Imagine the surprise I found a month or two ago when I went to refill the bird feeder that had been hanging on a limb of our pine tree all summer. Upon opening the lid of the bird feeder, what greeted me were two small sets of black eyes. A pair of mice was crouching on the pile of feed!
The mystery of this situation was vexing to me. Had the two small mice climbed up the tree together, dared the 8-foot trek out to the bird feeder and somehow found their way into the bird feeder?
Or, had the two small mice been in the feed that I dumped into the feeder a month or two before? Had they been living high on the hog ever since, gorging themselves on corn and seed whenever they needed. And if so, do mice need water to survive?
The mystery is still open in my mind. I cannot figure out which of these, or some other scenario is true.
But it struck me: For a while at least, these two mice were out of the “rat race.” They had all the food they needed, and were completely protected from potential predators. This was like the ultimate “retirement” plan for mice! If only I didn’t need to refill the bird feeder now and then, their gig was just about perfect.
We all imagine ourselves wishing for some similar situation in life. An environment or circumstance where all our needs are fulfilled. Where our innocence and carefree ways can be sustained. Where the rats in this world can’t get us.
But even the mice didn’t have it perfect, did they? For one thing, there wasn’t a whole lot of room to run around inside that bird feeder. Without exercise or maybe even a little stress, those mice might have gotten fat and died of obesity.
Fortunately there was a varied diet, to some degree. Corn. Cracked sunflower. Millett. Many of their nutritional needs could be met inside the bird feeder, and perhaps the moisture in the food would provide enough drink to sustain the two mice.
Yet we should suppose that mice eat more variety than even the bird feed could provide. Likely some fresh greens thrown in there now and then.
Their circumstance was also a confusion of the evolutionary process. If they were both either male or female mice, they could not breed, and their genetic history could not be passed along. Or, if they grew old enough to become rivals inside the feeder, and mice testosterone or progesterone took over, their might be a fight to the death.
Psychologically, the two mice might have needed stimulation at some point. While mice are good at living in confined spaces, wild animals ultimately need to move. Just look at the wolf at the public zoo, pacing round and round his faux environment. Going in circles gets old. We runners and riders know that. Everyone needs to roam, even get lost once in a while, or lost in the moment. People in cubicles lose their minds after a while. They have to get out. Run or ride around.
Which is why, rather than leave the mice in the hog heaven, away from the rat race the rest of the world must engage, I tipped the bird feeder up and let the two mice scurry off into the garden. They made haste, as if the starting gun had just gone off. Bang. 26 feet to glory. A mousey marathon of sorts. Or maybe just a half-marathon. A 10k? 5K? 100 meters? It’s hard to figure these things out in mouse terms. Or perhaps the mice just don’t care. Only we humans put measure to our running and riding. And who is the wiser, mouse or man?
Back into the rat race they went. Their wishful thinking was over. The bird feeder they’d made their home had to be left behind. They are better mice for the journey. It’s one we must all make, on foot or by bike, that we should enjoy the process.