During my young adult residency at The Mountain Retreat & Learning Center, I boarded with an extraordinary individual who was traveling from one intentional community to another, learning how to live holistically in equality beyond the realm of civilization. She told me that she was inspired to do this from the radical and holistic dissenter that was Jesus of Nazareth.
One night, we were in our house. I sat on my bed reading and my roommate was in the kitchen with another housemate. I heard a yelp and soon after my roommate came running into the bedroom. “The mouse came out,” she said excitedly. “He’s in the kitchen on the floor. You should come and see.” I slowly put down what I was reading and followed her into the kitchen. She and another roommate were lying on the floor feeding stale bread and cheese to a mouse who lived in the house. He was residing in the house before we all moved in and we had since seen him on and off for the last month.
Initially, when my roommate encountered the mouse, she was terrified and wanted us all to feel concerned about managing for disease transmission. She printed out factsheets and tips on ways to keep humans safe from house mice. I was unperturbed and argued that we shouldn’t exacerbate this situation. For one, I grew up sharing the same house as mice, and living with them did not reduce my well-being; living under institutional racism hurt me more. Additionally, the mouse was living in the house before we arrived. My roommate understood the rationality of my argument, but after the mouse left poop on her tooth brush, needless to say it took her a while for her to accept the mouse.
So when I saw her lying in front of the mouse, holding stale ciabatta bread and a camera, I knew she and the mouse made an accord. Later on that week, she told me about a dumpster-diving adventure that she and others from a Christian ecological intentional community experienced. She jumped into a large dumpster, rummaging through the discarded food and plastics. After a while, she found herself stuck and it took her comrades a while to rescue her. Reflecting on that experience allowed her to reflect on the experience of the mouse.
One week before the mouse came to the kitchen, my roommate found him in our room’s trash bin, lying silent and quivering. He had apparently been in there since we last heard him, which was at least ten days ago. By the time she noticed him, he was too frail to run, but he was not dying. Despite her initial fear, she picked him up and placed him into the kitchen and left him with crumbled tortilla chips. She watched him pick up the chips and walk behind the cupboards. She told me that experience changed her and her sentiments toward mice. “I feel more connected with the mouse now, you know. I just had to remember that I know what it feels like to get stuck in a trash can.”