CALLED TO GIVE UP

HILMA AF KLINT'S "PRIMORDIAL CHAOS, NO. 6," 1906-07. Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) "was a Swedish artist and mystic whose paintings are considered among the first abstract works known in Western art history. A considerable body of her work predates the first purely abstract compositions by Kandinsky, Malevich and Mondrian.” [wiki] The painting is a reflection of my inner state after a long home-invasion siege by a recalcitrant ground squirrel.

I am six weeks into a nine-month Ignatian Exercises “Adventure,” as the title of my guidebook runs.

Each week you ask for a different grace. This week I’m asking for “a grateful awareness of the many ways God calls me.”

Well!

An hour of prayer first thing in the morning I must say has been just the ticket, especially because I am now well into Week 3 of the Ground Squirrel. That’s right. The gigantic rodent, who apparently has an IQ of about 180, is still romping and frisking around beneath the foundation, digging about while I’m trying to write, scaring the crap out of me with its abhorrent scritching when I’m trying to sleep, and yesterday, tapping behind the heating grates in the dining room and living room in the most unpleasantly startling way as I was trying to do my YouTube yoga. (This could account for the fact that I literally sprained my own ankle the other day as I attempted to stretch my upper thigh).

Sometimes the thing is quiet for hours but knowing that at any given moment its loathesome subterranean scuttling will begin has done quite a number on my nerves, which are set to the highest possible frequency even when I’m “relaxed.”

Apparently he’s stored enough poison down there to kill a hippopotamus but is slyly “saving it for later.” Then there’s the trap that Mike the Exterminator baited with Nutella and a couple of Snickers bars and, I guess to give The Squirrel the illusion of privacy, draped with a bath towel. The SLIGHTEST TOUCH is supposedly enough to trip the door and slam it shut behind the Squirrel, who Mike would then transport to a faraway field and set free. (Naturally this is the end we would both prefer).

The trap sat there untouched for days. This morning I went out and found that The Squirrel had managed to REMOVE THE TOWEL, thrust it aside like a messy teenager, probably nab a candy bar or two, and leave the door wide open.

Apparently most squirrel problems are squared away within a few days. So the unfortunate upshot of the fact that my own has dragged on for so long is that I am beginning to fear that I will 1) have to live with The Horrible Ground Squirrel forever, or move; 2) even if I move, I will never ever feel safe or non-jumpy in any place I live again, ever, for the rest of my life (It’s certainly difficult to see how I could ever feel safe here). I could go on and on about the previous places I’ve lived and why I sort of felt that way already, and in fact moved to Tucson in large part to try to give myself a fighting chance in that direction.

On top of it, I’m scheduled for cataract surgery, first eye December 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I know this is a highly safe and highly routine “procedure,” but still–it’s your eyes. I had to sign a consent form this morning that included a delightful clause about how the anaesthesia can have side effects, one of which is DEATH.

AND I’m going on a two-week road trip to LA and the Central Coast of California for Thanksgiving–which I’m super excited and super grateful about but again, still–you know. Travel.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but any woman who lives alone and is “older” will corroborate that a special vulnerability comes with this particular station in life.

So, back to graces, and the many ways God calls me…

Obviously, I’m being called to see that my own situation is NOTHING compared to the uncertainty, anxiety and suffering under which much of the world lives. That’s not to diminish my anxiety, but it is to reminded, and to recognize that all suffering, if we allow it to, puts us in solidarity and at the center of all the suffering in the world.

Two, my dawning awareness that I may not feel safe where I live, ever, as if this is some huge tragedy…same principle. We never really ARE safe in this valley of tears, in these mortal bodies. So maybe I’m actually being called to let go of my life-long illusion that if only I can manage well enough, everything will be okay. As in, join the human race.

Beyond that, maybe I’m even being called to prefer the precariousness, or at least to be “indifferent” as St. Ignatius puts it (we tend to use the word “detached) as to whether I feel calm or anxious, embraced or rejected, consoled or abandoned, understood or unfairly maligned. Indifferent as to whether I’m rich or poor, sick or healthy, living with a giant rodent uner my house in Tucson or maybe somewhere far far away like over an ocean, like, say, in Ireland…more on that last idea later.

As my friend Fr. Terry says: “If you’re lucky, you’ll give up all idea of ever being happy in any way you thought you were going to be.”

I am going to wander over to Sts. Peter and Paul and sit before the Blessed Sacrament for a bit. Thank you for listening!

14 Replies to “CALLED TO GIVE UP”

  1. John Dennis Apel says: Reply

    Oh Heather! That rascal of a rodent!! Hopefully your trip to L.A. will bring a brief respite. And maybe the little scoundrel will decide it’s no fun without you and leave. Hang in there…

  2. Perhaps if you ask the intercessions of St. Francis, The Squirrel will be lead to relocate somewhere far, far away? But not so far away as Ireland! 🙂

  3. Thank you for helping us all. I will pray all your trips go well.

  4. Teresa Kleber says: Reply

    Heather, sprinkle Holy Water around the foundation of your house. I am a firm believer in HW and the blessings/ protection it affords.
    Happy Thanksgiving and safe travels!

  5. Mary Sinclair-dumais says: Reply

    How big is the squirrel? So sorry that is happening. If it were me I would
    Freaking out! I hope the squirrel leaves soon
    Mary

  6. I feel your pain! We have numerous squirrels that party on our deck daily. They live in our beautiful pecan tree that so generously provides shade for our deck and patio and party food for the squirrels. We have yet to enjoy any pecans from the tree because we cannot harvest them before the squirrels. Recently, I had to stop feeding the birds, which brought me so much joy, because we apparently fed the rats that began to live under our house because we provided them with so much bounty. I pray the squirrel, like our rats, will move on! Thank you for the joy you bring me!

  7. HEATHER KING says: Reply

    Update: no sooner did I post than I went outside and saw…the squirrel had been trapped!!! So that’s good, and Mike is going to take it somewhere far, far away. Bad news: in the snap trap, he also caught a (male) PACKRAT. Turns out and apparently this is almost unheard of (of course), the packrat had invaded the burrow and somehow the two different species were co-habitating though not in a friendly way).

    And the packrat might have put the poison in his own cache just to be a hog (squirrels and packrats eat different things? I don’t really understand and my head is spinning), which explains why the squirrel didn’t eat it and why it evaded capture for almost three weeks (?) Or something like that. All I know is that if I hear something tonight, I will just have a coronary and die. Holy water is definitely the answer, Teresa. In fact if I survive this, I am going to interview Mike and learn all about the life and psychology and fascinating human-interest stories ha-ha of an exterminator. Which when you think about is very close to an exorcist. Many thanks for all the prayers–keep them coming and I will pray for you all, too.

  8. Anonymous says: Reply

    I think that if all your readers pray for that giant source of suffering to leave or die, it will happen. So I for one am praying for that! I could not bear to live with constant scuttling about in my walls and floor. The squirrel has to go!

  9. Lisa Porter says: Reply

    Continued prayers, dear Heather!

  10. Good luck with The Beast in the “Basement” – there we have soooo much of life!

    I am intrigued to hear about how the Ignatian Exercises affect you over time. They had an unexpected effect on me.

    As an adolescent I attended a Jesuit high school, then attended a Jesuit college at the University of Manitoba, and, for decades, I have been a member of a parish served by Jesuits. In this time span I have known dozens of Jesuits and benefited in life-altering ways from them and their institutions. I thought of myself as having an Ignition spirituality, an Ignition heart. One way or another I had never got around to doing the Exercises.

    At the beginning of Covid in March 2020 I was about 80% through the “spiritual gymnastics” at my local parish. (Yes, the hour in the morning…much huffing and puffing and panting). We adapted to the new health protocols and finished up successfully.

    Within a week of completion I had a startling realization – my spirituality is not Ignatian, it is Carmelite, at the core I am a son of Theresa of Avila.

    Of course, there had been things a-moving on the Carmelite front for awhile. I had been deeply affected by an online course offered through Richard Rohr’s CAC – James Finley on Theresa’s seven mansions being a part.

    I wonder how long it would have taken to arrive at the clarity if I had not done the Exercises. Whatever the case, this was such an example in my life of the generosity of the love that subsumes all: Ignatius with great generosity offering his Exercises as a means to help me find my way to Theresa’s side.

    Blessings.

  11. You and I are on the same wave length, sister! I began the shortened online 8 week version of the Ignatian Adventure. Prayers for travels and a happy Thanksgiving. Also for a successful eviction of those rodent squatters!

  12. hi heather!
    our sufferings are certainly nothing if compared with that of others. although we have painful things we have a roof over our head, we can listen to pianomusic to calm down, we can help ourselves.
    but as suffering goes it hurts. you want to be done with it. and it never happens.especially when you are “older”.
    as you so beautifully account for the sufferings are worth something. they get used for good.
    and st. paul glories in his sufferings. he likes them. they bring about something better.
    so, we all hang in there.
    lets just meet ” over the garden gate” to gossip about that all. lets not give up to communicate about it all.
    best wishes for you!

  13. on the other hand, heather,
    talking will not always help. because it sometimes just expands the suffering. so then we of course pray without ceasing. prayer really is a a part thats always right.and art helps.
    remember? we are artists! suffering is good for us.
    remember we are Christians? we can do suffering, as you so beautiful showed the many reasons why our suffering is redeemed.
    it hurts – but we can do this!

  14. I’m glad to hear the squirrel is gone! And the packrat you didn’t even know about. I hope you’ll sleep more peacefully from now on.
    “If you’re lucky, you’ll give up all idea of ever being happy in any way you thought you were going to be.” Ooh. I needed to hear that.
    I’ll be praying for you on Dec 12th for your cataract surgery, and I hope you have a wonderful trip for Thanksgiving.

    Susan

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