Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Not the tenants I expected.
I read many years ago that the Chinese believe you are blessed if animals come in from the outdoors to live in your house with you. If this is true, then I’m probably close to sacred at this point in my life.
We’ll start with all the mice that have wandered in, usually in the winter but not exclusively, and generally for a very short stay, this being a house that has had one to three cats in residence at all times. My first cat dropped the corpses in my shoes. The first time was particularly rough.
There have been three bats. The first was out on my glassed-in entry porch one morning when it was about ten below, huddled in a corner trying to keep from freezing to death. I didn’t begrudge him his will to live but with two small children, I wasn’t anxious to have him in my house either. When I went over to look at him, he turned his face up to me and bared his teeth, a row of very sharp, brilliant white points sparkling like diamonds. That sort of thing gives one pause. So I got a shovel, picked him up carefully, took him outdoors, and deposited him in a hole in a dead tree trunk in the sun.
I discovered the second bat late one summer night when closing up the house. My first cat, the fearless, very intelligent Cornface was behaving very strangely in the living room, looking like she was stalking something I couldn’t see. And then I caught a brief glimpse of something brown and hairy scuttling along a base board. Brown, hairy and BIG. Cornface was doing her special dog growl so I knew that whatever it was, was serious. The thing began to climb up a Navajo saddle blanket I have hanging in a corner of the living room—which is when I saw the wings. I told the girls to go upstairs, got three heavy terrycloth towels layered together to protect my hands and grabbed it off the blanket, rolling it up gently into the layers of towel. Then I went outside, laid the towel roll on the ground, flipped it open and ran back into the house.
Number three was beyond any help. I found him trapped inside the metal gratings of a window fan in the attic one spring when I went up to get equipment down for the coming summer. If he could get INTO the box fan why, I wondered, could he not have gotten out. He was very dry and very crisp.
I’ve had several families of garter snakes living in my garden and one of my neighbors saw a mother snake giving birth one day to a huge litter (I’m not sure, actually, that snakes come in litters—maybe they come in slithers—a slither of snakes). A very big toad lived in a little rock cave in the garden for a while. I’ve had skunks living under my front porch and one day while I was winterizing that porch, I came home to see the insulation torn away a bit in one place. I pulled it back to investigate and found a coiled boa constrictor. Animal Rescue came and got it for me. I thought it might be a bit out of the ordinary for them but the guy they sent had taken a pair of timber wolves out of a back yard in Everett the month before and didn’t impress easily.
But it’s bees that have most consistently gotten into the house, into the outer walls and set up hives. They’ve burrowed right through the wood, spitting the sawdust out so I had long tan streaks down the side of the house. Well, I had the place resided two or so years ago with materials bees can’t eat through. I thought I didn’t have to worry any more.
But Fritz gave me a nesting box for Christmas, the kind that’s held to your window by suction cups. I put it up on the pantry window, within sight of the bird feeder and waited. Nesting season came and went—no birds. I looked in late last week and saw that one lone bee or hornet had taken up residence and was building a multi-chamber house hanging from the underside of the roof. I thought bees were swarming insects, but this one’s a loner.
The picture is taken through two layers of glass in my window and the Plexiglas on the back of the nesting box, but I think you can see him there working away. It’s not exactly the kind of little family I thought I’d have in the box but he/they/whoever have come to live here and I’m working as hard as I can to feel blessed.