What on God’s good green earth is happening here? Pictured above is a funeral rite recently held for a pair of common house mice (Mus musculus) who share.. er uh shared  my country home. A funeral is a Ceremony for honoring, respecting, sanctifying, or burying the life of a person – or in this case, small, furry critters – who have died. Funerary customs comprise the complex of beliefs and practices used by a culture to remember the dead, from interment itself, to various monuments, prayers, and rituals undertaken in their honor. Additionally, funerals often have religious aspects which are intended to help the soul of the deceased reach the afterlife, resurrection or reincarnation.

The Spirit World considered and truth be told, these guys didn’t naturally expire; I killed them. As a proponent of Ahimsa, the principal of non-violence or doing no harm, I’m not thrilled about taking the lives of animals, no matter how small. Having written about the notion in a previous post, the problem now is that I’m out here in the woods building a high-caliber retreat center for spiritual practice that’s going to draw practitioners from all over the world seeking a sense of goodness and purity. And while mice may be distinguished by their cute, rounded ears and body-length scaly tail, they’re equally known for damaging crops, causing structural damage and spreading diseases through parasites and feces. I tried being their roommate for a few months, I really did. But there’s been more than one shrill, frantic female cry during our long, shared winter nights of hibernation. And opening cabinets to discover their tiny droppings leaving littered trails over my pots, pans and glasses simply wasn’t going to work.

Interestingly, animals themselves actually have their own Karma and lessons to learn, did you know that? If they  venture into an environment where they don’t belong, then they choose to put themselves at risk. And mice and rats are basically animals that like to take and acquire things for free. That’s why inner cities are so populated with rats. The lesson for these crits then is to be self-reliant instead of preying on whatever they can get for free. That’s the lesson for the animal – don’t take. Produce. And vermin don’t produce anything. Enter The Mouse Reckoner.

Back to the funeral, it wasn’t an official funeral, ok, no eulogies, no procession to the grave, no weepy mice relatives dressed in black. I wrapped them each in a makeshift red-cloth coffin, sprinkled a bit of sage and tobacco over them, and laid them to rest in a sunny spot in the yard over looking Crooked Creek. In retrospect, I suppose the gesture assisted me in surmounting any guilt I might have had for using Peanut Butter and Intruder’s Better Mousetrap (a fine contraption FYI) to take ’em out. After singing a song and turning the soil over their mini forms, I actually wept a little (sniffle).

Then I started laughing because I was weeping, a real study in duality out there in my little Mouse Cemetery. What came to mind then was the final day of our family parakeet, one of my funnier childhood memories. Falling off the proverbial perch, my Mom saw the dead bird at the bottom of its cage and enlisted my brother Mark for a similar animal memorial service. We put Polly in a golf ball sleeve – the five-inch box making a perfect parakeet sarcophagus – and sent her West. Being a teenager in the late 1970’s, with his bandana and chain-link wallet, my brother sang an appropriate dirge – Crosby Stills and Nash’s Find The Cost of Freedom. It’s a great memoriam to America’s fallen, in this case furry, feathered, and otherwise:

(Do we) find the cost of freedom, buried in the ground
Mother earth will swallow you, lay your body down
Find the cost of freedom, buried in the ground
Mother earth will swallow you, lay your body down