My neighbours, who live either side of my terrace house in Totnes, Devon, England, told me they could hear the scamper of tiny feet along the boards in their loft. I heard nothing. Slept through it.
Ah, then I heard in the night the creature scurrying back and forth.
I bought a rattrap. A humane one, of course. Peter and I set it up. We found out that rats much prefer a biscuit to a slice of fruit. We duly caught the rat and took the cage along the nearby Bridle Path to the woods and set it free besides a 16th century rock wall. The rat took refuge in a hole in the wall.
We left a couple of rice crackers and a biscuit besides the hole. Professional rat catchers say that rats leave a house everyday to hunt. Occupants have to find the hole where they return to get back in the house. Outside my back door, there is pipe hole. We put a brick in front of it.
Several weeks went by. Another rat in the house. Much smaller. Another catch. Ulla and I went for a walk with the trap to the woods with crackers and biscuits.
A few days ago, I came downstairs around 6 am. A medium size rat scampered across the floor. Another setting up the trap. Another hole found to block up. As before, I talked to the rat in the trap as it panicked when I got close. The rat then went quiet. It just sat there watching me slowly approach the cage – with my gardening gloves on. Another walk to the woods. More crackers. More biscuits. Another spot along the ancient wall.
Hearing the story, children wanted to make sure the rats were set free rather than poisoned. Hopefully, each of the three rats have a comfortable home in their terraced wall and get on with their neighbours.
A Rat story from India
While walking along the Bridle Path with the rat in the trap in a bag, I remembered an incident as a Buddhist monk. I spent some months in 1974 in the ashram of Sri Chinmayananda and Sri Dayananda at Powai Park, a train journey outside of Mumbai. I studied the remarkable Bhagavad Gita, verse by verse, with Sri. Suddhananda, a Sanskrit scholar/swami. I slept under the mosquito net on the second floor of a building in the ashram. A small room with three or four iron bars in the window. I woke up on a hot moonlit night with a huge ‘Mumbai’ rat (famously large rats, as long as from elbow to fingers, plus tail) sitting on my hip starting to chew on the skin. We both scrambled to get away from each other as quickly as possible.
The rat ran up the outside of the net and ran along the string tied to the iron bar and out the window. I went back to sleep. Rats in India usually chew on the heel of those asleep in India. They eat all the hard skin without waking up the sleeper.
In those days, people in Mumbai would say that Mumbai rats were politicians in their last life, (Readers. No need to take that literally), whose minds had become corrupt through craving and clinging for power regardless of the social needs of millions of others.
Such politicians and fat cat bosses at Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Nike, McDonald’s, Microsoft etc, need to reflect on their lust for power and control. As with the rest of us, our lives are as long as the snap of finger in terms of sentient history.
While walking along the path, our former Prime Minister. Mrs Margaret Thatcher kept coming to mind. The Conservative Party eventually evicted from her job and her home for 11 years (1979 – 1990) at 10 Downing Street, a short walk from the Houses of Parliament. She sort of disappeared from view.
I released the third rat to its new home. “Bye, Margaret.”
A Mouse and a Biscuit
I offer an annual retreat at Seminarhaus Engl – a beautiful Buddhist centre, around 90 minutes’ drive from Munich in Germany.
While engaged in an inter-view with a practitioner, I spotted through the glass garden door a cat carrying a field mouse to show me. I jumped up and ran to the door. The cat ran off and the mouse ran in the room and disappeared. Later I searched the small room and my bedroom but could not find. I left the garden door open. Perhaps it had left.
Before going to sleep, I put a biscuit in the middle of the floor. The next morning, the biscuit had gone. Not a crumb remained.
The next day, I left the door open for hours. I put out another biscuit. Gone. Not a crumb.
The next night around 10 pm, I was sitting at the table engaged in some writing.
I looked down. Half a metre to my right, the mouse sat looking up at me with its big, beautiful brown eyes.
It seemed to be saying: “Where’s my biscuit?”
Enough. I trust I will not have to write any more stories about rats and mice and have to evict and feed them biscuits.
I enjoy biscuits, too.
Of course, the mouse felt loved at Haus Engl. It’s been a Buddhist retreat centre for decades. Practitioners offer lots of loving kindness (metta) to all beings.