Each evening around eight, I take the dogs outside for a last check before the dark closes in. Is the garden gate closed? Garage door shut? Is the pond pump still running? Check the mail today? Close the back gate so Mazel can’t go roaming the hollows in the wee hours. Is there food for the raccoons and possums in the tree feeder?
Often, the spirits that be offer me up one last gift for the day as I do my nightly rounds. Sometimes, the circling bats are closer or more abundant that usual, and I let my eyes follow their zig-zag aerobatics until I get dizzy or it gets too dark to see. Once, I discovered a tiny green frog in the crevice of the back gate as I moved to close it. Or maybe I’ll be outside at just the exact time the coyotes call from the hollows.
Most recently, my gift was a bug—a cicada, to be precise. I found it hanging like a glob of dried mud on the edge of the fence by the old chicken coop. This is the time of year that the cicadas are coming up from the ground and shedding their skins to become flying, singing beings. Always, these brown blobs on fences and chair legs and car antennas turn out to be the dried out husks left behind by a cicada before it took to the wing.
But not this night. To my surprise, this brown shell with legs and bulging eyes still housed a cicada, fresh up from the ground and encased in dried mud. I’d never found one “still home,” so to speak, and I carried it into the house to show my husband. In the lamp light, we could both see that the top of casing had a split or tear in it. Inside, the cicada was working hard to push its head out, like butterfly from its chrysalis.
I am transfixed by moments like these when I am privy to a natural miracle. How wonderful that I’d stumbled upon just this particular critter at just this most remarkable time!
While Carter watched television next to me, I sat and watched the miracle of metamorphosis unfold on my lap. In the flickering light of the TV set, I could see the cicada work its head from its shell. Next came a flash of the most incredible teal color up from around the shoulders of the bug, if it had shoulders, which it didn’t.
I looked closer with a magnifying glass—we always keep one next to the double recliner—and realized that the expanding mass of gorgeous color was the cicada’s wings, all crumpled up accordian-style and flimsy as wet tissue paper. The cicada used its newly freed front legs to hasten the process of crawling out from itself. The whole event took only a few minutes. I was left with an empty brown husk on one knee, and a clinging, wet, brilliantly colored cicada on the other.
Carter and I took a few moments to enjoy the beauty of the cicada in all its glossy glory, and then I carried it back outside and let it crawl onto a log to continue with its drying and hardening process. I don’t think I stopped smiling until I went to bed later that night, and for all I know, I smiled all night, too.
Earlier in the week, I struggled to crack out of a cramped and uncomfortable shell of my own. For a full month, I’d been taking care of Pepper, the sickly possum, and was getting a strong message to distance myself from her for awhile. I had no idea what prompted that message, but it was crystal clear. Of course, I told myself all the reasons not to listen to it: Just keep going a while longer. Just wait to see if her left leg gets a little stronger. Just wait until the desire to take some time away from her goes away. Just wait…
Rationalize, justify. That was my process for several days, and I watched myself get all tangled around with the meaning of it all. Was I just lazy? Did Pepper need to be with someone else? Was my intense care of her muddling up my vision of how her recuperation was REALLY going? Was she worse off than I thought? Was she far better off than I thought?
“Get some distance from this,” my body kept screaming at me. “No, buckle down, shut up, and play ball,” my rational mind hollered back. Honestly, I was working myself into a tizzy about it. I dreaded calling WildCare and asking for more help with Pepper, because I dreaded what I imagined they would think of me. And I thought I was over all that—what “other people” thought of me. I guess not.
The part of me that was the observer watched as I beat myself up over all sorts of failings I told myself I was guilty of where Pepper was concerned. The observer shook her head sadly. She sighed. She picked up the phone and dialed WildCare and asked if anyone else could look after Pepper for awhile.
By the end of that day, I placed Pepper in the competent hands of another rehabber who was really wanting to get some familiarity with possums. Beverly had two weeks free to assist Pepper through her next phase of the healing journey before heading off for a vacation. It was perfect. And all the anxious guilt-bashing I’d done to myself before taking the simple step of that phone call had been nothing but a stupid, stupid waste of energy. I don’t know why I needed some simple space from Pepper, but I know—or at least my inner observer knows—that I could have found my way to that space without all the drama that preceded it.
I know that since Pepper’s been gone, I have been able to see just how miraculous her survival in my hands has been. I see her through new eyes—Beverly’s eyes—and it has given me some much-needed perspective on Pepper’s journey, and on my own. In this period of time, I’ve begun new treatment for my own health concerns, allowing myself to be fully present to myself for the next two weeks while Pepper continues to thrive at Beverly’s “bed and breakfast.”
When Pepper returns to me, and when I put her down on the grass for the first time, I will see her with fresh eyes. Perhaps she will see me differently, too, having now experienced two sets of loving, human hands upon her. I can’t see them, but I think Pepper and I may both be working on our wings.