As I was drifting off to sleep last night, I was thinking about something that happened a few days ago. I was closing down the building site that is the house in France, and I needed to move a large tarpaulin to cover the building sand. It had lain in the same place, under the trees, for a few weeks. What I couldn't have known is that a little bank vole had built a nest underneath, and I disturbed her and destroyed the nest when I lifted the tarpaulin. She immediately ran away towards the stone pile, taking one of her young still attached to a teat. Two other youngsters crawled away to hide.

I stood, wondering what to do, when a few moments later I saw the mother peek out from under a stone, holding the first youngster in her mouth, and I realised she would gather up the others as soon as I moved away. They were mature enough not to be too vulnerable, so no real harm was done. Nevertheless I couldn't help but feel bad for destroying the nest.

So here's my point. Why did I feel bad? It struck me that how we react in certain situations can depend on our frame of mind at the time, within a range dictated by our individual makeup. Yet a random act can have repercussions - a week earlier, the young may not have been strong enough to have had any chance to survive; a week later, they may already have moved on. I don't relate this as an allegory for any particular incident: on this occasion, whilst some things can never be undone, it is not always the end of the world.

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