Murder in the north woods

Dear readers, I wrote this post back in early May, but did not publish it.  Was about to delete it, but sent it to a friend just for kicks before scrapping it.  She loved it.  She insisted it was a “keeper”.  Thus, prepare yourselves if you choose to read on. 

Yesterday proved a macabre, gruesome day.  Please continue reading at your own discretion.

At least I have no photos to upset the digestion of your breakfast.

It started around 10:40 a.m. in the bird feeder.  (Who done it?  Mrs. Peacock in the bird feeder with a beak?  A little humor for you “Clue” fans.)

A red squirrel, a pesky, delightful, charming little fella, performed amazing upside-down and backwards acrobatics to scale the summit into our bird feeder.  Seriously, onlookers might cheer.  The bushy sweetheart proceeded to munch sunflower seeds as juncos, finches, nuthatches and chickadees alighted.

Such a pastoral scene in the north woods on a drizzly May morning whence the snowbanks continued to recede!

(Prepare thyself.  It now gets grizzly.)

Not the aforementioned squirrel.

Not the aforementioned squirrel.

The sweet darling little red squirrel turned to a neighboring sweet darling yellow finch and decapitated her.  Bit off her head.  Just like that.  At 10:40 on a perfectly perfect north woods morning! Proceeded to eat that little bird as an accompaniment to the sunflower seeds.  ATE THE FINCH!  Who would have thought?  It’s a squirrel-eat-bird world out there, folks.

Too shocking to even ponder!

Murder in the bird feeder.

Lest we judge that red squirrel too hastily, let me now relate the second macabre event that befell our Little House in the Big Woods.

I awoke at 1:40 a.m. to pounding, banging, racket, clatter, all sorts of hullabaloo in the kitchen.

Might it be a Flying squirrel?

Might it be a Flying squirrel?

Twas that crafty mouse, that little despicable creature, the one who has recently littered our silverware and knife and saran wrap drawers with tell-tale black droppings.

A death-trap sprang two previous nights in a row in an attempt to kill the evil creature carrying (I’m sure) the rodent-dropping Black Plague.

The crafty fella managed to avoid every attempt to cease his kitchen-maurauding ways.  Until 1:40 a.m.

I tossed a wary leg out of bed and maneuvered to the kitchen.  Opened the cupboard drawer to discover the sweetest little gray mouse–with a darling paw captured in the evil trap–crying, yes weeping, with fingers caught in the peanut butter between the jaws of the trap.  (Editor’s note: No relation to the weeping baby robin in the last post.)

Outside it rained buckets.  Should I release the baby, the sweetheart, the darling, drenching myself and perhaps allowing the crafty one to re-enter through some unknown hole in the cedar siding, to re-inhabit our home tomorrow night?  What did the Universe want?  What karmic action was required?

Or should I…?  And, dear reader, this is the part where I become questionably more cruel than the squirrel who chomped off the finch head.

I grasped the struggling mouse and flushed the toilet. 

Down he swirled, drowned, drowned, drowned.

Then I wept.

For the sweetness of life, for our sometimes intentional and unintentional cruelty, for the beauty and harshness of nature.  Because life isn’t always la-de-da. (And, darn, part of me still wants it to be la-de-da!)

Spiderweb of life

Spiderweb of life

Life can break our hearts sometimes, can’t it?

The woods lie full of animals eating one another to survive, staking out territory, dying in the icy coldness of a long winter, scavenging against all odds to fully live.

Lately, I feel joy and grief together in my breast, humor and pain, sadness and delight–the growing recognition of the fullness of this world we inhabit.  A world with life and death.

And am still astonished and grateful by the luck of being here to witness it, to delight in it even while a tear sometimes trickles down…





About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
This entry was posted in June 2014 and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Murder in the north woods

  1. Fountainpen says:

    Maybe next time use a Haveaheart
    Trap and release back into your
    Wonderful land up there on the UP

    Certainly they gave those traps up there
    Don’t they? Squirrel size ones too!


  2. Elisa says:

    Does appearing fluffy or following a fluffy way change, what is? What is the difference between being and acting as if? (somehow what i wrote appears to communicate that not fluffy=bad, to me, it does NOT) I think it rather speaks to me as trying on a shoe, on that might not yet be mine, to see what occurs, to see how I feel about it, to play pretend. How do I know when something outside of myself that the wagon riders tell me is GOOD FOR ME, actually is, is actually what it is all cracked up to be–how do I know myself enough to know if I ought to be trying on this or trying on that? (i think, at least in WORDS–such inefficient words, this could be where we differ(it is wonderful to differ). SELF!!! I AM!!! yay! wriggle wriggle!!

  3. I am so glad you posted this for me to read! It is the second (of three, I’m sure) life-altering messages coming my way this week. The first came through a silly romantic movie, “About Time” that has a deeper message that changed the patter of my heart when I saw it last night. Now to wake up to this lovely – and similar – message this morning. Wonderful!
    As for the reader suggesting a live trap: Kathy’s method, sadly, is the very best, most humane way to deal with a mouse. If released nearby, as she said, they most often just come directly back in. If released farther away, they will be in another mouse’s territory. You wouldn’t know it from their cute, whiskered face, but mice are territorial predators. Any mouse released into another’s territory would soon die a very grisly death at the hands of other mice. Snap traps are the recommended method. If they fail to completely do the job, drowning is next.

  4. john says:

    Survival of the fittest. Eat or be eaten. Failure of the human species to follow the laws of nature will be our ultimate downfall.

  5. Bonnie says:

    I am amazed at the squirrel eating the bird, but I guess that is the way in nature. Your mouse story reminds me of the time I also caught one by the paw, but I let it go….It was mid winter, snow howling,with ice on the porch, and as I released it, the wind pushed it over the ice and off the edge. I don’t know what happened to it, but I can still see its big eyes looking at me as it slid over the edge. I probably should have done what you did.

  6. msmcword says:

    Several years ago I had mice in my kitchen. D-Con took care of them permanently (I hope). I also have two new posts on my they do not involve animals.
    Keep your wonderful photos coming.

  7. bearyweather says:

    I can’t believe you even thought about tossing this story of nature, it is wonderful to read and I can relate with similar stories from the woods. The stories of nature are only about 50% warm and fuzzy .. it is a tough world for our neighborhood critters to survive in. PLEASE continue to share the fuzzy and the grim, it is all about life in the woods and interesting to hear.

    Although I would have had second thoughts about the mouse, too .. I would have done what you did, he most likely would not have survived after being caught, anyway .. it was a humane act. I agree with John, messing with the laws of nature too much is a bad idea.

    Thanks for not tossing this one in the trash!

  8. Susan D says:

    It’s an exquisite piece, Kathy, and I echo those who are glad it wasn’t tossed away. Thank you for sharing it!

  9. lisaspiral says:

    definitely a keeper. Those red squirrels are nasty! Thank you for sharing, I think.

  10. Kathy – I, too, am so darned glad you didn’t scrap this post. As your friend said, “It’s a keeper!”

  11. Carol says:

    Sometimes it is a squirrel eat bird – errr, dog eat dog – kind of world. Sad but true. If only things with big sad eyes would learn their territorial boundaries!

  12. Stacy says:

    You wrote my thoughts beautifully on life and death. I just can’t reconcile the death part, that sometimes I am the grim reaper, as when I eat a fish – and I LOVE fish. But I feel so sad for the fish when Norm catches one. I want to learn to skin and filet it – to be part of the entire process, not just the preparer of a the meal. But I just can’t do it. I feel like such a ninny, because we must take life in order to perpetuate life (even if it’s just a carrot, for pity’s sake). As Edna St. Vincent Millay said, “I am not resigned.” xo

  13. It is a keeper. I cried for the finch; I cried for the mouse; I cried for you; I cried for humanity.

  14. Oh Kathy, I’m grateful you shared this sad story – it well illustrates that it is a world with life and death, joy and sorrow, growth and decay. Nature is as brutal as it is beautiful and in that way serves as a great teacher.

  15. P.j. grath says:

    Agreeing with Barbara (up there): death is a big part of life! Today we had MURDER IN THE BOOKSTORE! A chipmunk got in the back of the building and found its way up to the bookstore. Sarah ran it down in the gallery and focused on it (hiding under a flat file) for an hour before it tried to make a break for it — and she nailed it!

  16. Brenda says:

    Kathy, Thank you for sharing this story. It shows nature in less than shining light but in truthful light. It’s hard to swallow the harsh events that nature throws on our path. But it does make the beauty in nature shine more brightly and perhaps we learn to appreciate those times even more. ❤

  17. Joanne says:

    “Life isn’t always la-de-da….”, oh how I wish it was! But the cold, hard reality is, it isn’t, and sometimes these cruel realities can make my whole being weep with sadness. Just recently, a murder of the human species took place, which has impacted greatly on a close relative, and as we spoke on the phone and I told her all of the reassuring words I could muster, my heart positively ached for her. And there is nothing we can do about it. Surely there is a message amid the harsh side of life ~ to enjoy, and focus on, the beauty, the happiness, and the good times. Thank you, Kathy. xxx

  18. We put out a bird feeder in the winter time and have always enjoyed the cardinals. Their cheery red against the stark whiteness of the snow were a favorite sight. One year, we watched in horror as a hawk swooped in and snatched a cardinal from the ground. We didn’t see the gore, but we knew the cardinal was a goner!

  19. Barb says:

    Well I must join the list of fans who appreciate this blog and am glad you published it. I always told my kids “Life ain’t fair”, and meant it sincerely. We just try to do our best with what we have, and go from there. And…we fight our battles when they come to us!

    • MARION DRUE says:

      The squirrel /bird battle is in my fig tree every year down here in Georgia. Removing
      the feeder did no good. Birds vs squirrels still going.on.
      There is a mouse in the garage in the wheel well of the car. Hope he rolled out in Athens traffic. I made the statement recently that I wanted to go back to civilization in MI.
      Guess Life ain’t fair there either. .. Paper said today that the copperheads are out and about. NO WEEDING FOR ME.

  20. So glad you kept this post, but the mouse story broke my heart. I can’t bear to kill anything.

    Hugs from Ecuador,

  21. dorannrule says:

    Oh this post is so purely true that it made me cry just as I do when I accidentally kill some critter who unwittingly flings itself under the wheels of my car. Death is loss yet part of the gift of life and though your story is told with humor I can feel grief between the lines.

  22. Sara says:

    *gasp* It’s official – you’re as ruthless as a red squirrel. Murder in the northwoods, indeed!

  23. Hummm. I would have put the mouse outdoors so that it could come another day. Rats are a different thing and now I must put rat poison out but very high so that my dogs can not get into the bait. i don’t have any in the house. Perhaps Barry can mouse proof your house. As for the squirrel, I can believe that it bit the head off of a bird. I have watched squirrels guarding the birdbath and chase away the birds. I’ve stopped feeding the birds for the squirrels were too numerous to count. They love my yard and this neighborhood.

  24. Kathy says:

    Thank you all for reading and for all the wonderful comments. Always love reading your thoughts and sharings!

  25. Heather says:

    Nature is just not a nice place. We focus on the fuzzy things being cute, but they are often being very not cute when we aren’t looking. Sadly, sometimes we must behave in not-cute ways too, and that always brings about internal struggles.

  26. I Wilkerson says:

    Ohh dear. I had no idea the red squirrels were carnivores. Though we have accused them of being on drugs they are so hyper. Tough mouse story. At least with mine ( ) I didn’t have time to ponder.

  27. I’ve said it before: Nature is a beautiful, but cruel mistress.

    I couldn’t have flushed the mouse. Our traps are the live kind. The captives get treated to dinner in a bucket then hauled off to a far away field the next morning. We’re really ridiculous.

    Still, I can be cruel. I take great delight in picking Japanese beetles off my roses where they frolic and fornicate — and feeding them (sometimes still locked in the throes of beetle passion) to the chickens.

Thank you for reading. May you be blessed in your life...may you find joy in the simple things...

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