S/he showed up in our lives one chilly evening three weeks ago, this little pack rat, with a mangled back leg and bleeding haunch and in such shock from whatever had attacked her that s/he couldn’t move. Stewart thought s/he was already dead and eased the tiny body away from the shed, placing it under the temporary dome of a shovel, planning to return later to dig another small grave. When he went back, s/he was sitting up. Shivering, bleeding, still unable to move, needing help. So he gathered up this little being and hurried inside, and we put our noggins together (all our liberal arts degrees being not one whit of use). You’ll be Orfala, we promised, and this patch of desert we’re borrowing for now will be for you and your kin when we pass on. There’s a rough gentle justice tucked into that vow, especially given that, just two years ago, we wrested this old cabin from a feisty little pack rat who’d had the run of it for years before and didn’t sign off on the deed.
It took two days of reiki and warming before Orfala woke up. On the morning of the third day, s/he was dragging that broken back leg around like a broom and her wounds were healing. I did daily sessions of PT on the leg (motivated by my lay notion that two or three gentle lifts toward her tummy twice a day might keep the blood flowing and the limb from freezing into place), and s/he tolerated that just fine, but it seemed clear that the leg would never be functional and after about three days I quit on the PT. There seemed no point. Reiki can be done from across a whole country, though, so the few feet between her temporary home-bin and my working desk was perfect. (Teaching human history online is a job easily made more palatable by intermittent reiki sessions for a pack rat, by the way.) I didn’t expect the leg to recover, but Orfala seemed fine with pulling it around behind, munching on the corn and peas we offered and making a house of her new digs. It was a good gig all round.
Then yesterday, at a point when happy news had been in short supply for we humans of late, we prepped Orfala’s dinner and eased the thicket of creosote branches up . . . to find a pack rat with a fully functional left back leg going about the business of keeping house as if nothing bad had ever come alongside. Orfala’s now double the size s/he was on arrival, and perfectly, perfectly whole, able to leap and run and even to use that back foot to relieve itches on occasion. It’s stunning, this facility, and how normal it all looks. And is. Both of us humans returned intermittently last night and this morning to peer in again, just to make sure we didn’t imagine all this. Without the early photos—taken not to document injury, but existence—we would not now have any proof s/he was ever hurt.
So there it is. A pack rat improbably dubbed Orfala has gifted us with hours uncommon in human endeavours: evidence that healing is a miracle of this planet and existence, most ordinary and available freely to all. No degree or pre-planning or even money and experts required. S/he has surely earned the deed on our home and, for the few years yet that we need the use of these scrub acres, we will live on them close alongside (provided s/he chooses to stay on release), learning what we can and doing what we can to surrender our grips on our limited notions of ‘reality’ and ‘success’ and what it all might mean in favor of simply slipping into the wonder of being while here. That’s a fair-sized contribution to a human life for a rodent the size of my big toe. Heck, ‘fair’ doesn’t begin to match it. For matters of such great and infinitesimal import, words cannot suffice.
Cheers to the little pack rat that outruns all my words, and makes of breathing such wonder!