ON BLOSSOM O’POSSUM, AND EXISTENTIAL DREAD

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Blossom sleeps in my slipper.

Last evening I sat nestled in the grass in the peach hues of the late-summer gloaming. Clippers in hand, I sat sifting dried stalks of phacelia through my fingers, breaking their seed heads into a paper bag. Across the yard in the still of twilight, the swift whose noisy nestlings sing in our chimney was busy diving headfirst to her babies carrying the last bugs of the day. Bella and Lucy, our Muscovies, wandered the bee yard on their short, thick legs like a pair of floating barges moving along green rivers of grass…

I have a wristband called a “Pause Bracelet” that delivers a tiny pulse to my wrist every hour—a gentle reminder to stop, breathe, and take in the fullness of the moment. When the buzz vibrated, there was so much fullness to take in that I was gobsmack-overwhelmed with gratitude. Thank you, Nature Spirits, for the green lushness of this yard,” I smiled,  for the burbling water fountains, the sparrows fluttering at the feeders, arguing with that noisy fledgling jay. Thank you for the golden clouds of happy bees, the towering Joe Pye flowers, the glowing Datura trumpet blooms, the lacy fennel fronds that makes such grand tea.

Dinky and Blossom talk about the sparrows out at the bird feeder.

Dinky and Blossom talk about the sparrows out at the bird feeder.

Behind me on the weathered garden bench, Dinky watched me gather the seeds, his tail flicking up and down. “Meh,” he said. “Mee mee meh mac.” He has a very peculiar meow.

In the lower yard where the screen room sits, Blossom O’ Possum would be waking up soon for his nighttime meanderings in the large rabbit cage my friend Anna loaned me. He’s been growing so fast! Now nearly the size of a kitten, his inquisitive nibbles are getting a bit painful. I’ve been leaving him alone most of the time, allowing him the space to “wild up.” It’s working. He startles more easily, hisses at strange doings and strange animals, and acts for the most part like a wild creature should: wary, defensive, untrusting. These are the qualities that can keep him alive.

I’ve been really struggling lately as I ponder Blossom’s future. Because that small creature makes me aware that I, too, am wary, defensive, and untrusting. And I’m ashamed to admit that the object of my mistrust is the world, itself.

From the first night Blossom came to me as a tiny, fly-egg infested baby, I have been holding his future in mind. Were he to exhibit any chronic health issues or disabilities, I knew I would keep him. Don’t tell anyone, but possums make gentle and clean housemates, easily trained to a litterbox. But if Blossom developed healthy and strong, I would return him to the wild.

Sitting there with the seeds slipping through my fingers, I remembered the admonishment of my friend, Ann Krielkamp. Ann is an astrologer, and as she sat before my chart she said, “You don’t trust, do you?”

“Actually, my mother says I trust people too easily,” I replied.

“I don’t mean people,” Ann frowned. “I mean you don’t trust life, do you?”

I felt like she’d suddenly thrown a tray of ice cubes in my face. That feeling I had—the one that was always with me, gnawing in my chest and throat: You are on your own. No one will help you but you. Don’t even bother to ask. I hung suspended by the aching wrists between this crazy paradox: I love the world. I trust the world. I trust Nature. It is an abundant, loving world—for everyone but me. I’m on my own, you see?

My life experience shows no evidence that the world has not been utterly generous beyond belief with me. I’ve survived cancers and house fires and divorces and accidents. I am still here, living like a queen in this Western world of clean running water, indoor plumbing, cool sheets, a safe little home, and more food in here than we could eat in a month. Yet all this evidence has never served to dissolve that knot of suspicion and mistrust that seems to be the gift of my stars.

“You are going to have to learn to trust life,” Ann admonished.

“Even when it goes against me?” I asked.

“Especially when it goes against you. That is what you are here to learn. Trust.”

In his "big boy" cage.

In his “big boy” cage.

As Blossom has grown, he is showing himself to be a healthy, wild, active fellow. And I have been facing this unnamable dread at releasing him into night one of these fine summer nights. When I follow the meandering thread of that dread, it leads right to the very portal of Nature. Painful truth is, I am afraid to let him be free. I am afraid of what can happen to him. I do not trust the Great Mother to keep my little guy safe. I don’t trust anything to keep anything safe these days, Or any day. Owls, dogs, cars, coyotes, cold, hunger, accidents: Any of these things and more could be the death of my little possum.

Self reflection can be a humbling thing, a humiliating thing. It does not appear that I’ve taken Ann’s directive to heart.

“There are worse things than death.” This was a phrase I told friends—and told myself—over and over while I was battling cancer, and I still believe the truth of it to my very bones, so why this dread? Do we learn this when we first learn about God, who both loves and smites with equal abandon? I mean, you never know when it will be the loaves and fishes or the thunderbolts and plagues. And Nature, too: Abundant, lush mother and San Francisco Earthquake maker.

Digging into my heart a little deeper, I know that I feel that same kind of dread about the state of our world today, too. About this insane election cycle. I don’t trust any of it. I am wary, defensive.

Thank you, little wedge-faced possum, for reminding me what I’m here for.

I am committed to setting Blossom free. And this means I am committed to accepting my lack of control, which is always at the very bottom of that seemingly bottomless well of dread, isn’t it? They say we fear what we don’t know, or what is different, but I believe beneath it all is the scary truth that we are not in control of much of anything in our lives, save our response to whatever is before us.

So my response to my fears for Blossom will be a deep gulp, a churning stomach, and shaky—but open—hands. World, do what you will.

I don’t trust in happy endings (although I’ve had more than my fair share of them), nor in bargains with gods, nor that we are never given more than we can handle. But on that perfect patch of summer grass last night with hard brown seeds pattering to the bottom of an old Safeway bag, I could say this into the twilight: I trust the realness of this present and most beautiful moment. I can trust that much.

Buddha belly!

Buddha belly!

Perhaps an owl will carry a stunned Blossom off into the stars, and perhaps Trump or Hillary will take us down a path to the end of civilization as I know it, but if I trust just this moment and see the perfection in the seed heads, the sparrows, the color of the clouds—well, it’s a good start. It gives me just enough healthy pause to grant me a bit of strength for whatever may come in the next moment. My meditation teacher reminds us that for each pleasant moment that comes, it is bound to leave us. For each dreadful moment that comes, it is bound to leave us. Nothing lasts forever: “Sit still,” he smiles, Even if it is uncomfortable. It won’t last forever!”

When I arose and brushed the dead plant stalks off my shorts a triple flock of geese began honking excitedly. I looked up just in time to see them coming from the west, the north, the south, crossing paths just over my head. I trust the geese. Trust them to know what geese need to know. I hurried smiling down to the house beneath their raucous chorus to make Blossom’s dinner.

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6 Responses to ON BLOSSOM O’POSSUM, AND EXISTENTIAL DREAD

  1. Kitty Wilson-Pote says:

    Susan, it’s not just that I want everyone I know to read this, I want them to HAVE READ it even halfway as appreciatively as I’ve just done. The great paradox of fearing that what we love may be lost … as, of course, all of it will except the love that runs like a current under every aware moment of being, lacing them all together whether or not we know it. Whenever I pause to Be Here Now (whether using my pause bracelet or relying on its training of my brain before that wears off again!), THIS is the peaceful place grounded in breath going in and coming out … just as long as it does, I can trust the troublesome gift of life. THANK you as ever, for your words …

  2. Nicola says:

    Thank you for sharing this Susan. You write so beautifully. I am in the UK, stuck in a completely souless office – rows of desks, no plants, no pictures, no openable windows, lots of loud voices – but I could clearly picture the nature you described around you and am also humbled and inspired by your reflections. Thank you.

  3. Anna says:

    I relate so deeply to this Susan, you have expressed my feelings as well as your own.
    I so appreciate your own appreciation for the beauty you see in life and even in death. Thank you for helping me to pause this morning, if only for a moment.

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