My eyes were barely open as I sipped my first cup of coffee. Mmmmm, breathe. Again. Mmmmm, breathe. Again. Mmmmm…
As soon as my brain circuits reconnected, I began planning my day. I am a list maker. The List is usually way too long. I rarely stop during the day because of The List. And I beat myself up mentally if I don’t accomplish everything on it.
The List for today:
1. Start the laundry (how can two people have so much?).
2. Try to balance the checkbook (again!).
3. Write my friend Pearl a letter.
4. Hang the wash.
5. Prune the winter kill off of the lilacs.
6. Start the sauce for pasta.
7. Check on the plant order.
8. Email the Master Gardeners a meeting reminder.
9. Take out the trash and pick up the mail at the post office.
10. Add to The List as I think of more to do.
Today was March 30. We had just come through the winter that broke the one-hundred-year record for cold and snow here in Pennsylvania. We still had patches of deep snow on the ground, despite a few mild days. Mild? Ordinarily, I wouldn’t call 25° temperatures mild, but in this year, yeah, mild.
While my mind pondered The List, my eyes scanned the woods outside our patio doors—and noticed a slow-moving animal. As it came closer, I recognized it: a possum. I have seen possums before here, and they have always fascinated me. Curious little mammals, usually nocturnal, they are the only marsupials in North America. We even caught one once in our Hav-a-Hart trap when we were after the Plant Terminator, Phil the groundhog.
I watched the possum as he sniffed the ground and followed the scent of something, moving in an irregular pattern. He went behind the garage and came out just beyond the patio, coming closer and closer to the doors. He stopped about five feet away. His homely little face looked up at me, his pink nose and ears twitching. His hairless pink feet must have been freezing on the cold pavers, I thought. I could see raccoon-like markings around his eyes. I wondered if his scraggly fur was as bristly as it looked, or would it be soft if I touched it.
Again he started meandering, towards a nearby tree—and began climbing it. I didn’t know that possums could climb!
The trees on our little Pocono mountaintop are skinny, having been clear-cut 40 years ago when this was a blueberry farm. The wind kicked up, but the possum climbed higher and higher. The branches were getting thin, and I was sure they would break. But no, they held, and he went almost out to the end of a branch, balancing his round body with his tail curled around the limb. The tree swayed in the breeze, but he held on. What could he be thinking? Do possums even think?
Eventually, he turned and went back down the trunk. When he reached the ground, he started sniffing again in an irregular, zig-zag pattern, until he left my line of sight.
What did that curious creature accomplish on his seemingly meaningless journey? I’ll tell you, he did something that most human beings can’t do. He got me to stop, watch, and ponder, without rushing off to start The List. ❖
This article was published originally in 2015, in GreenPrints Issue #101.