When the Student is Ready

March 25, 2023

Recently, on a trip to South Beach with my husband, I got a big surprise as I popped open the glove compartment to retrieve my binoculars: a thick blanket of the tiniest, most delicate paper shavings covered the entire cavity.  Being a native So. CA gal, I observed, mystified, but my husband understood instantly: “You’ve got mice!” he declared, a subtle, impish grin on his face.

Ugh, the messy cost of procrastination. 

Since I knew an option for removal involved the crushing of an innocent creature just trying to survive, I pushed this topic to the back burner for the rest of the day.  The universe had its own agenda: That evening, a friend called to share her latest horror story: Her car had mysteriously petered out in the middle of an out-of-cell-phone-range country road a few days earlier, leaving her stranded for over an hour.  The cause? A rodent who’d munched its way through the electrical wiring under her hood; and the tab for that meal cost her over $700! 

#%&!#@*$! What a mess I’d created for myself–past, present & possibly future! I had to take action the very next morning.  My unwelcome visitor needed a strong deterrent before wrecking similar havoc on my car and pocketbook.   

The sorting, prioritizing, saving, relocating, trashing and cleaning took almost an hour. I unearthed close to two dozen assorted items from that 13” x 6” x 6” compartment.  What was even more perplexing than the objects I couldn’t identify, e.g., the mysterious, barrel-shaped stainless steel _____ (?) and a telescoping rod with something resembling a rake at one end, (a cleverly-compact back scratcher?)—were the number of objects in multiples: binoculars, Christmas ornaments, pocketknives, plastic utensil sets, sunglasses, fingernail files… And based on the amount of nesting confetti, I guesstimate I’d also horded at least two pounds of paper napkins from San Juan Espresso and Mike’s Wine Bar!

The prize for the most unique item? A large Ziploc bag containing an empty plastic bottle, a smashed half-roll of TP and the latest portable, designed-for-women– well, I’ll let you use your imagination to fill in the blanks on that item.  

The most sentimental find: a 3” x 4” mini photo album of my daughter (aged five months to five years) I thought had gotten lost in our move to the island in 2006.  As soon as I held that bundle in my hands, I started weeping and couldn’t stop for a long while. 

It turns out my uninvited guests were both a nuisance and a blessing.  I didn’t enjoy trapping them with peanut butter and relocating them elsewhere on our property, with no guarantees they won’t rediscover my cozy under-the-hood sanctuary.  But besides forcing me to “clean up my act” (at least in my glove compartment), they helped me realize that, of all the myriad items once crammed into that space, the only one that truly mattered to me, the only one I’d grieve over if I found it mangled and partially chewed, was the photo collection of my daughter.  Sure, I need my car registration and proof of insurance; it would undoubtedly be a hassle to replace them.  But they don’t hold the precious memories my daughter’s chubby face and silly poses do.  Nor could they ever elicit the tears of gratitude, regret, grief or joy.   

As I’m finishing up my sixth decade of life, I’m definitely noticing how much more mindful I am of time passing, of a sense of urgency to separate the wheat from the chaff while there’s still time.  

“When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

That ancient Chinese adage feels fitting here.  Thanks to my rodent teacher(s), this student received a wee lesson on the wisdom of taking current inventory… and of paying special attention to what (still) feels most important.  

What reminders does your life provide for examining your priorities and sense of meaning? 

I’d love to hear! 



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