Mouse Traps and Spare Rooms

Cat by the fire Credit: steve p2008 (link below)

“How would you feel if you were just trying to find a warm home and someone tried to kill you?”

^Lydia Wylie-Kellermann reads her piece as part of Geez Out Loud. The audio is an exact reading of the written article.

This has become a common refrain from Isaac, our six-year-old, whenever he finds a mouse trap set behind the stove. He is converting us to live traps.

In fact, both kids seem to find our house a hospitable place for many creatures. In the living room there is a bowl full of worms and an occasional slug. The dining room hosts a caterpillar in a box with a breathable screen – special attention is always given to habitat needs. Between these guests, the happy mice, three fish, a bunny, and a dozen chickens in the backyard, our home begins to feel a little like an urban Mary Oliver poem gone wrong with my kids arguing that this is “how we make our house ready for the Lord.”

Erinn, in her infinite wisdom and strong boundary skills, was able to put her foot down when Isaac found a cockroach on a hike and wanted to bring it home as a pet! “But they are sooo smart! They can hold their breath under water for 40 minutes!”

Hospitality. Its very nature is a radical act with all its simplicity and joy. Generosity as host and vulnerability as guest are a direct affront to a cultural obsession with the “pull yourself up by your boot straps” and “make it on your own” mentality, closed borders, white picket fences, and locked doors, all of which exist to drive a “thriving” economy.

As we pondered this issue of Geez, we wondered aloud together how we could create a magazine that felt like receiving an act of hospitality in your hands. Hospitality is filled with delights. Could we fill it with art and recipes and warmth so that you felt like we shared a warm cup of tea and company on the road?

Yet we also wanted to dig into the complexities and “isms” that find their way into everything we do. As a white staff living and working on unceded Anishinaabe land, we bring a heritage of being the very worst kind of guest. There is an unlearning that needs to happen in our bodies and posture, and a listening and re-learning about the crucial powerlessness of being a guest.

We also position this issue at a time when the U.S. is constructing a wall along its southern border, when children are being held in cages, when refugee resettlement programs are being shut down, and when a refugee crisis is growing and will only continue to grow with climate catastrophe upon us. We are living in crisis. Crisis that demands we open our doors and let in the stranger. Crisis that demands we clean out the spare room. Crisis that demands we think about the risks we are willing to take when human beings are in harm’s way. Hospitality has always been dangerous business – from Bethlehem barns to underground railroads, to hiding Jews during the Holocaust, to offering sanctuary in churches. Do you, do I, do we, stand at a moment when we too must open our doors to see what the future holds?

Open the door into this issue. Be welcome. Find here the messy beauty of what it means to be human. Thank you for inviting us into your homes, onto your coffee tables, on your library shelves, or beside your kitchen sink. It is a gift to be together with generosity and vulnerability in this dangerous hour.

Lydia Wylie-Kellermann is editor of Geez magazine. She lives in Detroit, Michigan.

Image credit: “Cat by the fire,” April 5, 2008, steve p2008 CC,

Issue 55

This article first appeared in Geez magazine Issue 55, Winter 2020, Entertaining Angels.

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