During the winter a caretaker looks in on our camp weekly. He makes sure the heat is on, no water is leaking, all windows and doors are weathertight, and rodents are not running amok. If rodents have their presence apparent he sets traps. But every house in the north country–and probably where you live, too–houses rodents once in a while, and they are not always obvious. Think about it. You are a field mouse in Maine in the fall, there is frost on the ground in the morning, days are growing shorter, and winter is coming. Close by is a house that offers shelter, protection from wild predators, and food, and getting inside requires only a tiny little hole, a wee crack to squeeze through. Of course you go inside. What field mouse wouldn’t? I know we have mice. The issue is whether they abide by the terms of the Human/Mouse Interspecies Compact of 1647, under which humans allow mice to live inside undisturbed provided the mice leave no evidence.
Fine. But as anyone experienced with mice knows, not all mouse evidence is created equal. Mouse droppings are blatant and unsanitary. Piles of shredded tissues are messy and disturbing. Feet scampering across the ceiling or inside the walls are alarming. Food stashes display excess familiarity and comfort with the living arrangements.
And then there is this enigmatic solitary acorn, found this morning in a running shoe. Just this alone. No other acorns, no seeds, no droppings, nothing else. Is the last item in an old stash or the first deposit in a new? It’s quite dry. How long has it been aged? Where was it aging before it was in my shoe? Is it a totem like the Easter Island figures? Whatever the explanation, it’s a big step over the line.