Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Mouse

The noise was a distinctive flopping sound of wood, metal and flesh covered with hair making contact with un-cushioned wood. I looked and expected to see the final twitches and muscle contractions.

“Umm? Darn! That leg must be broken.”

I took trap and unwilling occupant out into the cold morning air. I walked a goodly distance from the house and stopped on the north side of a Juniper. The temperature was in the low teens and the snow was crunchy. I wondered if the shock of the cold air was noticeable or was it masked by an overwhelming pain from the leg.

“What to do? Turn it loose? End its pain? I could place it on the ground and give it one moment of additional panic and pain as I crush it with a booted foot.”

I bent over and lifted the lever that pinned his leg and watched as he ran about a yard to some thin bunch grass that protruded from the snow. His leg and foot trailed him at an oblique and unnatural angle. He stopped when he reached the grass that provided only the illusion of security and protection. With one final glance I turned and walked back toward the house. My thoughts rambled from a healthy one-footed seagull, survivor of some traumatic accident, which I saw on a wharf in San Francisco to a video of an inspiring dog walking on two hind legs without even stubs of front legs.

My thoughts continued. “It was a selfish and self-centered decision. What gives me the right to make choices for living miracles? He’s doomed as are all living creatures – non-human and human. It’s not so much when and how we die as how we live and struggle, mourn and celebrate, try and succeed and fail, love and hate and love again.”

I’ve learned more, grown more and felt more alive due to the pains and struggles I’ve experienced. I think it was Aristotle (or was it Plato?) who said “The unexamined life is not worth living”. I would parallel this with “The untried life is not worth living”. I don’t want to live free from occasional challenge and pain. I don’t want anyone making decisions for me. I want to feel my pain, attack my struggles and choose some of the details of my ultimate fate.

William Ernest Henley understood. I’ve read that Henley wrote Invictus in 1875 after the amputation of a foot due to tubercular infection. Invictus means “unconquered”.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul.

For me, turning the injured mouse free was an act of selfishness but, it was also an acknowledgement of the unlimited value of free will, freedom and the ability to choose for myself. I’m free. I want to live free. That’s also the way I want to die -- free and unafraid and unconquered.

This summer, I hope to see a mouse near the house; a mouse missing part of his left rear leg. I hope he stops and looks defiantly at me with a go-to-hell look. It probably won't happen but I hope it does.


Blogger Buffalo said...

Free, unafraid, unconquered - words to live and die by. To them I would add unrepentant and grateful.

1/25/2007 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger Whitesnake said...

Wonderfully put Paul.

1/25/2007 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

I hope it does too Paul!

Your mouse reminds me of the Robin I pulled from the jaws of my cat a few years ago. He flew away, his left leg dangling helplessly in the air.

But next spring here he was!

Stumpy is what I called him after the useless leg had fallen off, and here he stayed for two more years, enjoying a life that my cat tried to cut short.

2/05/2007 11:36:00 PM  

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