Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Possum


Possums are so chillingly detestable to me that I cannot bear to look at them. As road kill, it is hard to decipher what is outer and inner, so grotesque is their skin. A mother and babies at her teats under the car in the driveway, pink and gray, look like squirming aliens. One moves across the pavement and disgusts me with its slow, seeming blindness. Its hideous nose relentlessly pulls its hideous body and worm of a tail, dull and useless.

On a rapturous summer morning in a week of them while my seventeen-month-old grandson visits, I pull him to the meadow in our ritual of sunrise, wind and birdtalk. He holds the sides of the wagon, and occasionally I brush mosquitoes from his temples. He looks serious while we encounter a golden cosmos flower, a few blue dianthus, tall grasses and sumac. Bending poplars whisper and wave. Wrens and sparrows leap in the trees around the perimeter of the meadow bowl. We don’t speak, or if we do it is hushed, hoping not to disturb all this. It is a pretense, and I sense in my gut that we don’t belong. Yet there is no resistance to our being here.

We reach the tree swing, and he grins, waves his arms and points, preparing for me to pick him up. I wrap my right arm and hand around his waist, set him firmly in my lap, take hold of the rope with my left hand and balance us trickily on the wide wooden board while my feet run backward steps on the ground to start our descent from as high an arc point as possible. And release. Wind. Celestial wind. My chin on his head, his hair fine as spider silk blowing across my lips. The branch is high, so the pendulum swings long and slow. In silent appreciation we feel part of this grace, this cool wind and shade in hot summer, these creatures driven to survive.

Out of the corner of my eye I see a possum, big and fat. He is crawling slowly in our tree’s shade, in the mown circle with us, at the edge of the tall grasses, so slowly that he doesn’t seem to be moving. I have a decision to make: Welcome him, ignore him, or wish him away. I whisper to James, “Look, a possum.”

“Der,” he says. (“There.”) Enthralled, we watch this animal be with us, watch us. We keep swinging, with my periodic ground steps to restart the pendulum. For a full ten minutes we watch each other without another word. Possum's eyes are huge, aware. He walks slowly away, into the grasses. James lifts his hands in his gesture of “where is it?” and I whisper, “he’s going to sleep in the grass.” We swing a while longer, and he asks a few more times in the same way, “where is possum?”

For once I know the possum, a little. I see him in my mind’s eye. He is not ugly (this one, at least, is not ugly). I doubt he will ever be ugly to James. The possum lives in “our” meadow. He welcomes us. He shows me what is ugly in myself and changes me.




35 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Deb, I'm so glad you understand.

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    1. Thank you for reading, Rachel, and being slayed. :) I suspect that you, too, are seeing the world through new eyes. Oh sweet Eva Pearl.

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  3. I thought for sure, you'd take flight after that intro. Yes, we do share space with many creatures we don't know. Smart possum. Smart Ruth.

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    1. Dear Rosaria, it amazes me how easy it is for me to close against other creatures. I'd like it to be as easy to open. Thank you for reading and leaving your warmth.

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  4. Love that last paragraph :) Being seen, being known - what we all want. Oh and recognizing our own ugliness - the hardest part - but what an awareness when it comes. The "other" can't be "other" anymore - cannot be rejected... Goosebumps :)

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    1. MM — being seen, being known, and being embraced. We are connected, one being, one Life. Thank you for reading and for the goosebumps. :)

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    2. Yes! Absolutely! One Being, One Life Force, One Essence... :)

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  5. Forest, trees, them, you...wonderful!

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    1. Dana, as Rilke says, the small things become great and immeasurable. Thank you. <3

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  6. I love this. Thanks to Rosaria for sharing it on Facebook.

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    1. Thank you for reading at Rosaria's prompting, Kerry. It's great to have you visit my small space. Enjoy yours there in Oregon, one of my favorite locations.

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  7. This is a lovely piece, Ruth. We have many possums and raccoons around our yard – they come under our kitchen window – I never thought of them as ugly. Today 5 mallards are sitting under the bird feeder and their colours are outstanding.

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    1. Vagabonde, you have a beautiful yard. I have seen some photos. It's such a great thing when we can help restore our land to a haven for these creatures. Many thanks for reading.

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  8. I'm so happy it ended the way it did... I was worried for the possums, there at first. :)

    maybe of interest (but not wishing to detract from your vignette) - Opossums are quite resistant to rabies and they can stop the spread of Lyme disease because they apparently kill off the diseased ticks... who knew!?

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    1. Oh this is welcome news, thank you. It seems that all creatures have redeeming qualities, and when we get to know them, they become more beautiful.

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  9. Oh, Ruth -- I love this. So much. I can see you two together, feel the motion of the swing and the love just jumps from the screen.

    And when did you start this wonderful blog, by the way. I have some catching up to do!

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    1. Thank you for feeling our love, Jeanie. I opened this space last August, wanting to start up writing again after synch-ro-ni-zing, and wanting a small, quiet place for it. I'm glad you found it. <3

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  10. this is so very fine and revealing and reminding. it demands the moment it came from be honoured. thanks ruth . . . . steven

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    1. Steven, thank you, and for honoring the space of this moment by reading and responding.

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  11. i keep my heart open
    carefully
    like an important hidden mirror

    xo
    erin

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    1. Erin, yes, we follow each other with hidden mirrors, this is what we need for open hearts and to recognize that we are an amalgam of one another. Thank you.

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  12. Rosaria is right: this soars. Oh, you , to teach James so wisely. Oh, James, to teach us all. How difficult to face the ugly within us, and more so to change it. Thank you.

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    1. DS, and yet it comes so naturally when we are open! And don't forget the possum as teacher! :)

      Thank you, my friend, for the swing in your heart.

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  13. Such a lesson and insight – taught and revealed, as so many lessons and insights are taught and revealed, by a small child.

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    1. Robert, as my friend Marcia said, it may have been the shared space, the intimacy, that opened me to this change. Seeing life through James's eyes provides constant lessons, you're right.

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  14. Yes, that's it...a little child shall lead us! It brought tears to my eyes, Ruthie.

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    1. Ah, Boots, these intimacies grow, and life is more poignant for us together. xoxo

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  15. A lovely piece, Ruth, and I know that profound feeling of discovering unexpectedly what is ugly in oneself. One could argue that our task on earth is simply to learn how to see properly before we die. To see properly, however, we must get beyond our preconceptions and become one with what is before us, as I think you and James did with Mr. Possum.

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    1. Yes, George, that is it, simply. Thank you.

      Like Henry Miller said, "The worst is not death but being blind, blind to the fact that everything about life is in the nature of the miraculous. The language of society is conformity; the language of the creative individual is freedom. Life will continue to be a hell as long as people who make up the world shut their eyes to reality."

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  16. It's amazing as a child we see differently. Why as adults we seem to have forgotten what we once saw?

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    1. Liz, we get trained in society, and sadly, society's ways are not nature's ways.

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  17. I've learned so much from my son and nieces and nephew. It's nice to know that the learning will continue with/from children from the next generation. Non-judgmentalness!

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    1. Ing, we learn from them, and then we have to protect that learning. It's motivating!

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All responses are welcome.