Monday, January 9, 2012

Lessons from a Dead Packrat

Life’s lessons can come from unexpected sources. Today’s tale is one I learned from a dead packrat.

My spouse, CB, discovered we had a woodrat (or Neotoma in the rodent genus) in our side yard years ago. The confusion started with a few missing items, a container of seasoning salt that had been left by the grill, a pot holder etc. Then one day CB was poking around the wood pile and found a few cholla cactus fragments, pieces of aluminum foil, cat poop and other assorted trash.

The rat was back.

We thought about trapping the critter and relocating it to the county desert behind our development, but we just couldn’t do it. CB cleaned the yard up a bit, we used up the pile of firewood and eventually the wood dweller moved to another location.

Or so we thought.

When the weather cooled we brought another pile of wood into the yard and the packrat returned. Of course it probably wasn’t the same pack rat. I think word got around in the Neotoma community that our yard was a good place to hang out. Anyway, one day CB was fetching wood and was sad to see that the critter had died.

I’m not sure why, but CB felt bad for the rat and moved its body to a nearby rock. A day or two later he went back to the wood pile for firewood and discovered the body of another packrat. It seemed a bit too coincidental that two rats should bite the dust, so he looked and discovered the rat body by the rock was no longer there.

CB took a shovel and moved the corpse to another part of the yard. A couple days later CB returned to the wood pile again. The dead rat was back. I watch Ghost Whisperers but I figured a more practical explanation was in order. A live woodrat had taken up residence in the wood pile and wanted the dead rat where he or she left it.

Not one to give up easily, CB set to work again as a rat relocater. Rather than bury it, or throw it in the garbage, he took the carcass to a part of the yard that has bones of other animals CB has found while hiking. Now, this is not my idea of backyard beauty, but rather than complain and take on the risk of doing more yard work myself, I let rotting rats lie.

This time, CB called me over to view the critter. I suppose I should have been kinder and said a silent prayer. Instead I thought, “Yep. Dead rat sitting by some other bones I don’t want to look at. Can I leave now?”

Well, of course the next day Dead Rat was gone from the pile of bones (although the other items were undisturbed.) The live pack rat brought the carcass back to its nest - again. This had CB wondering if there was some significance to the return of the pack rat to its former home. Was the live pack rat honoring its kin, or did it simply see it as a complement to its surroundings?

I have no answer for this one. I don’t know the mind of the packrat, or my spousal packrat either.

However, I do believe that weird phenomena often has a message.

While most of us would not play tug of war with the body of a packrat, I believe we can relate to the idea of hanging onto unnecessary baggage. For example, how often have you replayed a negative message in your head about some past hurt? Have you found yourself holding a grudge against someone, even after they have passed away?
In our book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within we quote a line from Carrie ten Boom, "Resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other person will die.

Some things are worth hanging onto - a sense of gratitude, love, kindness, generosity and the determination to make the world a better place. However, if what you are carting around in your heart and mind is not serving your happiness, perhaps it’s time to let it go.

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