I saw a mouse in the kitchen the other day. Out from underneath a cookie sheet cooling on the stove popped a little furry head. It happened so fast I wasn’t sure what it was. The second time the mouse took a minute to assess its surroundings so I got a good view.
Now, I’ve seen mice before. We feed them to our snakes. I’ve taken pictures of them outside. One summer a day camp group found two small Jumping Mice on the side of the trail. We surmised they got flooded out of their home and, with no mom in sight, we took them into our care. From these experiences I’ve seen survival, beauty and helplessness in a mouse.
However, in the kitchen I experienced fear and disgust in the mouse. It took me a few moments for my practical sense to overcome my initial emotional reaction. I had to slow down and say to myself, “It’s only a mouse. It came inside to get warm and to find food just as you do. You can pick this mouse up (in a container) and put it outside.”
We all have a line that separates what is comfortable and what is uncomfortable in the natural world. The line is in a different location for each individual. For some people, they want nothing to do with spiders, inside or out. You can identify them from their screams. Others will scoop them up and gently place them outside. Others will let them live in the corners of their house undisturbed. For me, when the mice come inside, they have crossed my line.
Why is it that? How can the same animal in a different situation change my feelings? My simple answer is that a mouse outside is in its rightful place and a mouse next to my food is, well, gross.
The same thing happens with light and dark. The same location after the sun goes down or the lights go off can illicit different feelings. Walk a trail in the daylight. Walk the same trail at night. It is a different experience. Sounds that you could listen to with interest, or completely ignore during the day become spooky and threatening at night. Merriam Webster dictionary defines fear as “an unpleasant emotion caused by being aware of danger.” The sounds and things we can’t see at night are a possible danger to us. What if it is some wild animal? More often I think – What if it is a person who intends harm? The night can be a fearful time for both adults and children. Sight is one of our most powerful senses. Scientists estimate that over 80% of our information is processed by our sense of sight. At night much of that sense is taken away because human eyes are designed to work in a well-lit environment. So, how do we get over our fears? By confronting them, of course. I’m not suggesting you immediately go outside tonight for a walk after dark. You could, but you could also ease into a challenge. And that pill of fear is much easier to swallow when taken with a little bit of humor and fun.
Audubon is hosting an event this fall that allows both kids and adults to experience the woods at night in a safe, nonthreatening, sometimes even funny way. Join us on Friday or Saturday, October 7 or 8 for Enchanted Forest. Trail guides lead groups on a luminary-lit path to meet talking animals. These costumed animal actors will engage your imagination and maybe make you laugh while sharing some of the interesting facts about their life.
Some of the animals featured this year, such as the Spider and Black Bear create fear in people. Seeing them in a different way – as a costumed, talking creature – may put them in a different light.
To take part in the event prepaid reservations are required. There will be no ticket sales at the door. Time slots are still open. Tours begin every 10 minutes between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. To register, call (716) 569-2345 or stop by the Nature Center. The event takes place rain or shine.
In addition to snacks and crafts, this year we have added a touch table inside the nature center with furs, bones, feathers to continue the learning about the animals featured on the trail. Also new, scouts can participate in the Enchanted Forest and other activities that night to earn a Night Animals Patch.
This event is made possible by numerous volunteers assisting in both the planning and the day of the event. A special thank goes to the organizing committee of Bill Colter and Bob Ungerer and Amanda Spencer. Thank you also to our sponsors: Forecon, Michaels Arts and Crafts, Kings’ Heating & Cooling, Timberland Realty, Courier Capital LLC, and ERA Team VP Real Estate. I am pleased to work for an organization that has such support from the members and businesses in the community.
The question can also be asked – Why overcome our fears? The second definition of fear is “a feeling of respect and wonder for something very powerful.” Being outside at night and visiting with these talking animals may teach you something about the real animals out there. We live in a world full of amazing things that could do with a little more respect and wonder rather than fear. Sometimes we just have work at growing that sense of wonder and minimizing that sense of fear.
Katie Finch is a naturalist at Audubon and has appeared as a talking animal for Enchanted Forest.
Audubon is located at 1600 Riverside Road, just off Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. The Center is open daily from 10:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. except Sunday when we open at 1:00 p.m. Visit our website www.auduboncnc.org or call (716) 569-2345 for more information.