Yesterday I was writing in the living room when I heard a noise: a small mouse was walking among the bookshelves. For some days I’ve been encountering these unwanted visitors, but this time I found their hideout.
It was within a hollow pillar with an opening at the bottom and the top. I glued a wooden board to the bottom and put a couple of glue traps on the top, then I lighted a ball of toiled paper with alcohol and threw it over the opening on the top, expecting the mice to run away from the fire to fall into the glue traps.
It didn’t turn out as I expected. Nothing came out from the top. I shrugged and continued working. Noise again, this time it was a large mouse mouse with two juvenile ones on the bookshelves. They had avoided the glue traps on the top and now mother mouse was helping her children escape from their compromised nest. I locked eyes with the mother and I had a brief moment of compassion. My mind seemed to search for an alternative to death, but there was nothing practical that could be done at the moment. I quickly fetched a broom but this only frightened them back on to their beleaguered nest.
Again, I threw a fireball into their hole, this time lining up the top entrance into the pillar with glue traps. Again, my enemies refused to come out. I continued working until it was time to go to bed. The siege was set up and it was only a matter of time before they would try to escape it.
The next morning I woke up to find the two juvenile mice glued to the traps, already dead. I threw them away and continued working. Noise again. Mother mouse was panting on the bookshelves. She looked tired and though I moved closer, she made no attempt at escape. She was conceding defeat and I knew it was my spiritual task to put her out of her misery.
I bludgeoned her with an improvised mace just once, saw that she was still breathing yet immobilized, so I put her into a bucket of water, and saw bubbles emerge from the bottom. Spontaneous spiritual poetry emerged: the hand that put you out of your misery is the same hand that will put me out of my misery, for we share the same fate. I shall join you too little friend, to become one with The One.
Today, on the first day of 2020 I was enjoying breakfast outdoors with my mother when we saw a cloud of white smoke pass over us. We went outside to find a fire on a pile of leaves where the gardeners leave green refuse in the park in front of the house. Some neighbors had already noticed and were busy carrying buckets of water to put it out. The fire was of considerable size, but it was quickly controlled. Putting out the fire completely took us much longer, as we had to make sure there weren’t any pockets of lighted leaves under the pile.
I was quite amazed at the self-organization of such emergency: a human chain was formed to carry water from the nearest source, the people most knowledgeable with fire would receive the buckets and pour them over strategic locations, and generally everybody was busy without having to be told what to do.
The gray water that I collect to water the plants turned out to be of great convenience, as well as the direct access I have to the water storage tank, since I could fill buckets in an instant. When we thought we had put the fire out I went through the leaves with my bare hands, feeling any pockets of heat that would indicate that there was fire still taking place in the pile.
The tidbit of wisdom extracted from the event was this: in an emergency it is best to observe for a couple of seconds rather than spring directly into action. People would arrive wanting to throw buckets of water at the already steaming pile of leaves but their efforts were a waste of resources because they had no knowledge of the hot spots of the pile, or they would ask what needed to be done, but since everybody was so focused on their task they would just reply bring more water (which was the best answer given our state of ignorance).
A couple of seconds of observation are enough to understand where the improptu fire fighter team is lacking muscle or knowledge. A couple of people were walking with flimsy tennis shoes on the smoldering pile. I told them to get out because they can melt on your feet, and I went to put on boots. The prompt get out because your soles can melt on your feet got people much more careful about where they stepped. I got into the pile and poured water at strategic locations along with another older man who obviously had experience with fire.
In the end we put it out throughly. Everything was soaked wet. We congratulated each other on overcoming our first challenge for 2020.
My extended family organized a New Year’s Eve party. I was asked to provide wood, to which I spent a considerable time chopping up. As I’ve been doing a lot of manual work, I feel my right (dominant) side of the body is becoming stronger than the left side. I inverted my axe stroke so that I would use my left side to address the balance.
How instructive it is to use your non-dominant side to perform manual tasks! Movement seems to escape reason, it must be experienced by the body so it can sense the movement and learn how to repeat it. My first strokes using my left side were as timid as a child. Then, gaining some confidence, I stroked harder but with appalling accuracy. Slowly, as my muscles got used to the movement, accuracy and strength was gained.
Though the experiment took me a considerable amount of time, in the end I came out more or less the same, because when my right side became tired I would use my left side. I intuit a parallel in the mind, but I’m still to discover it. I will continue exploring using the left side of the body and of the brain.
In the end I overshot the need for wood, but I was glad, because enthralled children would throw in as many sticks as they could, growing the fire to considerable dimensions.
After dinner an uncle brought out a large home made doll of an old man which he filled with matches and poured in oil. The doll represents the old year and it is a tradition to burn it (I have no idea if this is a Mexican tradition only). I held it with a stick over the fire and it promptly became a fireball.
2019 brought amazing experiences. I released the Boolean Game. I walked the Camino two months straight. I completed an important project with a great studio. I lived a short but intense romance. I moved back to Mexico. But that is the old man, and the old man must burn in order to make space for what is new.
A great sense of expectation. Just one day into this year and life has already brought great lessons, but I must stop writing about the past in order to face the present.