In the Santa Lucia Mountains east of Cambria where we live, we are deep in Christmas mouse country. Our mountain paradise is nothing like the world of Disney, where mice do things like sweep and dust and sew pretty dresses for Cinderella. At least I don’t think so.
No mouse has yet cleaned or made clothes for me. The profile of our Christmas mouse is more, how shall I say it, cute but a little intrusive and messy. Cute or not, mouse poop under the Christmas tree is not my idea of a coveted gift.
Because we live where we live, we mouse-proof everything, including our Christmas decorations, which we store in the huge plastic tubs available at all the big box stores. We cannot store Christmas decorations in the traditional cardboard boxes of my childhood because the mice would wiggle into the boxes, make nests in our stockings, and eat the sparkle off our tree ornaments. Even in the plastic boxes that are virtually air-tight, we occasionally find evidence that “someone” has managed to get in and out. Then a burning question arises: “What do we do about the ornaments that have been compromised?” It’s an “ick” situation, no matter how you look at it. For anyone who comes to visit us at Christmastime, though, we promise to have our home purged of anything not totally festive.
Don’t get me wrong. We’ve had a long, mostly warm relationship with the mice in our neighborhood. We are happy to invite them over when we are having lunch at our picnic table, and our dogs welcome them to share their outdoor water. We worry a little about them in the winter when it’s really cold, but not enough to invite them inside. If I could knit, I’d be happy to make them little mouse sweaters for Christmas to get them through the cold months, but, alas, I never learned to knit.
Several years ago, we bought a very small live Colorado spruce for our Christmas tree. That January, we planted it in our meadow, where we can see it from our kitchen windows. It’s grown into a beautiful tree that looks especially festive during the holidays. This year, for the first time, we’re going to try to decorate it with solar lights and a star.
Even if this experiment works, not many people will see it lighted up at night way out here. However, it will be a wonderful way for our Christmas mice to share the holiday with us in a way that won’t make me cringe. And, it will be so much fun to look outside and see our tree all dressed up in its Christmas finery.
As Clement Moore wrote in “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” we hope for a Christmas Eve where not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse. We also hope the nests the mice make will keep them cozy when they curl up together in true mouse family fashion for a long winter’s nap.
We wish everyone a sane and safe 2018.
In the meantime, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, Cambria!
Mountain Musings appears monthly and is special to The Cambrian. Email Marcia Rhoades at firstname.lastname@example.org.