I was between lap swim and a session with a writer client when I jumped and let out a loud yelp this morning. I'd gone to toss some dead clods of grass and dirt into the open mouth of the trash barrel out back. I can't even tell you whether I tossed the first clod in or not; I was too busy being spooked by finding a head, a face, a snout--eyes peering up from the depths of the barrel. Skunks! That was my first thought. A skunk has given birth in my barrel.
Yikes! What to do?
I collected myself some, came around to the other side of it, and dared to take another peek. Not skunks at all, I realized, when I saw the pointed snout, the beady eyes, the coarse white fur: a young opossum. I moved away, then in again - peek. Away, then in again - peek. Each time my head cleared the rim of the barrel, the little 'possum's head would move too--toward me, to look me in the eye: it was checking me out as surely as I was checking it out.
It took awhile to register what I was seeing. Underneath the juvenile was what seemed to be the corpse of what I assumed to be its mother. My mind flashed with images of babes who never stray far from their parent-guardian: ducklings, monkeys, children...opossums. My peeks grew to glances and then stares as my courage then concern grew. What has happened here? The parent was all body: fur, no head or tail in sight. With each peek, my assessment of the situation turned. It could be headless, for all I know. She was half hidden by the trash--scant enough that it didn't warrant being taken to the curb last night for today's pick up, but trash just the same. Is it breathing? No. Rock still. The trash looked like it had been mauled. On the big animal's fur was some sort of dribble blood?. And flies. Carrion. And the little guy, right there with her, beside her--pressing upon her, actually, the way a kid will do to rouse a parent from sleep. This little creature had frightened me, but I can tell you there was no fear in its eyes or demeanor. I saw something else there, though. Or rather, I heard it. All the while of my watching, the young one was watching me--asking me, I began to realize, for help.
That's what I heard it "saying" - without saying anything at all, of course. But I swear to you, the little opossum transmitted this to me, across wavelengths that have no need for words.
Help me please.
Great. Big, dead mother possum, and its adorable joey (wild, I did remind myself - perhaps rabid, who could know?) clinging to it like a lifeline. A client arriving in 20 minutes. And I haven't had any breakfast.
Oh, lord: what do I do? I had visions of calling the New England Wildlife Center to come rescue the juvenile. Raise him, release him to the wild. I had the fleeting thought of a big, dead possum rotting in the bottom of my trash barrel in 80-something degree heat while I waited a week for another trash day to come around. Then a vision of digging a big hole. I had images of doing energy work on the animal. But not now, I thought. I've got a client coming. I've got to leave this for now. What do I do for now? I thought.
Take a picture.
I looked down and saw my camera in my hand. Oh yeah. I'd gone out there to shoot the emergent Rubrum lily in my garden: the first and only blossom this year, as it turns out. A daylily too that had caught my eye. A morning glory, a pansy: I never tire of these.
When I shot the opossum, I had no thought of writing this, believe me. I was shaken, and I didn't know why I was taking its picture. I think I just didn't know what else to do. And some odd logic reasoned, "How often are you this close to a 'possum?" Right now, at 3 in the afternoon, I'm really glad to have the picture. Without it, I might wonder if this ever really happened. But it did happen. Here was this little guy entreatingly regarding me from the bottom of the trash can.
"Hi, sweetie. What do I do with you?"
Picture or no picture, I was in no less of a situation: I still needed a resolution. I did the only thing I could do for the time being. Tip the barrel. They got trapped in there. They couldn't get out. Went up scavenging for food--oh yes, the chicken bones--and fell in and then couldn't get out.
I slowly tipped the barrel, and as the trash tumbled over the big furry white body, I was shocked to see the creature unfold and open it's bloodied? mouth and eyes! as it flopped forward: it was alive! I was relieved, sure. But the animal seemed injured and, frankly, very barely alive. She's dying, I thought. I looked about for a long stick. My reflex was to get the trash off her. But I stopped, and let it be. I couldn't handle this right now. I'd see my client, and deal with it after that.
I need a miracle, here. That's what I said did I say it aloud? as I turned my back and walked away from the two of them, who were clearly staying put in the deep dark of the barrel. I knew as I entered the house that 90-odd minutes later I would return to find one of four things:
1. status quo
2. dead parent with bereft orphan
3. dead parent with orphan gone
4. not a possum in sight
I kept the cats inside.
While I readied for my client, I kept going over the whole thing in my mind. How long? I make very little trash (come to think of it, why weren't these ice cream cartons in the recycle bin anyway?). I hadn't been near that barrel for days. Are they starving to death? Should I feed them? What do opossums eat? It occurred to me that maybe the mom was weak from a lack of food. Then I...fantasized, I suppose, that given opossums are nocturnal, maybe she was just out, dead to the world in a deep slumber. Maybe mother and baby were just fine.
Then I remembered the strong smell of skunk that I had come home to the night before. I'd looked about expecting to see the source of the odor himself. As my cat came round to be let in for the night, I only hoped she hadn't gotten it: she hadn't--whew. But I put that recollection together with the smears I'd noticed on the side of the barrel, with the pawed- and chewed-over state of the cartons. There had been a fight, I decided. That was blood, injury, I decided. And the whole thing haunted me in the background throughout the session. When it slipped to the foreground, I would know. And then let it go.
Know that I'd intended a miracle. Know that I'd been...oh, hard to put this into words: aligning my vibes, you could say, to a good outcome. I knew when I asked for a miracle that I was asking to bring this mother opossum back to life. I was asking that they both be fine, that they go on their way, that they happily return to their life beyond my purview.
I can't complete this story without including one last detail: a little thing, you could say, but it's everything, really. Two weeks ago, on a natural high from a Brandi Carlile concert on Copley Square Park, I noticed this city rooftop, half lush garden, and half bare. Immediately, it evoked for me the difference between those moments "on" Love's Freeway, and those moments "off" the Freeway. Yeah, yeah: one can argue that there's really no such thing as "off" the Freeway. But experientially, in the qualities of moments, I assert that there IS an "on" and an "off" Love's Freeway.
Two nights ago, in my Tao of Journaling class, I wrote myself right back onto the Freeway. I'd been for a few days doing something I might describe as quarreling with Love. That night, catalyzed by a powerful intention, I returned myself to the lap of Love. As it happens, I am also currently enrolled in a course whose homework requires that I have a miracle (something unexplainable that knocks my socks off and leaves me having to reinterpret life) every week. I know that prior to Tuesday night, no such miracles were possible in my midst, just as surely as I know that since Tuesday's class, they are.
Still, I wasn't prepared for what I found when I returned to the barrel. Nothing but dirty, rumpled trash in there. How my heart lifted to find the possums gone! I couldn't believe my eyes. I kept returning to the barrel to look, to confirm it.
Those grass clods that started all this have been sitting on a birch stump for literally months now. They were the last bits of sod given to me by my neighbor Amy when she cut patches of lawn out to expand her garden. I planted the best clumps promptly yielding a new strip of welcome green outside my back door, adding lustre to a favorite place of mine to sit, sun, read, eat. These last clumps I'd use for patching up the front lawn. I kept watering them over June and July to keep them alive until such time as I could properly plant them. They died. And they've been dead. But it was today why today? that I had to toss them. This happens to me, time to time. I can live with a thing, live with a thing, hardly even notice it for weeks or months--even years--but then the day arrives when it has to be done with, now. And it occurs like that, as if Life were whispering firmly but gently in my ear: Now. It's unexplainable, this, but no less distinct for that.
Why today indeed. Had I ignored the Now, there's no telling how long it would have been before I'd have had cause to be near that barrel. They would've died in there. I know they would've died in there. It's no wonder then that I am still marveling at all this. It's a miracle to me, wondrous: I am filled with wonder.
I guess you could say I am wonderful.