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  • GEORGIA A GREELEY

The Mice Cup



I opened our game drawer and picked up the dice cup; it seemed heavier than usual. And warm. I carried it outside, sat on the back steps, set the cup down, and pulled the fuzzy warm materials out, one gentle pinch at a time. Soon, a twitching nose and small black eyes peered up at me.

The dice cup tipped over, rolled about, and a momma mouse raced away with six babies still attached to her teats! One baby fell off and rolled down the steps. The momma ran for cover under our steps with five babies still in tow.

I emptied the cup, saved the two leftover dice, and went back inside. But I couldn’t get the image of that momma and her babies out of my mind.

She was so pretty. So healthy. Those babies were so small and perfectly formed. Pink feet. Furless light gray bodies. She had acted so quickly, racing for safety under our stairs. Half an hour later the sixth baby was gone. I hoped Momma had found it and pulled it to safety.

I imagined them cuddled together under the stairs in a new and hastily build nest. I had left the nest material nearby, hoping Momma would find it and use it again. It made me feel good to think they had a future.

One of my chores, as a matriarch within my family, is to kill mice. I’ve grown to be good at it. I trap, poison, or drown them. I do not dislike them: I just don’t want them in my home, on my counters, in my food, or in my bed. Yet I could not get that momma and her babies out of my head. So quick. So fragile. So beautiful.

This whole episode started me thinking about all the life we kill that we might not have to kill. Not we. Me. That I might not have to kill.

Each spring I scrape mud swallow nests off the side of our family cabin. This year one nest fell whole into my hands with three eggs inside. Had I known the eggs were there, I would have let them hatch and fledge before I took the nest down.

Mice. Mosquitos. Birds. Snakes. Frogs. Worms. Slugs. Fish. Ants. Bees. Wasps. Flies.

As I write down this list of violence to small beings—before I get to what we humans do to each other—I am stunned. It is a huge list. I wonder, is there a connection between small and large violence?

I know it is easier to kill mice than to live trap them and release them as far away as possible. Is it also easier to be bigoted rather than compassionate? To be angry and hate, rather than forgive?

I truly saw this momma and her babies in our brief encounter.

Will I stop squishing mosquitos when they bite? I doubt it. Will I use mosquito spray more often on my body, so I won't want to swat so many? Probably. Will I continue to think about how to prevent more violence in this world? Yes. All the levels of violence? Yes.

As a young girl, I caught spiders and various bugs in our home, took them outside and released them. Choosing not to kill. On some deep level, I have always known that all life is sacred, even the life I find scary. Centipedes and millipedes. Fleas and bed bugs.

How can not killing bugs or mice have anything to do with world justice and peace?

One word: Attitude.

The lens through which we view our world.

One attitude says I have the right to harm or kill any living thing that I fear, believe is harmful, or gets in my way. The second attitude cherishes all life, even life I don’t like, or life I fear, or life I don't understand, and then try to figure out ways to coexist.

What we think always affects how we act and react.

There is nothing easy about making such choices. I am not ready to let a mouse sleep in my bed.

But if learning how to coexist with mice can help me learn how to accept all humans, no matter their colors or beliefs, it’s worth it. I hope I can continue to choose that second attitude, the one that can undermine bigotry, racism, injustice, and fear of difference—one small life at a time.



GEORGIA A GREELEY is an artist and writer who lives and works in Saint Paul with a passion for combining words and images historically showing up as fine press broadsides and handmade artist’s books. She writes in a variety of genres: poetry, children’s literature, fiction, creative nonfiction, memoir, and essays.

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