An unknown animal scratching, clawing, biting and probably burrowing its morning through the roof over your head is an unsettling sound at six a.m. We think of a roof as a benign protector, so lofty but banal in its almost perfunctory functionality. We take little, if any, actual notice of its presence in the beat of our lives. There are those nights (more frequent in number as the calendar turns its pages with the wind) when we stare through the dark at a spot in its centre and wonder where shall I go. There also nights beyond number when rain softly drips off its indifferent eaves onto grass far below that drinks it all up. Usually, however, the roof does what it was built to do -- form a chapel of protection against all that can harm us: the heat of the sun, the cold of the sun, the sky with its weight that would crush us with grandeur.
Yet, that animal.
Nibbling away, skittishly, almost nervously, in a panic, at...what? A tin roof sectioned by blocks of years-old wood? What is it doing, eating? Could the crunching of wood possibly be satisfying for even the most desperately hungry of animals? If such a beast (for I dub it a beast -- anything that would rob me of sleep must shelter such savage tendencies) needs the blunt, tasteless flavor of mortar to aid its digestion, perhaps its problems loom larger than my own.
Yes. That may be the only way I can scrounge up some sympathy for this invisible creature lurking above, who conspires with the dawn to snatch up my sleep. If the animal is deranged, mad beyond measure, convinced with its instinct that beneath the roof lies the home of its children -- if that is its goal, then the animal can flee without sanction. Perhaps, at the base of its little mind, there is a place at the bottom of the roof where its infants, hungry and hopeful, await. That could explain its persistent scraping, as if it was surprised that this metal was not like the dirt of the earth that is easily dug.
I lay in bed and grant it that grace. That of a mother searching for a child. Should such a mother -- rodent or canine, bird or beast -- succeed in its quest and fall through a hole and drop on my bed, I fear two worlds would be shattered beyond repair. This animal would soon learn that I was not what it labored so long to find. And I would understand, at my own late age, that a roof cannot insulate the most fervent of quests.