Let’s start with a little poll: test the world wide web for membrane integrity or osmotic conductivity. If you were smelling mothballs even before you read this sentence, please send a comment. It is such a uniquely assertive scent, I’d not be surprised if it infiltrates cyberspace, travels on thought currents.
Years back I noticed how phenomena in my body seemed to mirror or parallel spiritual themes “working” in my life. Perhaps even years before that I’d written a long and self-skewering letter to Car Talk’s Click and Clack citing all the instances in which my automobile manifested symptoms analogous with my coinciding health issues. These seemingly distinct systems are all just nesting dolls, and it becomes a skill and a hobby to spot the patterns of correlation between them– like reading tea-leaves or interpreting dreams.
I was semi-housesitting at a friend’s in Eldorado, NM, where I was undertaking an attempt to detox from body and psyche an organism that I’d been sharing this body with since probably my teens or twenties: an unseen usurper of identity and health, slowly wearing holes in the insulation of the digestive canal.
Before I’d even gotten back to New Mexico, upon returning to my vehicle in Colorado after an absence of two weeks to find the battery dead and one of the sliding doors not working, a friend had suggested a rodent might have chewed a wire. But after parking at an ashram in all the healing Shakti overnight, the door resumed working. Whew.
A couple of weeks into the house-sit, I was sleeping in my van one night (for a break from the EMF noise of the house). I was awakened by the sound of rhythmic tapping or rattling. I could even feel the car shake slightly. I knew intuitively that it was rodents, and I would slam a door to scare them off. This was not effective. I got out and made human noise and peed around the car. But once I settled back into the van, they resumed their gnawing—who knew? Ravenous plastivores.
The next day I’d mostly forgotten about dreamus interruptus dental rodentiae until the check engine light came on and imposed a detour to the car dealership. Diagnosis: chewed wire to oxygen sensor; $378.
The next day, I saw another Honda Odyssey leaving the parking spot next to mine at a nearby trailhead as I strolled up toward my car, and what emerged from underneath the vehicle but a packrat, as if the driver had just freed him from a trap or he’d just chosen to dismount before another bumpy ride.
I’d collected a good many tips by then for how to try to repel these creatures (a challenge when you are parked outside): bobcat or coyote urine (available in crystals at a hunt shop), dryer sheets tied, or Fabreze sprayed, in the engine compartment; or spraying WD40 on the tires. Most of these suggestions, alas, were also Michou repellents. I did, however, try the WD40 suggestion. It may have worked briefly, but soon they were back on the job. So I bought mothballs and placed adorable little sachets of them in the engine compartment and atop each wheel, every night; this in addition to continuing to collect my own urine—which I was producing prodigiously on the detox—and pouring a perimeter around the van, which was parked in a different spot and orientation each night.
That seemed to make a difference. But since the mothballs were in the open, I wondered if they might lose potency. One night it was windy and raining, so I just put sachets on the tires, along with peppermint oil I’d heard about using too, which suited this sensitive smeller just fine.
In the wee hours, though, I heard something a little too rhythmic and persistent to be wind. I got out, drove around the block, gave the tires a midnight shower of pee and peppermint oil, and put a sachet in the engine compartment. It sounded like they were still at it when things settled down.
My, my, the humbling sense of mouse-trumps-elephant impotency, when a thing –a tiny sound that represents devastating financial blows– yanks you back from your small-hours astral wresting match with child-hood bad dreams, and that thing cannot be vanquished! I did something I rarely do. I gave up, turned my back, accepted the worst and went inside to reclaim the relative safety of sleep.
The next morning, I rather hoped it had just been the wind, but when I opened the hood to extract the sachet, cute little turds—mouseballs for mothballs I heard some wiseacre squeak from the woodpile—lay atop the engine.
Rejuvenated after an overnight off duty in Albuquerque, I’m back on the job tonight: Fresh mothballs on the engine, prodigious peppermint oil and a Fabreze air freshener under the car. And tomorrow a trip to the hunt-shop. I won’t be sleeping in my car tonight. I can smell it from here.
Post script: I did overnight in the car a night later, and with mothballs, Fabreze and pepppermint oil all deployed, I the critters were very active last night, although they didn’t start producing noises I associate with chewing until after 4 a.m., at which time I was already awake, listening to them; so I got out, and opened the hood to remove the mothballs for the drive around the block. It was too dark to actually see, but it sounded like one of them retreated to the back of the engine compartment to wait out my intrusion. To encourage complete evacuation, I throttled the engine compartment a few times with a soggy mace of mothballs in a sock, and I told them they could not be here. The critter in me was laughing along with them at my utterance. I mean, that’s just silly; they already were here!
I put on my head lamp, and could hear activity somewhere under the car. I bent down to check the fabreze freshener, and I saw one scurry out of my view, up into the undercarriage— as if making it to home base, safe!
So much for mothballs and company. The only thing missing last night was urine, mine and big ol’ bobcat’s.
For those wondering, my own attempts at communicating with them or at creating an energetic field they won’t intrude upon have not been successful so far. And Hogworts hasn’t returned my call about hiring an Owl.
Okay, Ye Jung Freudians, DISCUSS.
…and stay tuned.