It is cloudy and cool, this pre-equinox day at MillHaven. When I walked out to the garden shed to check on Blossom O’Possum, the ground was still soft from the rains of the past few days. I did not expect to find him there in the shed, and I didn’t.
It’s been two days since I released Blossom for the second time. Between the first release a couple weeks ago and this recent one, he’d been living in my guest bedroom with his litter pan, fancy cozy bed, and bowls of tempting possum morsels like banana, cat food, pureed vegetables, and garden bugs. Oh, and my homemade yogurt. He could never get enough of my organic yogurt…
To back up just a bit, Blossom’s first adventures in freedom transpired a short few weeks ago. I had put his rabbit hutch in the garden shed where other possums come to eat the food I put out for them. One night before bed, I hurried out to the shed and opened his hutch. “It’s a big world, little possum. Go and check it out.” And he did, coming back to his cozy hutch each dawn.
For a few nights, I heard him clattering around in our outside screen room. Once, I saw him on the clematis vine, a ghostly little face peering at me as I went out to lock the ducks in for the evening. All was going pretty well until the morning I woke up to a sharp nip on my nose. I expected it was Dinky, but when I opened my eyes, I came face to face with that long possum nose.
John Carter, my hubby, gets up early. Around 3am each day. The first thing he does is let Mazel Tov out for his morning yard patrol. He leaves the door open for him. Blossom found the door, then found the living room and visited with Carter for awhile, and then found my room. Except for the fact that he sunk his little needle teeth into my nose, I thought the whole thing was pretty funny at first.
Then, I had this flash vision of Blossom wandering in to neighbors’ houses through their cat doors and giving them morning “kisses” on the nose, and I realized I had a problem. Or rather, Blossom had a problem. Quickly, I move the rabbit pen into our guest room while I contacted friends searching for a better host home for Blossom. One where the neighbors were not so close, and where he could have a shed for a home base.
Sadly, no one came forward. Carter suggested keeping him as a house possum. I was not keen on the idea. As a wildlife rehabber, you learn that there are some creatures of any species who can happily adjust to home life. My former possum, Cookie, was one. She was never nippy, and was perfectly house trained. One could not ask for a better roommate. We give her the run of our place, and I would sometimes wake up with her under my covers, snoring by my feet.
Blossom was not, however, giving me those same vibes. His way of exploring his surroundings was with his mouth. Everything he sniffed, he tasted. Everything he tasted—fingers, toes, noses, elbows—he followed up with a quick nip. Unlike Cookie, he was no snuggler. Anytime he got the freedom of the floor, he took off running. The few nights of total freedom he’d had convinced him there was far more to be experienced in the world outside his rabbit pen.
I gave him the run of the guest room, and he was pretty good about using his litter pan. One day, I bundled him up in a towel and introduced him to all my immediate neighbors, advising them that should they see him out and about—or should he turn up inside their houses at some point—not to fret. He was just a friendly possum trying to find his way in a challenging world. Everyone was enchanted with him.
I remained torn as to what to do with him. Releasing him into the woods just did not feel right to me at all, especially with the rains and cold of autumn coming on. Two neighbors told me not to set him free. They warned me about all the things I already knew: cars, kids, coyotes. owls, dogs.
Now, I am a woman who tries hard to listen to her inner voice. But I could no longer tell the difference between my inner voice and my fear. I truly believe that if we could all decipher that little, quiet voice of ultimate wisdom that sits whispering on our shoulders, we would all find our way to the best life we could possibly live.
The first challenge is to learn to hear that voice: its timbre, its nuances and cadence. And then the even bigger challenge is marshalling the courage to follow it. I spent the next few days listening, listening for that voice. Here is some of the dialogue I had with myself while listening:
“You are feeling guilty for ever keeping him in the first place and putting him in this tenuous position. Let him go.”
“You are feeling guilty for wanting to let him go because you are too lazy to keep him. Keep him.”
“You want what’s best for you, not for him. Keep him…let him go.”
I’m telling you this because I suspect I am not the only person whose first response to most things is to bludgeon myself for…well…pretty much most things. It must be my fault. Everything is my fault. Blossom and his predicament is my fault.
Three nights ago, I opened the door to the guest room to give Blossom the run of the house. He peered out at me through his blankets, blinking and yawning with his big, crocodile mouth. “Do you want to be a house possum, little man?” I asked before heading back to my bed to read. I prayed he wouldn’t chomp Carter’s toes. Soon, I heard his snuffling approach. Possums sniff their way into the world, fairly loudly. I heard the click of his toenails on the wood floor, then the rustle of bedding as he climbed up onto my quilt. He scampered over to my computer and begin nibbling on the cord. “Nope, not an option,” I said as I hid the cable. He high-tailed across my bed, snuffling happily. Then, he whirled around to face me and promptly pooped all over my bedding. As I let out a screech, he dashed off, squatted, and peed a quart on my spare pillow. The room took on the aroma of rotting decay. Possum leavings are potent.
As Blossom dashed beneath the covers, I grabbed him and put him back in the guest room, closing the door behind me. Mazel Tov came in to see what all the ruckus was about. I was busy wadding up all my bedding into a fat ball and making tracks to the laundry room. The smell followed me. But you know, I could not keep from smiling. I looked back at Mazel. “I guess he sure told me, didn’t he?
With no words, Blossom told me that being a house possum was not on his list of favorite things. The next morning when I again placed his rabbit pen in the shed and left the door open, he did not wait until evening to leave. I’m certain he feared I would imprison him again. I have not seen him since, but his food bowl is emptied each night.
I could not find my quiet voice, so Blossom found it for me, and signed the message in excrement.
If your own quiet voice eludes you, look to signs and omens. They aren’t just for oracles anymore. We all receive them. The biggest challenge is marshaling the courage to follow them.