakes when she called out to me “Cuddles has a mouse!”. Whaaaatttt? I grabbed a container before running out to the front foyer. We had a mouse cause considerable damage in our basement two winters ago and my heart sank thinking we’d be repeating that disaster. Where there is one mouse, are there more? How did it get in? The other day one of our cats kept dashing out the door. In the effort of trying to retrieve her, I’d left the door open until I chased her back inside. Maybe it ran in then? An hour later my neighbour pointed out that our other cat was in the flower garden. She’d initially thought it was a raccoon. Oh, Kitcat! Maybe Kitcat brought her in. I’d only seen her backside as she dashed back inside. Cross my fingers this was the only mouse wandering our halls.

The sweet little mouse was frozen with fear. Its little legs splayed out behind it, its heart beating wildly. I placed a container on it anyway as I had expected it would dash. “It’s in shock”, I told my daughter. I went to get my husband but he was in a work call. I placed a sheet of watercolour paper under the container and we carried it outside to the front step. We debated whether it was a mouse, a mole, or a vole. We decided on vole. Our neighbour came by and we asked for an opinion. He said “that’s a field mouse”. We googled and field mice are often voles. So, my daughter and decided it’s our little field mouse vole.

Of course my daughter wanted to keep it. I explained how these sweet little critters are carriers of disease. Some of which I already have. So, no, that’s not an option. I told her the many ways that voles can destroy my gardens and my house. We decided to take it across the street to the back of the park where there’s a wooded ravine. Ravine might be an exaggeration. A wooded ditch.

Our friend, vole that my daughter named “Blue Diamond” wasn’t keen on scurrying off. Its legs were still weak. Over the next half hour we watched it crawl around sniffing ants and hiding under leaves, while trying to get comfortable. We wondered if it was still in shock and would it recover, or whether it was coming out of shock but its body still needed time to recover. We were leaning towards the latter.

When we had first gotten to the edge of the park and lifted the lid off the paper, I asked for the rodent people to come aid our friend. My daughter thought that sounded awful. “People?”, she asked. People? I said that people don’t have to be humans. Rodent people, stone people, water people, all sorts of people. I had expected she didn’t like the word “rodent”. It’s not my favourite. I just wasn’t sure if I should say mouse or vole. I continued to ask for the vole’s ancestors to guide it to a safe place and to let it know it is being helped.

At one point the vole had found a particularly comfy spot but we thought it needed shade so we placed some leaves in the right spot. It had its little nose sniffing the ground. It’s eyes were open fully and that seemed encouraging. It’s heartbeat was still rapid. It became a heaving. I wondered if it was having a seizure or just trying to sniff something on the ground.

Meanwhile, a dirt biker zipped into the park towards us and I got up waving my arms for it to leave. It’s illegal for vehicles to be in the park but they always think the rules don’t apply to them. But today, I really just didn’t need the added noise and vibration to bother my new friend. The biker nodded and did a stunt off the nearby hill and zipped through to the other side of the park and left.

My attention returned to little vole. Its legs seemed more active and there didn’t appear to be injuries but it was clearly weak. My daughter and I were hoping to return home soon but wanted to make sure vole had recovered enough to scurry into the woods.

And then, vole suddenly turned on it’s side and we thought perhaps it was finally regaining full use of its limbs. But then it went still. Oh no. Pause. Stillness. Is it…? Sigh, yes. Vole had returned home to meet its maker. I spoke to its ancestors again.

I asked my daughter if we should bury it. She wanted to bury it in the backyard where she has buried bees and other creatures. She was understandably inconsolable. Using a tiny stick we placed vole back onto the paper and placed the lid over it and carried it home. We collected flowers from my garden. She selected a stone. My daughter pointed out the burial site which is situated around a tree stump. I dug out deep enough. She would have preferred six feet deep but settled for the six inches I was willing to dig. She placed a maple leaf for it be cushioned on. We said some prayers and blessings as I placed vole on the leaf. She placed a raspberry, from her own bush, in its arms. She added the dirt back on to our friend and placed the stone upright as a marker. She placed the flowers and we took some photos to memorialize our friend, Blue Diamond Vole.

And now we’re back in the house. I sent her off to watch a Studio Ghibli movie in the craft room and I wanted to write this down, before attending my class which goes live in 10 minutes.

I am saddened that vole had to die but I am thankful for the gift it shared with us today. I explained to my daughter that we shared a very sacred moment with it as it transitioned to a different world. She is hopeful it will come back as a future pet. Perhaps.

4 thoughts on “Practical Animism, indeed.

  1. Jennifer Wilson says:

    What a beautiful and poignant story!

    I couldn’t help but be reminded of a strange experience I had before moving to Illinois. I found 7 baby sparrows in my koi pond. Burying these babies felt symbolic of needing to bury and let go of my perfect self, who felt like such a failure for getting divorced.


    • mellybird says:

      Oh that must have been so sad finding those baby birds! Especially so many! I understand what you mean about symbolism. Today’s burial felt like a pivotal moment for me and my daughter. It was a relatively minor event but something about it left us changed, like we’re not going back to who we were before. It’s hard to explain the surreal feeling.


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