Of Singing Mice and Silence

"Would you rather be happy because of something or because of nothing?" - Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

When I try describe my home to others, I often default to descriptors that make it sound like I'm Goldilocks, living the Tiny House Dream. "Where do I live? Oh, just this cute little 540 sq. ft. converted barn in the middle of a horse ranch. It's truly just the right size for us. We don't have a living room, or even a couch, but we don't mind.". And I'm not lying, but there's not much I can say that truly describes our living conditions. Our home is quaint and so very sweet, but the experience of being here is not housed. This little barn is where we take refuge, but similar to the way in which Noah took refuge on the Ark, bobbing about on the waters with mixed company,

Our home doesn't have walls so much as it has membranes. Porous boundaries that we, and the rest of the surrounding natural world, pour in and out of. We've established ourselves as professional cohabitators, scooting over to make room for the earwigs and jerusalem crickets that announce their presence every night with concerned scrabbling across the floor. We dedicate corners to spiders and they pay rent by catching flies, who have unbearable presence in the summer, but who we kind of miss in the colder months. The mice began to move in when the weather got cold, and despite dedicated live trapping, there always seems to be just two more. There's a large wolf spider that lives under the stove, and I've stopped trying to put it outside, because seriously...it just comes back in. I figure it's probably keeping the earwig population down. We have starlings that live in the walls and provide a steady stream of beat boxing, there's something that lives in the attic, and we recently just gave up with the pretense of out vs. in and have been letting the pet goat come in for visits when he "Maaaaas" plaintively at the door.

I don't make this stuff up.

I don't make this stuff up.

It is the heart of midwinter here in northern california, which means that the spring peepers have begun their rain chants and evening is announced in chorus, a steady thrum that vibrates through the windows. With the arrival of El Nino to our parched state, the hills have begun to green and our Christmas dinner included sauteed nettles on the pizza and fresh salads of miner's lettuce and chickweed. We bring the outside in, with mud tracked in on our boots, greens in our bellies and friends that frequently stop by...crows looking for peanuts, farm dogs looking for treats and the kaleidoscope of migrators who find sustenance in our garden.

Baby nettles.

Baby nettles.

While there is lively activity within and without, the arc of our days is still held by that Earth element that predominates in winter...Earth, with its qualities of silence and stillness, darkness and dreaming, waiting and rest. Today is twelfth night, January 6th, the formal end of the holiday season. I could see it in the faces of the other parents when I dropped my daughter off at school, a scattered and dishelveled look, like someone who has just gotten out of bed and is not quite ready to be awake. The capitalist machine has declared it's time to get back to business as usual, seasonal rhythms be damned. And so we stumble, bleary eyed and blinking, out into the world to, you know...be all productive and stuff. New year resolutions demand high energy and go getting, and god forbid you be left behind.

Winter magic that arises out of the fertile darkness.

Winter magic that arises out of the fertile darkness.

But surrounding the artifice of human made calendars, there is the fertile darkness that schedules what will emerge. Slam down your double shot of espresso, turmeric, coconut oil power smoothie and forge ahead for the paycheck if you must, but meanwhile the quiet scheming of the waiting seeds invites you to remember spacious patience. Winter is the time of dreaming, and despite constant feedback as to the opposite from media and advertising, this meandering through the fairytale forest of the psyche is essential for creativity, vitality and overall health. Here in our little barn house, we light candles in the morning instead of chasing away the night and in the evening we let the silence of the stars contain us all...the frogs and the owls, the earwigs and the mice, our thoughts, our fears and our dreams.

Winter spiral.

Winter spiral.

We caught another mouse this morning. A male, and one we have grown quite fond of, because he "sings". Chirping and chattering for the ladies, we have heard his serenade from under the refrigerator and last night, from his perch above the counter. In the hush of the darkened kitchen, I crept up next to him and asked "What are you doing, little one? What are you talking about?". To which he replied, in steady boldness, a long series of high pitched refrain. We paused together in the dark, both of our feet undoubtedly cold from the night, and let all agenda and effort be suspended. He sang his song of desire, his longing for satisfaction a dream to give to the night. Then he disappeared behind the stove and I crept back to my own warm nest. In the morning we released him to his fate, with hopes that his dreams come true.

Today the rain falls in persistent glory and I summon the courage to not rush ahead. Instead I spend some time in meditation, daring to rest back with my own heart and let my body and mind become the open sky. Rather than collapsing around my goals like a manic architect, frantically pursuing perfection and structure, I am walking through the soul's terrain, becoming porous, letting out become in and in become out. I am reminded of those times when I have felt the happiest and the most connected. It was always during those moments of rest, when I heard through the silence that surrounds all life, the song of my own joy.

The joy of knowing love for this body, this being, this earth and this life.