With a busy day ahead, I set out early to walk the dog. It’s dark, with just a faint glow in the east heralding the soon-to-rise sun. There’s a slight autumnal chill in the air. I let Maisie go in the off-lead area. She almost disappears in the darkness, becomes a faint ghost-like apparition as she sprints around on the wet grass.
I put her back on the lead and we walk down the limestone paths through the rehabilitated bush. This area was a golf course not that long ago. Now its trees reach up to the brightening sky. In the early morning light, the dense shrubs are slowly becoming visible. A noise in a small tree to my right makes me and the dog jump. Maisie stops and stares at the tree, her ears as pricked as is possible for Labrador ears. Her nose twitches. I follow her gaze and look hard into the gloomy branches. A possum! It’s a possum! It is peering back at me from a fork in the tree a few metres above the ground, its bushy tail falling against the tree trunk. A part of me wants to stay and watch it, but I feel like an intruder on its early morning activities. Besides, I have a dog with me. ‘Come on Maisie,’ I say.
Possums have adapted well to suburbia, as this sandwich muncher demonstrates. (Photo from Pixabay)
We walk on, but I carry with me the pure delight of having seen the possum. I’ve never seen one here before. I’ve been told they are here and have seen signs. Even out the front of my house, below the Cape lilac tree that dominates my yard, I have seen scat. At first I thought it was rat poo but then I figured out is was most likely possum poo. In case you are wondering, the difference is in the rounded ends. Rat poo tends to be pointy on the ends, whereas possum poo is more rounded on the ends. The point is, I had long thought there were probably possums in the neighbourhood, even though I’d never seen one. I had tried shining a torch up into the branches of the Cape lilac, looking for eyes looking back at me, but to no avail. Perhaps I had mistaken the scats and the pellets were left by rats after all. I had certainly seen rats.
But here it was. Proof. A common brush tail possum. They are found across Australia and are one of the native mammals that have adapted well to suburbia. They are so common that the word is part of their name. But in over twenty years of regularly walking around this area, never before had I seen one. Common or not, I was delighted to make its acquaintance.
I walk the same limestone path in the daylight and wonder where my possum is. Is it watching me pass? Or is it curled up somewhere safe sleeping? Does it have friends? A mate perhaps? I hope so. Although they are generally solitary creatures, I hope there are more than just one possum around here. The chances are good. If the habitat is suitable, then it’s likely there are more.
Despite the cats and dogs in the surrounding suburbia, despite the hundreds of people that walk these paths, despite the kids hooning past on bikes and the loud chatter of walkers, despite the nearby traffic, there are possums here. The knowledge sits in me like a comfort.
The redrafting of my book continues. In one way it’s hard work, but in another way it’s sheer delight to be so immersed in the research and storytelling. In the most exciting of exciting news, my editor has walked me through the timeline from now until publication (mid 2023) and we have begun discussing cover design. Something about it feels so very real, the turning of something that has only existed in my head into a book that others will be able to hold in their hands. And read. (Of course!) If you, like me, love the physical form of ‘real’ books, you will enjoy my creative friend Ann-Marie Anderson-Mayes’ blog post on The Tactile Pleasure of Books.
Thanks for reading,
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