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As it was unfolding in real time, I couldn’t decide if the event on the yard that day was creepy, crazy or beautiful.
I was hammocking out back on a lazy Sunday afternoon, with the poetry of Edna St, Vincent Millay in my hands and a comfortable breeze moving through the trees above me. Felix, our outdoor cat, came tromping in from the field with a very-much-alive mouse in his mouth.
This was nothing special. Happens all the time. I kept reading, intermittently peeking over my book to check out the progress in the game of cat and mouse that was happening on the lawn (I guess it isn’t really a game for the mouse, but, whatever). Felix usually plays with his food for several minutes before eating it, so there was nothing unusual to see here.
But twenty minutes or so later he was STILL at it. And this was not his usual cat and mouse pre-dinner game. He released the mouse who immediately embraced his chance at freedom and took off at a good pace (I found myself rooting for the mouse). Felix ran after it. But then the mouse stopped. Then the mouse turned around and ran after Felix as Felix ran away. Then Felix stopped and turned around. Back and forth they went like this for some time. It was astounding and didn’t fit into any of what I assumed were the laws of the universe.
Then it got weirder. They both ran in opposite directions, stopped and turned to face each other. Then they both ran towards each other again. This scenario repeated a couple more times as they turned and ran away from each other again, and then back again. Away again and back again.
“What. Is. Happening? Are these two enemies playing together?!” My mind stopped doing everything else and just fixed itself on what was happening in the grass. Even the breeze seemed to stop for a moment to focus on and try to comprehend the scene.
Eventually Felix laid down. I wondered, “Is he tired? Bored?” I expected the mouse, who was at the time a few yards away, to bolt across the lawn toward the security of his hole in the field, grateful to have dodged death. Instead, the mouse ran back to Felix and sat down next to him. “Is this mouse crazy? Lonely? Brave?”
“What. Is. Happening!?”
I rolled out of my hammock, grabbed my phone from the grass, and slowly tip-toed close to capture the moment on my camera roll. The mouse was clearly frightened by my presence, but I managed to snap a quick picture.
Felix then suddenly picked up the mouse in his mouth, and I assumed the universe had straightened itself out after this small disobedience of the rules. Surely now he was finally going to get down to the business of eating the mouse.
But I again bore witness to the unexpected as Felix walked the mouse back across the lawn and released it in the field. “What!?” And as I fell back into the curves of the hammock I wondered, “Was the cat trying to protect the mouse from me?!”
After releasing the mouse, Felix strolled back across the yard where he promptly joined me in the hammock.
I have no idea how to explain what happened that Sunday afternoon. It has shattered every cat and mouse stereotype I have ever had. Ever. It displaced my assumptions about how the universe is supposed to work.
Upon reflection, I’ve decided the thing that happened that afternoon was not creepy or crazy. It was beautiful.
Jesus once said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” This is tough wisdom to follow in the context of a toxically politically-divided country that expects us to be loyal to our partisan tribe above all else and be enemies of those who identify with the opposing party. But followers of Jesus have a calling to rise above the social expectations that encourage and reward us for working hard to find ways to justify demonizing, dehumanizing and dismissing those who sit across the aisle.
If Jesus’ words aren’t compelling enough, maybe we can take away a little something from the cat and the mouse who, by all expectations, should have been enemies to the death, but after spending a little time together became friends.