Treading lightly the path to enlightenment.

Posts tagged ‘compassion’

On The Passing Of Charlie Daniels

Why Can’t People

 

Why can’t people just be people,
And leave each other alone?
Then every child would have a home
In the sunshine.

Why can’t all my brothers and sisters
Reach out a helping hand?
Why can’t they try to understand
‘Cause we’re running out of time.
(People, we are running out of time.)

Why can’t people just be good neighbors,
Learn how to get along?
We gotta teach a newborn bird to fly.
All by itself, we gotta teach it how to fly.

If we could only realize
We’re all just God’s children anyway,
Maybe he won’t seem so far away.

 

Rest in peace, Charles Edward Daniels, 1936-2020
He leaves wife Hazel, and son Charlie Daniels, Jr.

Heaven’s chorus now enjoys another voice.

 

Seek peace,

“‘Cause we are running out of time.”

Paz

 

Why Ask Why?

 

I rise,
Unsure just why
But here am I
Awake and alive.

Breathe and step
And step again.
To where? Ahead.
Beyond where I have been.

Look and see.
What is there and 
What is not.
Past, future, time forgot.

Moving still.
A back to break,
An iron will,
Dreams to forsake.

Sun and rain
Clouds to love.
Floods below
Storms above.

Feed the machine
Because we must,
Over and again
Until I am dust.

A sparrow lights
To share my bread.
What’s mine is yours
Until I am dead.

A fleeting glimpse,
A parting glance?
For who knows how long
We shall dance?

Sun is setting,
Darkness falls,
Yet light persists
In hallowed halls.

Rest and sleep.
To dreams awake.
A dream of dreaming
For its own sake.

The day dawns,
Wipe sleep from eyes.
Once again
And who knows why,
I rise.

 

 

Seek peace,

Paz

Earth Day 2020

Sassy Afield

 

Legacy and Learning in 50 years of Earth Day

 

A note from Natalie Dawson, Executive Director at Audubon Alaska

Earth Day 1970, Fairbanks, Alaska: Secretary of Interior Wally Hickel canoes on the Chena River to talk about water pollution. He gives a speech about “shifting man’s thinking from military defense toward the environment” at the University of Alaska Fairbanks alongside the mayor of Fairbanks who quotes Tennyson, and Dr. Donald Aitken, who started the now-famous conservation group Friends of the Earth. It was an apolitical showing of art-politics-activism for a celebration of our home, our “mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” Sometimes it is difficult to remember what we are able to accomplish when we come together.

Bipartisanship reigned on the first Earth Day. We put aside our sharply divided society in the midst of the Vietnam War to address our impacts to water, air, farm fields, bald eagles, songbirds, marine mammals, and civil rights. We passed legislation to protect clear air, clean water, endangered species, labor unions, and healthy foods. We made steps forward. We slid backward. We learned from mistakes. Progress.

Earth Day 2020, Anchorage, Alaska: A global pandemic reminds us we are part of, not apart from, the world around us. It tells us that we can take collective action and make immediate impacts. Whales return to Southeast Alaska and cruise ships are not there to photograph them. The water is cleaner. Earth is quieterWe breathe cleaner air right now and so does the planet. A friend writes, “I wonder if the bears notice the lack of visitors at the Mendenhall Glacier.” We realize we have so much to learn because it turns out there is so much we do not understand.

And in this way, we find ourselves sitting in this united classroom that is Planet Earth. Like the first Earth Day, which was originally organized as a teach-in across college campuses in the U.S., we are once again students. We are learning about suffering, destruction, and the chance for renewal. We hear birdsongs for the first time. We learn about what we can and cannot afford to lose, and what we need to build. We have an incredible moment to create a new world built on shared experience because none of us have been here before, and we must move forward together.

 

Thistle Down Shower

 

Everyone can do something.

Seek peace and stay well,

 

Paz

Something For Myself

My Beautiful Boy

 

I don’t remember exactly how long ago it happened, but I remember the moment quite clearly. I was opening the cupboard door, probably browsing for a snack, and Chuy sat down and looked up at me. His snacks come from the same cupboard.

Likely I had reasons for my intention to skip the dog snack. We go through plenty, as they are given generously. There is a regular wholesome meal at supper time, so there’s that appetite thing. Also, we can just get carried away sometimes and overdo it.

Then my imagination leaped ahead 12 seconds, to the moment I would retrieve something for myself and close the door. Chuy’s dog voice said, to himself or perhaps the cat beside him, “Oh.” a disappointed frown, “He’s only getting something for himself.

You go ahead and call it guilt, or call it spoiling or call it Shirley or call it awakening. Call it what you will, it made my stomach sink and my heart skipped a beat to imagine being seen this way. To imagine being a creature without the means to get up there and open the door and grab a snack, as I can do without second thought.

In an instant I was changed. If I have no intention of giving the dog a snack, I will not have one for myself in front of her. If she skips it, so do I. (Yes, you are reading that correctly, above was the past, and Chuy was a he, but it’s she-girl Sassy now).

That was just the dog and the pantry. Sure enough, didn’t I come to see shortly how this applied to a thousand places in my life and my day.

It has helped me develop a total immunity to marketing of goods. That $20 for a shiny gadget will pay for half a corrective surgery on a Mercy Ship. The $35 for the other thing I really don’t need will go to my kids in Memphis. Maybe research or maybe treatment or maybe Band-Aids with colorful characters on them for children fighting cancer at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

Even the half of a peanut butter sandwich on the console of the FunBus, saved for later. How do I explain “later” or “mine” to these sparrows and starlings that alight before me, and look up at me the same way Chuy did?

Sparrow Boy

I went to lunch and drove past the old guy who is always walking on the sidewalk, winter and summer, and looking homeless and about 70 years old. It was cold and windy that day. I got a hot meatball sandwich and a cup of hot chocolate and I stopped and gave it to him. I could have wasted my time wondering if he liked meatball sandwiches, or if he was diabetic and couldn’t drink hot chocolate. I don’t know if he has a perfectly nice apartment and Meals On Wheels brings him lunch every day. What difference would that make anyway?

The Great Cosmos smiled on me. He looked at me with the sweetest face, with blue eyes as beautiful as my daughter’s. He spoke softly and kindly and smiled, and then he uttered the very words I’d heard my sainted mother say, so many times, to so many people.

“God bless you.”, he said.

In retrospect, perhaps I have failed in my Armchair zen Mission. Perhaps I am still studying Chuy’s lesson.

For after all was said and done, in the end, didn’t I end up getting something for myself anyway.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

 

Land Of The Free

 

 

Gunfire all around and

My hands are shaking and my heart is pounding.

 

 

He said “Forget about your law and order.

You left that at the American border.”

 

 

A silent boat to a floating plane.

One blacked-out treetop flight away.

One blacked-out treetop flight away…

 

 

Stars light the river as we trace its courses

Rolls-Royce putting out all its horses.

 

 

We climb above the deep, dark sea

Could it be?

Could it really be?

 

 

Thirty-eight hundred and we’re really flying.

Everyone on board is crying.

 

 

Bullets flying, windows breaking

Our little plane is shaking, shaking.

 

 

Shudder-bang. Prayers are spoken.

Hope lies broken, broken.

 

 

A subtle peace washes over me

As she augers down into the sea.

Finally free.

 

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Mother’s Mercy

Mother’s Kisses

 

 

Sometimes the world appears to be a bumbling behemoth,

a bull in a china shop, an unleashed Baby Huey, crushing the furniture.

Yet always she comes with the gentlest of hands, and the most tender heart.

I can’t help but love the sweet giant, even as she suffocates me in her embrace.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

 

Inspired by The Rabbit Patch Diaries – http://www.rabbitpatchdiary.com

One World

I had a vision within a dream.

 

All the people of the world were gathered and placed on a giant, flat disk. It is incomprehensibly large, perfectly round, and entirely devoid of features.

Like a huge Frisbee, the disk floated in space, filled with the population of Earth.

The disk faced away from the sun, and like the dark side of the moon, we were all in total darkness.

In the vacuum of space, no sound carried. There was no speech. There were no languages. No language barriers. We could not know if the one beside us was from our own homeland, or some place entirely foreign to us.

We were naked in the silent darkness. There were no well-earned three-piece suits strolling past an undeserved and unearned raiment of rags, uniform of the destitute. We could not know if the one beside us was rich or poor.

There were no features on the disk. There was no higher ground. There was no Knob Hill. There were no gutters. We were all on even ground. There was no hill to take or line to hold, and no armies to do so.

Without an inch of room, there could be no separation, no segregation. No slums or ghettos or prisons.

We stood, shoulder to shoulder, beside one another. And all we could know was that some were shorter and some taller. Some seemed younger, and others seemed older. Some were quite plump, and some skinny as rails. In the darkness, there was no white or brown or yellow or red. Just people.

Looking outward, from darkness into darkness, we were stricken with fear. Our fears could not be shared. No voices to cry out. No light to see the anguish in faces. Bit by bit, we began to feel it. We could feel the trembling of all the world, shaking in terror.

Then we could feel a shift, as some fell to their knees and began to pray. Others prostrated themselves, and others stood and nodded as they prayed. Others stretched their arms outward and looked into the unknown as they sought peace with the universe.

From distant space, a meteor struck the disk and rocked it. The violent collision turned the disk ever-so-slightly, just enough to illuminate a single child, just a baby, wrapped in swaddling, as it fell from the edge of the disk. Out into the vastness of the Cosmos. Alone.

Without hesitation, all the world shifted to move the disk back into place. The strongest worked the hardest, and the weakest expended their last ounce of strength. Clasping hands, a human chain formed. Without regard for their own safety, the chain stretched and reached for the drifting lost child. In a single, silent thrust the chain grasped the child and held mightily, and with the greatest of efforts the child was drawn in, back to the fold, and the population of the world was one again.

And then a hand grasped a hand. Then that grasped another. Then another and another and another until all the world was hand in hand.

Then, like magic, we all knew. We knew we were all of different colors and languages and religions and walks of life. Yet in the silent darkness we were all the same. In the fear-filled void, we were all equal.

There were no lands to fight for. No fields to farm or factories to fill. There was absolutely nothing else to be done.

And so, we held one another.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Empty Nest

Bald Eagle

Decorah North is the given name of this eagles’ nest and the streaming nest camera I’ve been watching since early spring. As snow and freezing rain fell on Mother and Father eagle, two eggs were sheltered deep in the nest, and guarded always by one or the other. Explore.org and The Raptor Resource Project supplies the cameras, and mans them from time to time to zoom in or pan the treetops.

The streaming site would remain open on my computer at work. Folks arriving in the morning and passing my desk were greeted with the view. The computer window minimized during the day (in case I needed to actually work), the sound would come to us from Decorah, Iowa. This was fun in the shop, when someone would look all around trying to locate the source of birdsongs, raindrops, wind, and the occasional chainsaw. As I worked, it often provided a comforting backdrop to my day. I listened, checking the video from time to time, as the sound of chickadees and jays welcomed the songs of robins and the arrival of red-winged blackbirds.

Finally, somewhere at the end of March or early April, the first of two eggs hatched. Within two days, the second egg hatched. A day later, the second chick was discovered in the morning to be lifeless. Who can know the reasons why? Such a delicate and helpless stage of their lives. One false move will do them in. A snowy night, just too cold to survive, perhaps. Nature is not scripted.

We mourn the passing, yet are transfixed by the only child, designated DN9. Each day, I looked in on the little family. Eagle parents share equally in the duties. He would sit the nest while she went to hunt and eat, and vice versa. They would bring fresh trout and small mammals, tear pieces off and patiently feed them bit by bit to their charge. With the computer window minimized, I could tell when the lunch delivery arrived by the screeching of Junior, growing quickly and eager to be fed.

I watched the nearly-naked fur ball immobilized by his out sized feet. At one point I began to wonder if he wasn’t deformed, unable to walk at four or five weeks of age. Then I read that their clownish feet are much too big for newborns, and it was normal to take a while to grow into them. I was delighted when DN9 took his first plodding, stumbling steps. It was almost like seeing a child at that same remarkable, fascinating stage of development. Weeks passed, and “Superchicken”, as I’ve nicknamed him, continued to grow from a fuzzy blob into a real bird. Feathers grew larger and more plentiful, and DN9 hopped and reached right in for the scraps of fish and meat offered.

This past week or two, along came the mayflies. Swarms clouded the nest, and poor little DN9 could only scratch with his giant foot, and shake his head constantly in self-defense. I was wishing for him, no doubt speaking aloud to the computer screen, that his day of fledging and flight would be soon. He’s a big bird now, probably as big as a chicken. He’s started “branching”. Leaving the nest to walk out on its supporting limbs, stretching and testing newly-formed wings. This morning, there he sat, harassed by the mayflies in the nest. It looked maddening, and I again wished the freedom of flight for him. “You’ll see,” I encouraged, “you can fly away from these bugs. Take a nice bath in the creek.”

Twenty minutes later, I walked past my desk and saw the nest, empty.

Such a strange feeling that evoked. Here this nest, family and particularly “Superchicken” DN9 have been part of my daily life for several months. Now, in an instant, fledging season ends at Decorah North. I miss him already, yet in my heart I am simultaneously overjoyed. This was the goal! This is the whole purpose of what’s happening. I’m reminded of the sort of hippie, sort of corny thing about “If you love something, let it go.” 

I rewound the video to the time he was last seen. I watched as he stepped out, branching, onto a large limb that supported the nest. He looked down. He looked outward. He was getting ready. He took another step onto a flimsier branch, and in his inexperience, lost grip with his newly-acquired talons. One flip of a wing, and he dropped out of sight. So it was not the glorious Hollywood-style leap into the crisp air, broad wings soaring above the open field. The folks at the Raptor Resource Project started scanning with the cameras, up and down, all around the base of the nest tree, out into the field adjacent, filled with dairy cows and home to a rushing stream during spring melt. No sign of the little guy.

I had every confidence in DN9’s parents. Certainly all this is normal in the context of nature. He’ll be fine. I checked the other nest cam in the area. Decorah, was fortunate to have three big, healthy fledglings. Wouldn’t you know? That nest was empty, too. And this brought me some comfort. Being about the same age, this meant DN9 was old enough to make that big leap, that first giant step, to leave the nest. Had this been a sparrow or robin, a grackle or starling, I would have worried for its survival, yet unable to fully fly, making short hops and bursts of uncoordinated flight. As big as a crow already, and with two adult bald eagles keeping tabs on the youngster, threats would be few.

By afternoon, the camera operator for the Raptor Resource Project had located DN9 in the open field between the nest tree and the creek! He was on the ground, standing, and remaining still. The curious dairy cows would stop and take a second look as they ambled by. “What’s this big bird doing here on the ground? Just sitting here staring at us?” A short time later I saw the camera pointed up into a nearby tree, where one of the parents perched, keeping an eye on junior.

Immersion in nature and close association with her offspring bears many wonderful gifts. Aside from the joy of life itself, and seeing beautiful things, a clearer perspective of real life in the real world may be had. I would be inclined to disagree with you if you claimed animals did not share the breadth, depth and range of emotions accredited to that most highly developed species, humans.

Most don’t have a brow to furrow with worry, nor lips to part in smiles or turn down in frowns. No eyebrows to raise in fear or consternation. No tear ducts to produce evidence of great sadness or supreme joy.

But aren’t eagles and robins and starlings and weasels and possums and field mice and beavers still parents? Clearly they are driven to protect and nurture their offspring until they can venture out to lives of their own. Will you tell me the eagles were not saddened or heartbroken or disappointed at the loss of their own issue? Would you expect me to believe they were not startled or scared or worried when the little one fell from its perch to the Earth below? An Earth with predators; coyotes, dogs, bobcats.

Yet there is a balance in the natural world. These fragile things live daily with apprehension and fear. Starvation, predation, drought and hurricanes. Falling from a nest just a week too early. Still, it seems, their lives are not ruled by emotions, fueled and driven by feelings as their primary motivation. That would be humans. Every act a reaction to emotion. Joy, sadness, pride, regret, love, hatred, jealousy, envy, admiration, jubilation. Human hearts fling their emotions in every direction like sailors in the tempest. Nature takes a more centered and humble view. What seems the greatest of emotional extremes for humans are but the limits of the pendulum daily for so many beings.

The next day, DN9 was nowhere to be seen. The camera pilot (no doubt driven by emotions, including scientific curiosity), panned and zoomed the terrain repeatedly. This is the simple rule in nature. We do the best we can, and keep our hopes high for the best outcomes. The rest is really out of our control. And now I, too, swing through the pendulum’s arc.

I am sad that DN10 died before his second day in life, and I am overjoyed that DN9 prospered. I feel a sense of loss, loneliness, as I gaze upon the empty nest, and simultaneously I trust that DN9 has more than a sporting chance, and two doting parents. I feel compassion and sympathy for the eagle parents. The work and worry of it all. To keep those babies warm and safe and fed in the nest as long as necessary, and no longer. To flood every waking and sleeping minute with a vigilance worthy of a palace guard. To return one day to an empty nest, and, with just a little melancholy perhaps, celebrate this grand miracle. There is a powerful, silent beauty to the empty nest.

Hence we are kindred. Akin to the eagle and robin, the badger and rat, the polar bear and skunk, I, too, look proudly ( and not without a little twinge of nostalgia) on the silent beauty, the power, and the glory of an empty nest of my own.

Seek peace,

Paz

Hawk And Starling

It began with an untimely death. I turned to find, lying on the floor of the warehouse, a European Starling, still and lifeless. It had been the holiday weekend, where in the United States we celebrate the life and mourn the tragic loss of one of America’s greatest heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The evidence was everywhere, on the floor. Telling the tale in clues that could be read easily by the most amateur sleuth. She’d probably entered on Friday, when crews were unloading trucks after a long week. Doing so in the brutal, bitter cold of a January day that would see temperatures below zero. In and out through the overhead doors, then a quick walk-through locking up. Set the alarm and they were bound for the long weekend, Monday a holiday. Unbeknownst to them, the Starling would be locked in.

Here the signs showed where she flew to the transom windows out front and perched. Looking out on a world that, perhaps, she was glad to be spared from. Single digit temperatures and double-digit winds conspired to drive temperatures, with wind chill, to twenty-five below zero over the weekend.

Here she perched on the iron I-beam as she peered out through the windows of the rear overhead door of the loading dock.  Here she flew into the paint room, landed atop a piece of pipework, and looked out the six-light of the huge antique door. Out onto the stacks of pallets at the back of our building. This is our meeting place. Where I call with a whistle for my following of sparrows, and remind them that “Everyone is welcome!”. I call out to the crows, watch the Juncos now in winter, the mockingbird, the blue jays, as I shred and share a couple of slices of bread each morning and noon.

This is no doubt where Starling and I had met before. Where for the last decade, I have come to love their comical movement, their social graces, sharing with one another, with other birds. While the polite sparrows sit and nibble with elegant manners, starlings run about, stacking bits of bread in their beaks before flying off. Starlings are beautiful birds. Striking plumage in streaks and stripes, iridescent black echoing every color of the rainbow.

She was not in danger of slamming herself against the glass, as last year I went to each window in the place and added translucent stripes to make it visible to birds. Collide-Escape is the product I used, after watching, of all things, a starling knock itself nearly unconscious trying to fly through the sparkling clean portal. Dazed, he stood there on the warehouse floor as humans walked past. I brought him outside and set him down on his tiny feet on the front dock, in the shade. Twenty minutes later, he would fly off, hopefully good as ever.

Now, Tuesday morning, she lay dead on the floor. Three days locked within. I felt responsible for the death. In odd, gripping moments this would wash over me, as I reminded the child within of all those grownup things that are said at a time like this. Everything must die one day. It was an accident. It’s not your fault. One of so many starlings, how could she be missed? Nothing relieved my childish mourning for the tiny helpless creature. A creature that would now be alive if not for me, and mankind’s intrusion on her natural world.

I walked solemnly outside with the little corpse. Carried her, slowly and gently, to the brush line out back. The closest thing to natural and nature I could find for her. I placed her on a limb. A practice we call (pardon the outdated phrase) an “Indian Burial”. Here now she would return to the Earth from which her life sprang to begin with. She may become a welcome meal for a hungry scavenger, or perhaps decay and decompose there, mingling with the grass and the dust of terra firma.

I could not stop myself from returning to the back window. I consciously avoided looking directly at the place where she was enshrined. If still there, the little body would sadden me. If she was gone…somehow it seemed that would sadden me, too. As I looked out the window, the sky dimmed. Shooting over my head and then in front of my window, a dark cloud of a thousand starlings swarmed. A swiftly moving organic overcast. Darting this way and that in one gigantic choreographed ball of birds. They lighted in a tree at the edge of the back lot. I thought of a crow’s funeral. How crows will gather quietly at a place where one of theirs has fallen. They would not act like the gregarious, cackling mobs of their reputation, but would perch in reverence, one by one flying off in silence.

It was then I saw the Cooper’s Hawk, perched in an adjacent tree. On the hunt, looking for a meal. Another swirling flock transited the sky, and behind it, the hawk leaped into the air. With zig-zagging aerobatics, he charged into the black mass. A twist, a turn, a swoop, a dive, the incredibly agile bird flew through the frigid air. The hawk returned to the tree empty-handed, awaited the next opportunity. It was so cold outside, I thought, to fly so quickly through the air. It must be uncomfortable, to say the least, yet there was no choice if a hawk wanted to survive. To live. To thrive in this natural state. Conflicting thoughts slapped at me from either side of my brain. Oh, the poor starlings. I didn’t want to witness another killed today. Yet, there is the hawk, an equally admirable and well-liked avian friend. I did not want to hasten his demise either.

The thoughts would swirl around my aged and feeble brain for days. Perhaps I would find a place to leave a dish of water, in the event this scenario were repeated. Perhaps I could make some kind of hatch that would open to allow a trapped bird to escape. I still can’t stop thinking of the Starling, looking out the window at freedom. So close, and yet denied. The vertical Collide-Escape stripes on the windows looking like prison bars.

Another flock of starlings headed for the Gathering Tree. The hawk was airborne again.

“Everyone is welcome.” My heartfelt mantra seemed simplistic and shallow. I’m feeding the feral cat with a small dish, situated just thirty feet from the pallet pile that serves as dining table for the sparrows. How do those things reconcile?

There are no rules for such things. Cats will eat the sparrows. Hawks will eat the starlings. The cat lives and the hawk lives and the starlings live with this knowledge. I am trying to bring myself closer to their world. A world not bound by emotional ramblings and Disneyesque fantasy. Then I realize that I can be this me, and feel these things, and mourn for the starlings while cheering for the hawk. Really quite simple, if you don’t overthink it.

Everyone is welcome.

I guess that includes the sentimental, childish man who will give Indian burials to dead birds, feed feral cats, and feel sorry for the hawk in the cold.

We are, truly, all in this together.

Bath Time For Starlings

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Page Two

This is the second of a two-part journal entry. For the backstory leading to this, read the previous post “The birds, the bees, the cat, the possum and the people”. I realize both posts are quite lengthy, and apologize for that. I could have broken it into four posts, but wanted to maintain a good continuity.

Paz

Okay, so here’s this possum caught in a live-catch trap and it’s ten o’clock in the morning so the sun is beating down on the black plastic trash bag which covers the back half of the trap to camouflage and conceal it. I seriously doubt this possum is what the Market Manager was intent on catching. I think it wandered over here in the night, probably from the wild areas between here and the Hudson River. He had said they thought there were raccoons roosting in the Black Horse farm building.

Now, there are two more qualifiers that influence or explain my following actions. One is another part of my personal philosophy, made almost respectable by being a quote from Charles Dickens. In his story “A Christmas Carol”, the main character Ebenezer Scrooge has survived a night with the spirits compelling him to change his selfish ways and to open his heart to the world, particularly those less fortunate. When he awakens to find he has been granted the opportunity to live and pursue good works, he is overwhelmed with joy. And humility. Realizing the error of his ways, he breaks into a brief song to the tune of “All Around The Mulberry Bush”;

I don’t know anything.

I never did know anything.

But now I KNOW that I don’t know.

All on Christmas morning.

So that’s item one, where I admit I have no idea what it is that I don’t know. I bear this in mind always, along with a teaching from Richard Bach’s book “Illusions”: Everything you know could be wrong. I’m just doing the best I can with what I have.

The other qualifier may be difficult for me to describe. I know that seems odd coming from a wordy poet, but it’s a feeling deep in my soul that I must try to relate. I have this relationship with the Universe. The Great Cosmos I call it. If you’ve read anything of substance at ACZ, you’ll know I feel as insignificant as one could possibly be in a giant universe. Just a speck. Less than that. Not even a grain of sand on a beach, but a chip off a grain of sand in a limitless expanse of space. At the same time, I feel part of it all, like the grain of sand. Every grain of sand matters, and is needed to make a beach. No one grain of sand could be proved to be more important, more significant, more worthy than the next. Herein lies my value in my relationship with the Universe. I am equal. Equal to every grain of sand and every tree. Every human on the planet and every other animal from the blue whale to the black gnat. Equal to every planet and satellite, every comet and meteor. To every last bit of every last inch of an immeasurable Universe, I am part of it all. My solemn agreements, my silent prayers, if you will, are directly between me and the Universe. We have a close and inexorable bond. Therefore, I answer only to the Cosmos. As I describe what follows, there are a hundred optional actions and endings. Some people may vehemently espouse their versions of what is right, what is not. What is fair to wildlife, what is duty to humankind. What is callous and cruel, what is kindness and caring. Sorry folks, this is between me and my Cosmos.

My first step is to open the trap. Show the possum the door. Touch the ground as if she’s a trained dog. I speak softly in a sort of baby talk. “Come on. You can come out now.” In my best effort at Disneyesque fantasy, I anticipate the possum will walk out. Perhaps wink at me over its shoulder as it makes its escape. Well, that didn’t happen. I suppose possum has never seen “Bambi” or “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. In her cornered, trapped, fearful defensive place, possum sees a giant animal, twenty times her size, trying to dig her out to kill and eat her. Reality knocks on my brain’s door and says “As long as you hang around the trap, she’ll stay frozen in the rear corner under the trash bag. GO AWAY!” Liberation of the possum the primary goal, I heed this advice and disappear, foregoing the opportunity to bask in the glory of watching the culmination of my efforts, the gleeful trotting off of the former captive.

I give it a while but I’m fascinated with the possum and curious and impatient as the rings deep within my spirit that remain a ten-year-old boy. I check the trap, and she’s still huddled in the corner, waiting for darkness, probably. I tried tipping the trap up and dumping her out. Unceremonious but effective if it worked. It did not. She hung onto the trap as if it was her home. Okay, I go away again for a while. Half an hour later, she still hasn’t moved. Okay, I grab a short stick and have the stick prod her from the back part of the trap so she’ll move toward the door. No dice. She’s not afraid of a stick, and the corner under the trash bag feels like the safest safety available to her. If I was at home I’d carry the whole trap out into the woods, put the open door up against some dense cover, and walk away confidently, content the animal would eventually walk out of the trap. Here at the Market, I don’t want to get caught undoing the trapping, so I’m trying to be a little stealthy.

“Alright. If Guy from Market comes around now you’re as good as dead, so it’s time to go, like it or not.” I thought-transfer this to the possum to apologize in advance for the somewhat rough and rude action to follow. I grabbed a piece of threaded metal rod from the shop at work. In hindsight, I should have used the broom handle. I pushed the rod through the trash bag at the back of the trap to nudge her. This just made her redouble her defensive stance. So I broke down and pushed harder. “Come on.” I’m speaking out loud in my talking-to-animals-and-babies voice, “You gotta get out of there!” I pushed on her more. Re-positioned the rod. Prodded her again. Assertively, I pushed against her to literally shove her out of the trap and she finally moved. She needed another prod and then, yes, success! She saw the opening or decided it was less risk or discomfort, and she trotted out of the trap and across the gravelly ground, disappearing beneath a stack of pallets behind the buildings. I hurriedly reset the trap to appear nothing had sprung it.

I felt pretty good about my liberation of the trapped animal for about a minute or so. That’s when I saw the baby. Yep, baby possum. Almost naked, it was probably a week or so old. It looks like a newborn kitten in that first week when they can’t even walk but try to move in stumbling fashion. It was lying in the open in the direct sun, about a foot away from the closest part of the pallet pile. At first my brain thought it had crawled out of its nest, looking for mother while she was incarcerated. I looked beneath the pallets and metal carts for signs of traffic or a nest. Wait a minute. Brain catching up. Hey, opossums are marsupials. The baby would have been carried in Mother’s pouch. Oh no. She had dropped this one as she ran away in self defense. This thing was tiny. As small as any kitten I’ve seen born, and yet baby possums complete their development in the pouch. This one barely had half a coat of thin, fine fur, and was probably just about blind.

Then it made the tiniest noise. You might imagine a newborn kitten trying to meow for its mother. Sometimes their mouths open and no sound comes out. Sometimes a breathy squeak. Eventually, they learn to “mew”. Possums don’t meow. I don’t know what repertoire they have, but the only sound I’ve ever heard come from a possum is a hiss, like an angry cat. I guess that’s what baby possum was trying, but it came out as just the shortest burst. As if you were trying to demonstrate the sound a “K” makes without using your breathing, you know? Well I figured baby is calling Mom, so after placing baby out of the sun and beneath a cart, I too make K noises, hoping to attract mother’s attention to return for the foundling. After a minute, I go away to give her the opportunity to do so. The ten-year-old needs to check the situation every two minutes. The wildlife liberator knows you should give it twenty. It’s now midday, and the time of the hour at which I’d break for lunch. One last check on the orphan. Still there. Still bobbing its tiny head, moving its tiny feet almost ineffectively.  Still barking for Mother. “Let the Cosmos handle it.” I say, probably aloud, and I brush the sparrows off the Funbus and head out for lunch. Possum has a quiet spell to come back for her kid, and I can keep ten-year-old Me from obsessing over the orphan.

Lunch does not go so well. I can’t stop thinking of the orphan. I know I can’t save and raise a newborn possum, but I could probably make it feel warm and safe until its passing. I bail on lunch. I buy a pint of whole milk at the convenience store, and head for Rite-Aid to buy an eye dropper for feeding. Rite-Aid does not sell eye droppers, by the way. Maybe no one does any more. Everything like it is a graduated syringe so you can measure your baby’s liquid Tylenol and squirt it into their mouth. I search long and hard. I ask Jim The Employee to help. No eye dropper. Now I am looking for ear drops or Mercurochrome. Bottles with eye droppers. I’ll buy that and wash the dropper out. Nope. Nothing has a dropper any more. Finally, I purchase a syringe bulb, a nasal aspirator, thinking it’s at least soft-ish. So armed, I return to work. I’m ready to warm the milk and offer it to the orphan. I’m thinking I will put it in my shirt pocket. It’ll be warm and in a “pouch” and might even be fooled into a sense of normalcy, comfort, security for the matter of mere hours I expect the thing to live without its own mother.

At the spot where I’d last seen the naked, wriggling baby, there was nothing. I spent quite some time on hands and knees, looking everywhere the wobbling, toddling tiny thing could have moved to. I made a few K noises, listened intently for the tiny whisper of a bark. Nothing.

And so my tale anticlimactically draws to a close. What happened to Baby Possum will forever remain a mystery. I’d like to think Mother retraced her steps, looking for the “missing one”. Or perhaps she heard the tiny thing’s tiny bark. Mothers are in-tuned to such things.

Down at the Hudson River, less than a quarter-mile from here, I’ll often see Bald Eagles. Majestic birds we almost lost with our penchant for killing things, in this case via DDT in pesticides. Eagles are scavengers. Here in my parking lot, crows abound. Grackles and Jays, too. Perhaps one of these had found a healthy meal.

That afternoon I stood on the back dock.  As I looked out, I saw Cat sitting under a car. Cat looked me in the eye, and I looked back. “Hi kitty.” I said, which hitherto had the immediate effect of making her run. She sat and looked at me. She looked away, then back again. She seemed relaxed. Now that winter is over, I can no longer fill the dish.

You see, we need to be vigilant about vermin here.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

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