Wild Things

“Wild thing (bam, bam bomp!) You make my heart sing (bam, bam bomp!) You make everything … groovy.”

                                                ~ The Troggs

My sister reports from San Antonio that she has made friends with a neighborhood possum. She occasionally puts food out for it, mostly leftovers of some kind. Possums are omnivores, so they eat just about anything.

It reminds me that, during my teens, we found a baby possum, apparently abandoned, and took it in. Care fell primarily to my sister and me, and we named him O’Henry Opossum. At some point he may have died, or we could have donated him to the zoo, as we had the pet alligator my brother won in a coin-toss booth at the state fair where, at the same time, I won a duckling. It may not surprise you to hear that the duck and the ‘gator didn’t get along too well. It seems, somewhere in there, my brother won a chick that couldn’t resist pecking the much larger duckling at any opportunity. (Walt Disney would have been dismayed.)

We were taught early that wild creatures weren’t the same as pets, and we were to treat them differently from the gerbils, hamsters or parakeets that we had. Wild things are most likely covered in fleas or ticks and equally likely to have some kinds of disease or infection. They aren’t vetted (double meaning) unless you take them in and have them checked out. So, I was a little surprised when I heard that my sister was feeding a wild possum, but realize that we all crave a connection to nature.

I feed the birds, and inadvertently, the squirrels and raccoons through the seed swept onto the ground by Doves, Jays and Flickers. Creatures also visit (or reside in) the compost pile where they help to stir it up. We have a few bunnies that live under the shed, haunt the bushes along the fence lines and entertain the dog by scampering across the lawns to get attention.

We seem to need that contact, whether with actual wild creatures or domesticated substitutes. Just look at Facebook, awash with videos of dogs, cats, deer and baby creatures of every variety. There’s literally nothing as cute a baby hippopotamus frolicking with mom in their pool at the zoo.

We idealize the prehistoric domestication of wolves to facilitate hunting. We think of cats being tamed to hunt vermin that infested our domiciles. Though, I believe the actuality is that we need the company of others, other creatures that see the world differently from us. They usually rely on us for something — food, shelter, protection, or maybe just companionship. And we need them as an extension of our family, our clan, our tribe.

This world can be pretty crazy at times (or maybe always.) We each need a safe spot, a safe place, a safe companion to weather our storms. Some humans can fill that bill, but I believe we also want something more personal, more intimate and more accepting. Critters in our circles develop a simple set of expectations of us, and we reciprocate with a simple set of expectations of them. People are more complicated and less reliable. Even cats, as independent and intolerant as they are, can be counted on when needed. Few people consistently meet that goal.

If you find a person in your life that is as reliable as a dog, companionable as a cat, or warm and fuzzy as a small wild thing, hold tight to them. Meanwhile, keep an eye out peeled for that baby possum.

“We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden”

~ Joni Mitchell, “Woodstock”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s