‘Possum Philosophy

Many changes are upon us this year, everything from economics to politics to society to energy, and the earth herself. Who better to show us how to navigate these uncertainties than Opossum?

I asked to talk with Ashley, Sulphur Creek Nature Center’s resident senior female opossum. She came as a rescue after being trapped in a garage fire that left her blind. She said, “I’m napping now. Talk to Ozzie.”

Ozzie, the active younger male I had nicknamed “Ozzie the athlete,” died a few months ago. He rode in from his outdoor enclosure to the wall kennel for breakfast on my shoulder (or the top of my head), me with a firm grip on the base of his tail. I asked Ozzie if he’d like to talk.

“Hi there! ‘Ozzie the athlete’ indeed!” (I sensed amusement, pleasure).

“Ozzie, what do you feel about the energy shifts at this time, and do you have any advice for people?”

“Stay close to the ground. You can climb trees too, but hold on tight. We do that. Sniff things over. We don’t see well, you know. It’s all in the nose, and the vibrations that come through the earth. We sense the earth changes, small tremors and larger shifts.”

“What are your special qualities?”

“We have lots of teeth, sharp ones. But they’re a last resort for defense. We can pretend to be dead, so large predators pass us by. They want a good tussle for their meal, the excitement of the chase. We don’t go there. Sometimes just showing our teeth and hissing gets the message across.”

“What did you like most about being on the earth?”

“The scents and textures. The earth is so rich in sensation. Our hands are like yours, delicate, sensitive fingers. Fur protects us and also helps us sense. Hearing, too, although vibration is the greatest communicator. The earth breathes, you know, and we ‘possums can feel that. Sometimes the earth says our feet tickle.”

“Do you have a message for people?”

“All on the earth and in the sky are connected. When you disrupt something, some part of the net, it affects the rest. When you take without giving back, it affects the whole. Creates imbalance. Would you not suffer if you cut a slice out of your arm? So the earth suffers when you do that to her. Better to tickle with soft feet and have her shake with laughter than rip and tear, and make her tremble in pain. Be gentle. Enjoy your senses. Curl up and take a nap. It’s all good.”

“Thank you, Ozzie.”

I’m reminded that Opossum’s magic is Diversion. Opossum is a master strategist. He can excrete the musk of the death scent at will, confusing his predators so ‘possum can run away. In this time when everything is changing, we could learn a lot from ‘possum: expect the unexpected, be clever, use your brain, create a diversion, and use surprise to overcome barriers to your progress. Have fun with it, and take lots of naps. Good advice.

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"Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms." - George Eliot
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." - Gandhi
"There is little that separates humans from other sentient beings – we all feel pain, we all feel joy, we all deeply crave to be alive and live freely, and we all share this planet together." - attributed to Gandhi
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