July 26, 2013

A gardening day


It’s been a beautiful day here.  Outdoors.  I’ve spent far too much of it indoors.  What is this cruel thing known as earning a living?  And why do I have to do it?  There are days for high adventure and doughty hero(in)es and wicked magicians and allies that fly* and there are days for chucking it all in and rushing out into the garden and vying valiantly with the ground elder and the enchanter’s frelling nightshade [sic] and the thrice blasted comfrey which is taking over the universe although the two-and-a-half-times blasted Japanese anemones are giving it a run for its money.  There’s also an Evil nineteen-times-blasted Vine which I’ve forgotten the name of which is trying to do a Sleeping-Beauty’s-castle trick only without the thorns, and I’m forever having to hack it back before it swallows a hellhound** or blocks the door.  THANK YOU, MY PREDECESSOR, YOU TWIT.  THANK YOU SO MUCH.  The ground elder and the enchanter’s nightshade—and the goose grass, and the willow herb, and the multiply-blasted wild yellow poppies and that ooooh-little-me? black-leaved violet which may be the worst thug of the lot, and the nettles, and the docks, and the spurge, and the scarlet pimpernel which is orange, and the groundsel, and the speedwell, and the land cress, and half a billion other bleeping volunteers—they’re all life or bad husbandry or the bad husbandry of your neighbours.***  The known ratbags† that someone actually PLANTED you’re all WHHHYYYYYYYYYYY?

The day did not get off to a calm, well-organised start when having found myself still awake well after dawn I reset the alarm . . . and only by good luck woke up for no reason three minutes before Computer Angel Raphael arrived.  I had managed to stare disbelievingly at the clock, put my glasses on, stare disbelievingly some more, scream, scramble into one of the little cotton dresses that I wear instead of a dressing gown in hot weather, hastily sweep the floor†† and put the water on for tea when there was the knock on the door . . . and violent eruptions from critter crates.  I like a quiet beginning to the day, so I usually let Pav out for a few minutes to carom around the kitchen before I lock her up again with her breakfast and let the hellhounds out . . . but you can’t expect anyone to stay all silent and lying down when THERE IS AN EXCITING KNOCK ON THE DOOR.  So in fairness I let everyone out and . . . mayhem.†††  Fortunately Raphael has three small children.  Mayhem is his natural condition.

And then I had to WORK.  I had to WRITE SENTENCES.  With the sun streaming down and the temperature beautifully cool-warm or warm-cool—we even had a little rain last night.  Not a lot, but enough to let me bunk off WATERING and actually do some, you know, gardening.  I could have written more sentences.  But it’s going to get hot again and I’ll want to hide indoors and have somebody else’s high adventures.

There are good years and bad years in a garden.  This is probably one of my better years with the cottage garden:  to the extent that I have a plan, I want a miniature version of the big messy crowded romantic garden that we had at the old house.  There are glimpses of that this year‡ so long as you (a) squint‡‡ and (b) on no account leave the courtyard and penetrate into the surrounding jungle.  You’d be surprised at how much jungle you can manage, or rather, not manage, in a space about the size of Merry’s truck bed.  Granted Merry is a large pick-up truck, but this is not large in gardening terms.

I have some photos for you but first I have to tidy them up a little.

* * *

* and enchanted rose-bushes and hobs

** I think the hellterror would give as good as she got.  Hellhounds are too polite.

*** I’ve been threatening to stab to death with his own hand fork my neighbour over the facing wall for as long as I’ve lived here not only because of the staggering ugliness of the garden shed roof that pokes up above my wall and frells my view, but for the ground elder that races under his piece of wall to attack me.  Only he died recently.  Hmmm.  Maybe one of his other neighbours. . . .

† All right, I like Japanese anemones.  But I’d plant them in pots.

†† Three critters = sweep floor three times a day.  I don’t, of course, but I should.

††† Pav has jolted forward one of those developmental stages, the way little growing-up things do.  She (mostly) sits on demand.  She (mostly) does not pull on the end of her lead.  And she (mostly) listens to me.  I know, I know, not a bull terrier trait, but I’ve said before she’s a mutant.^  Usually when I’ve got her tucked under one arm I’m wearing jeans and she can do her whirring propeller legs trick and no harm done.  This morning in a little cotton frock was a different manner.  Shortly before I bled to death I fetched her out from under my arm, turned her over and said Stop.  That.  And she did the little forepaws by the face thing like someone raising their hands over their head because the bad guy has pulled a gun on them, and her face was all distressed, What?  What?  But I’m a bull terrier.  Oh . . . sob . . . I am a poor downtrodden misunderstood creature . . . all right.  And she stopped (mostly).  Now if only I could persuade her not to run through her entire electrifying range of noises while she’s waiting for her next meal.

^ The builder who thinks she’s too docile for a bull terrier would agree

‡ In the ‘if fate hands you lemons, make lemonade’ department, if you’re nailed at home due to streaming or possibly-streaming hellcritters . . . you could spend more time in your garden.

‡‡ Late afternoon is a good time to let people out into the courtyard because the sun will be right in their eyes.

Short Wednesday*



Be sure to set your meeting times with your advisor at the same time as some activity you wish to avoid. That way you can truthfully beg off by saying you have a prior engagement.

::falls down laughing::


The prior does sound very scary! are you going to share some more about your meeting with him?

It would help if he were shorter.  I was thinking that there is already Scary Man at Forza** but at least he’s short.  SO I SCARE EASILY.  THIS IS NOT NEWS.  But even in the interests of witnessing which is another awkward part of this Christianity package deal I’m not sure that aside from privacy issues there’s much to tell you that would make sense in public:  one on one tends to be that way for a reason.  Oh, well, speaking of awkward and public:  one of the things we talked quite a bit about is community.  This is another thing that walking across that threshold—or being prodded over it by a Son of God who feels you’ve been goofing off long enough—lands you in.  Community.  It’s not that there aren’t legitimate vocations for walling yourself up in a narrow cell and spending the rest of your life praying and having bread and gruel poked through a slot at intervals*** but these are rare and it’s not what I have.  I have the common or garden variety belief system endowment, which includes the belonging to a community requirement.  Eep.  Ugh.  I don’t like people in groups.  My natural lack of talent for relating in groups is of course enhanced, not to say aggravated, by doing something intensely self-involved and solitary for a living.  New skills.  Blugh.  New frelling skills.  So we talked about coping strategies.


Ah… you see, the faithful avoid Microsoft at all costs and worship at Apple!

You Apple-istas puzzle me.  I have an iPhone and an iPad . . . and they’re just as frelling frelled as anything PC, just differently.  Indeed, the archangels are coming tomorrow chiefly to strive with Astarte the iPad, not the PC laptop, which has mysteriously decided to work again, possibly because it heard me making the appointment with the angels.  Which means I need to go to bed so I can perform some facsimile of functional awakeness before noon tomorrow . . .

* * *

* Also frelling frelling frelling frell.  SUPERSHARP KNIVES ARE OVERRATED.  Sure, the as one might say cutting edge professional chef with the magic wrists and the reputation, probably needs a supersharp knife for his angelhair cabbage or her baroque-candelabra cantelope—or the poor sweating sous-chef producing cucumber posies to disguise the fact that their delivery of tiger nuts and fractal cauliflower^ has been hijacked by harpies—but us ordinary oafs at home?  I agree that blunt knives are a hazard because of the way they ricochet and gouge chunks out of the plaster/cupboard/your arm, but just manual-sharpener-quality sharp knives are splendidly adequate.  I was ordering a bunch of standard kitchen-supply stuff from a web site shop I use about twice a year and since the arrival of Pav I seem to be spending an unholy amount of time chopping things and I had decided I would like a second little paring-or-thereabouts-sized knife.  They had one of these supersharp things on sale so I bought the freller.  It arrived in its own sheath.  And it’s a good thing too since it cuts things from several feet away.  You’re still getting the chicken out of the refrigerator and there’s a faint whistling noise and you’re bleeding.  I need all these fingers in their original confinguration, thanks.  You can’t wash it unless you want to turn your kitchen sponge or dishcloth into a mop head.  You can nervously hold it under hot water for a while.  And watch it trying to slice water.  It hisses if I open the drawer it’s in.  All I wanted was another paring knife.  I probably need a special license if I want to dispose of this menace, and SAS operatives are expensive.  Keeping critters is a never-ending saga of astonishment and peril.^^

^ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/04/weird-vegetables_n_3210027.html#slide=2408323 May I just say I’ve only never heard of two of them, that I regularly eat most of them except samphire which is disgusting, I’m a dedicated fan of fractal cauliflower and sunchokes, and that I don’t miss fiddleheads at all?

^^ Like the fellow with twenty-four spikes in his face who came over to tell me how gorgeous Pav is and how much he likes bull terriers.+  Oh.  Ah.  Well, that’s nice. —Does he take them out at night?  How does he EAT?  What happens if he wants to kiss someone?++  Does sneezing hurt?

+ This encounter happened in the New Arcadia churchyard.  There was a group of blokes chatting.  I didn’t look at the other ones.

++ They run away?

** At least I didn’t bleed on any bell ropes tonight.  Or at least I didn’t get caught bleeding on any bell ropes tonight.

*** One hopes that there is sufficient allowance and arrangement for certain refuse and debris egress as well.  I still worry about laundry.

Microsoft Outlook. And spiritual direction.


This is not going to be my most organised blog post.

I had my first meeting with my new SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR today.  Scary.

And, from the sublime to the ridiculous, I’ve just wasted over an hour wrestling with frelling frelling FRELLING Microsoft Outlook, which has (apparently) decided it’s not speaking to America.  Eh, what do you want with those colonials? it says, shuffling its component crapware.  —YOU’RE AN AMERICAN PROGRAMME, I reply.  YOU’RE A CRUMMY AMERICAN PROGRAMME BUT YOU’RE AN AMERICAN PROGRAMME.  PROGRAM.  WHATEVER.

Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries, it responds.  America is not on the menu today.  Go away.*

ARRRRRRRRGH.  I don’t even know how long it would have taken me to notice except that I was supposed to talk to Hannah tonight after I got home from my FIRST MEETING WITH MY NEW SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR.  I’d hurtled a startlingly wide variety of hellcritters—the tireder I am, the more of them there are, I’ve noticed this often—and was creating critter dinner.  Hannah emailed to check we were still on** and I emailed back that we were . . . and then it was fifteen minutes past when she should have rung and she hadn’t, so I emailed her again, and five minutes after that I received another email from her saying that evidently I wasn’t there*** and we’d have to reschedule . . . whereupon I frantically phoned her while discovering, phone tucked into my shoulder to leave my hands free, that my emails to her were still sitting in my outbox.  With every other email to America I’ve written in the last twenty-four hours. ARRRRRRRRRRGH.  And none of them will open so I could, perhaps, paste them in new windows or send them by GM-enhanced pigeon post or telepathy or something because Outlook won’t let me open them, claiming that it has ALREADY BEGUN SENDING THEM.  In some cases twenty-three hours ago.

And here I thought it was trying to be a good day.  The temperature has dropped enough for all of us to throw open all our windows and start as it were feverishly fanning since it’s supposed to get hot again almost immediately—and a little of that rain would be nice†—but at least the idea of putting on long trousers to go to my first meeting with my spiritual director didn’t make me cry.

So I’ve been at this Christianity lark for ten months now.  The first eight months or so were all about the run up to Lent and Easter—Christmas is fine, Christmas is all jolly, except for the long shadow of events to come—Easter, I was worried about Easter.  But I got through that and . . . gleep.  It’s like looking up from picking your way down a very narrow stony path with a chasm on one side and dragons on the other and realising that it’s not just dragons and bottomless ravines but you’re lost in a universe-sized jungle AND YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHERE YOU’RE GOING.  Where does the narrow stony path go?  Is that where you want to go?  Is there a beautiful sunset and a cup of tea at the end of it or a larger dragon?

The monks have a little box tucked into a corner of one of their web site pages saying that they offer spiritual direction and to get in touch if you are interested.  I read this to mean if you’re another monk or a monk-novice or a priest or a serious plugged-in type Christian but Aloysius said that no, they took ordinary clueless kittle-cattle as well.††  Oh.  And he encouraged me to contact them—write to the abbot, he said.

I wrote—emailed—the abbot.  And he emailed by return frelling electron saying that he was about to be gone for a fortnight but to contact the prior.

Ah.  The prior.  Yes.  Hmm.

I’m afraid of the prior.  When Aloysius took me to the abbey for the first time last autumn to prove that the monks were friendly and that the public was welcome, the prior was having a rant about some piece of the world that did not work properly.  I listened to him and thought yes, totally, you’re right and . . . is there possibly a small dark hole I could crawl into before your fiery eye falls on me?

You can see where this is going, right?  Ultimately the abbot decided that the correct spiritual director for me is . . . the prior.


I’ve been sort of terrifiedly looking forward to today.  But he didn’t singe me or anything.  I’m exhausted but . . . more than a little inspired.  So I guess it is a good day.  But Outlook is still a rabid rotting ratbag.

* * *

* Ithilien wrote

Give me SHADOWS and go away.

 I didn’t say that! Although I could have thought it rather loudly…

Very loudly!  Very, very loudly!  Not that I MINDED!  If you do it right your books are MUCH more interesting than you are!

For the record, SHADOWS is even more fabulous than all previous snippets led me to believe. Y’all should totally go and pre-order it now.


^ Note that she’s safely in Greenland.  I can’t hold a gun to her head or anything.+

+ Although it may be true that I’m holding her grandmother’s opal and peacock feather brooch hostage.  Never mind how I acquired it.

** Which is my opportunity to pull myself together and say, oh!  Yes!  Of course! as if I was expecting it.  If I don’t talk to Hannah for more than a week I start feeling flimsy and as if I have pieces missing, but I am notorious even to myself for writing things dutifully in my diary and then forgetting to look at my diary.

*** Ie I hadn’t looked at my diary again

† Mrs Redboots

You either sleep very soundly or are in the wrong part of the UK! It was absolutely sheeting down in the middle of the night here in the Capital, quite literally a solid wall of water! And lots and lots of lovely thunder, and I think there was lightning, too – funny how it penetrates closed eyelids – but I was trying to go to sleep, having been rudely awakened by rain beating in on me so I had to sit up and close the windows.

We haven’t had a spot of rain.  A speckle, a mote, an atom.  Stop selfishly keeping it all up there in London.

† This may not have been his exact phrase.



Hottest day in seven years.  Okay, that’s not going to go down in the history books BUT IT’S STILL VERY HOT.  VERY.  HOT.  And I want it to go away.  And it’s not going to.  Well, we may get some thunderstorms tonight.  They will (a) not provide a useful amount of rain* and (b) they will lower the temperature less than, in terms of human suffering, they will raise the humidity.  Moan.

Despite a certain slippage of hellhound digestive stability it’s been a splendid weekend.  Those visitors I’ve been whinging about last week were blog mod Ithilien and her husband Faramir and they were lovely.**  When we were first arranging this visit I said that I could blow off church on Sunday but I was going to the monks Saturday night.  I’ll show you where the grocery stores are and Third House has a perfectly good kitchen, see you Sunday.  Ithilien said briskly, That’s fine.  Give me SHADOWS and go away.  So we were all happy.***

Sunday, partly due to Chaos dragging me all over Hampshire in the small hours, did not go quite as planned, but we did manage to go into Mauncester for the McKinley Walking Tour of the old city, including a thrilling climb up a gatehouse tower for an exciting VIEW OF THE CITY!! as promised at the foot of the stairs and which proved on arrival to be mainly 1960s apartment blocks and a glimpse of the high street.  Hmm.  Faramir spotted the sign.  I know I’ve been up there but not in yonks upon yonks and I’d forgotten all about it.  This may be why.  But it was a pretty nice hot summer day on Sunday:  not the brain-destroying torridity of the last week.  And again today.  Gaaah.  Sunday night we had dinner at The Questing Beast where they’d already sold out of all their real food—tourists, feh—and so we had starters and hamburgers because that’s what was left.  But the company was good.  Better yet when Southdowner† arrived for mod solidarity.

So I put Ithilien and Faramir back on the train this morning, siiiiigh, and the temperature immediately rose by twenty degrees.  Come back!  All is forgiven!  They’re going to Greenland or some damn place that’s cold.  I am SO JEALOUS.

The funny thing is that my voice lesson today was rather good.  Possibly being too hot to think has a positive effect on someone who is always making up detailed and extensive lists of what’s wrong.  I was writing to a musical friend tonight that I swear I do my best home singing not practising at the piano with the music instructively in front of me, but out hurtling with creatures where I’m just singing.  Feh.  Also gah.  At one point today Nadia said, that’s quite a good sound.  Now, we’re going to sing that again and this time you’re going to listen.  I listened.  She said:  that’s a much nicer sound.  Even I could hear that some of the edge was gone:  that there was more softness and warmth and less blood-letting blade.  Nadia said, that’s a kinder sound.  Be kind to yourself. . . .

Sigh.  Not that Nadia is all sweetness and light.  She’s still making me get on with this frelling German thing.  Although singing in a foreign language has its advantages.  You need to know what the words mean, of course, to sing them with some attempt at suitable dynamics, but I like the literal translations—when you are given what the words mean rather than some tidied-up and frequently CLUNKING English ‘poem’—although either will serve to disguise whether the original Italian/German/White Ruthenian poem or lyric was diabolically awful or not.  For example.  Linden Lea.  I adore Linden Lea and I’m thrilled to be singing it.  But the original words?  Who is this bozo W Barnes who wrote them?  THE LYRICS ARE TERRIBLE.  I was vaguely aware of this of course, long before I started to learn it, but I love Vaughan Williams anyway and Linden Lea is such an icon.  I could hold at arm’s length any frissons of unease about the text . . . I continued to manage this trick even when I did start to learn to sing it . . . but memorizing the thing has proved too much for my suspension of critical disbelief.  GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.  Maybe I should memorise it in French.  Or White Ruthenian.

I still love the song.  And since over-intellectualising is bad for my singing anyway it’s good practise shutting my brain off.

* * *

* Earlier they were saying we were going to get two feet in half an hour (or so) and it would cause total flooding because, of course, the ground is brick-hard and that’s a lot of rain.  However at present they’ve changed their minds and we’re going to get almost no rain.^  But they could change their minds back.  It’s happened before.

^ Just enough to knock down my dahlias.  The ones I’ve managed to tie up will snap at string level.  The delphiniums are over, but a truly engaged storm will be creative:  it could crush my snapdragons and rip my clematis off the walls and stomp them.

** Also, they brought me champagne.  That’s a really excellent enhancement of any natural loveliness.

*** I’m not sure what poor Faramir did.  Peter was playing bridge.

† She claimed to have come for Ithilien and Faramir, but I know better.  She came for Pavlova.  Whom she spent twenty minutes or so being ravished by while I took hellhounds out for a late-night catch-up-while-it’s-relatively-cool hurtle.  Having invited her into the cottage, thrust a hyperactivated Pav at her and bolted out, I spent the twenty minutes worrying about all the TERRIBLE HABITS Pav has developed after ten months with me that she was demonstrating in all their appalling glory. . . . I got back and came cringing into the kitchen where, as I recall, Pav was dancing on Southdowner’s head, Southdowner cooperatively sitting on the floor to make the process easier.  Southdowner said, she’s lovely, you’ve done very well with her.^

::hellgoddess beams::

She’s also beautiful, continued Southdowner.  You must show her.

Hellgoddess stops beaming.  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.^^

^ Have I told you about the builder over the road who has a full-size bull terrier and disapproves of Pav whom he considers TOO WELL MANNERED FOR A BULL TERRIER?  Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

^^ I can hear Olivia laughing like a drain from here.  Olivia has been through the showing thing with Southdowner.  Southdowner is relentless.  Maybe Pav could develop a squint or an irresistible compulsion to bite judges’ ankles or something?

Opossums! – a guest post by Sarah


I should mention first thing that while I do technically live in Los Angeles, I am on the very inner edge of it, within flirting distance of the Angeles National Forest.  This is extremely handy for my photography, as I have a wealth of beautiful nature within easy driving distance*.  The only downside to the location is it means my husband has a nasty commute to his city job#, but it’s brought us so many delightful new things.  Like squirrels who live in trees in my yard, who are so fat and lazy they are almost tame, unending streams of birds coming to feast at the feeders^, fresher air, a quieter pace and just less of that scummy, grimy Los Angeles feel.+

A few days ago I was in my yard when I noticed that my neighbor’s dog Gus seemed extremely focused on something.  I followed his gaze and realized there were two opossums walking along the fence.  After an experience when I was 14 with rescuing an abandoned baby opossum and finding a rehabilitater to take him, I have LOVED the little creatures.  I would love to keep one as a pet, as some do, but in the US it’s illegal to keep any wildlife as pets without special permits, even if you come across foundling babies through completely honest means.  Because of this, when I see opossums, I light up and want to watch them as long as possible.  Gus, naturally, did not share this view.  He charged the fence, and while they were out of his reach, they knew they’d been seen and were terrified… which meant they held absolutely, perfectly still. But in the process of him trying to eat them, he’d managed to knock a plank of wood out of the fence, which meant there was now there was a hole the fence as well as opossums on top.  Not good.

Spotted!   I'll just freeze here forever

Spotted! I’ll just freeze here forever

My neighbor, Donna, and I took all the dogs into the house, hoping the opossums would leave once the threat went away, and then Gus would have no reason to push more boards out.  That part isn’t his fault, the fence along that stretch is old and really quite rotted.  A strong breeze could probably push a board out.  After a while, the opossums were still there, and I decided to walk to the other side of the fence and see what repairing it would look like.  As I did, I looked up at the pair and noticed one seemed quite fat… but there were tiny little tails wrapped around her belly.  She wasn’t fat, she was carrying babies!

Not fat, just carrying a ton of babies.

Not fat, just carrying a ton of babies.

While I was on the outside of the fence, something happened in the yard, out of my field of vision.  I’m still not entirely sure what occurred, but suddenly Gus was at the fence, barking and jumping… and he either finally managed to grab the female, or she fell, and I saw his jaws close around her torso.

I screamed, and shouted at him to stop, which he did, amazingly.  That’s a WHOLE lot of instinct being overcome right there.  I tore around the fence as fast as I could, to see Gus standing bewilderedly over the opossum’s prone body, and, oh sweet heavens, babies were scattering everywhere.  There seemed to be a hundred of them, all crawling as quick as their little legs could carry them, and all in different directions.  Frantically, I tore off the hoodie I’d been wearing, started grabbing babies and piling them inside it.  Mercifully, it turns out that they make a noise… kind of a chirping noise for lack of a better word, although it honestly sounds more like a soft sneeze.  But they all started making it when they found themselves suddenly not attached to mom anymore; I assume they do this so their mom can locate them more easily.  In this case, it helped me locate them.

It felt like forever, but I managed to gather all the babies I saw or heard into my hoodie, which I was clutching to my chest.  I checked on the mom, who was still lying corpse-like on the ground… but her nostrils were moving.  She was literally playing ‘possum.  There didn’t seem to be any puncture marks or blood, so I hoped that she would come around soon.  As I was doing this, I noticed that after a brief shifting around of bodies when each new sibling was stuffed into my hoodie, the babies were all quiet.  None of them were crying, trying to escape, or hardly even moving.  I tentatively lifted a corner of the hoodie to look in on them, and they looked absolutely peaceful and content.  Apparently being clutched in a hoodie to a human chest is enough like a pouch that they all felt safe.**  At that point I had to just stand still for a few minutes and let my incredibly high adrenaline levels lower a bit.  While I tried to slow my heart down, I noticed that the male opossum was still sitting exactly where he had been on the fence, except now he was wearing an expression of horror.

Donna had heard the commotion, so she came out and I explained what had happened.  While we were talking, I saw the mother opossum crawling out through the new hole Gus had made in the fence.  My first thought, “Yay, mom is still alive!” was followed very quickly by, “Oh no, now I don’t know where mom is and I have all her babies.”  It had seemed like an awful lot of babies when I was racing around madly trying to grab them, but even when I took a count in a much calmer frame of mind, I was still seeing seven or eight heads.  They all kind of flow into each other, like a pile of noodles; it’s hard to get an accurate count.  These were certainly not newborns, they had fur and little nubs that would probably be teeth very soon, but they were clearly not old enough to be on their own yet.  They needed their mom.

I clung to the babies (loving them more and more every second, and cursing the laws that make it illegal to keep them), while Donne fixed the hole in the fence## and we decided what to do with them.  Obviously, getting them back to mom would be best.  We knew she was alive, or at least had been very recently, but there was no way of knowing where she had gone.  But the male was still there.  Eventually we reluctantly decided to set them on the ground, still in the hoodie so they’d hopefully stay together and not just wander off, and hope that either the male would take them, or at least alert the mother.  There are some thick bushes between the outside of our fence and the street, but there are a lot of cars that drive by, not to mention the host of animals who would enjoy a tasty baby opossum snack.  But it seemed like that was the only hope of getting them back to mom, so I set them down, though my heart was in my throat.  One of the babies started wandering off as soon as I set them down.  I watched and listened to him, thinking I’d put him back in the pile if he went too far.  But then he turned some magic corner into the brush… and completely disappeared.  He wasn’t even chirping.  I searched a long time in the area I’d last seen him, but he was gone.  I told myself that he’d probably just found a cozy, pouch-resembling little spot and was happily waiting for him mother’s return.  I really, really hoped that.

Very, very reluctantly I finally went back into the house, since I knew the mother definitely wouldn’t come back if I was hanging around.  All the dogs were on lockdown inside the house.  And while I waited, I googled.  I found a local Humane Society, confirmed they accept baby opossums, and would rehabilitate and release them; they would not be euthanized.  And I also consulted the internet on the likelihood of the mother coming back.  The internet was not hopeful that she would.

I gave the mother an hour, then went back to check on my bundle of babies.  The male was still there, looking at the pile but doing nothing.  The mother was nowhere to be seen.  I lifted a corner of the hoodie and the babies were still inside, making small noises of protest to having been disturbed.  But there was one still missing.  I looked for him again, but again, I couldn’t find him.  I hoped I’d merely miscounted the number of babies the first time I’d counted; that there were only ever seven, not eight, and that the last one had gone back in with his siblings.  Either way, I had to take care of the ones still there.

So I scooped them up again, and again they settled in right away and seemed to sigh with contentment in their makeshift pouch. And, I’ll be honest, I loved carrying that fuzzy bundle around.  Donna found a cat carrier of hers to lend me, so I put the babies, still wrapped up, inside and drove to the Humane Society.  The people at the Human Society were all extremely nice and caring, which made me feel better about turning the little creatures over.  Even though I’d known them for a very short time, I felt very bonded to them.  But I knew they’d be well taken care of, and eventually go on to live normal opossum lives.

My hands are REALLY small, so keep that in mind when imagining how small this baby is.

My hands are REALLY small, so keep that in mind when imagining how small this baby is.

I still worried that the one who had wandered off hadn’t found his way back and was still out there somewhere, but I didn’t know what else I could do about it, or even if he was actually missing.

Later that night, my husband came home, and we decided to eat dinner in the living room with the front door open since there was a nice breeze.  I was relating the whole opossum ordeal to him, and at the very moment when I was describing the chirping noise they make when they’re separated from their mom I heard it outside. Faint, but distinct.  I leaped up, grabbed a flashlight and tore out the door, honing in on the noise, and there he was.  Sitting alone in the middle of the yard, looking sorrier and more forlorn than any living creature ought to look.  I scooped him up immediately, and he gratefully burrowed into my arm, shoving his face in as far as it would go between my elbow and ribcage.

There were eight of them after all.
Luckily the Humane Society has emergency hours, so I was able to take the little guy over and reunite him with his brothers and sisters. They provided me with an ID number to call and check up on animals brought in, which I have since done, and all of them are doing VERY well. They’re happy, thriving and on track to be released back into the wild when they’re old enough. There is enough wilderness nearby that there will be no shortage of suitable places for them to be set free. I’m glad for them, although wistful, of course, about the little critters I fell in love with in a very short time.
And yes, I did think quite a bit about Jake and his dragon baby Lois as I was swaddling them against my chest, even if it was a tremendously less harrowing ordeal, I was not instantly in a great deal of legal trouble, and opossum babies don’t burn your skin. The two situations don’t really have all that much in common when you think about it, but Robin McKinley books don’t need a lot of encouragement to spring to my mind.
Now the neighbors are called me Saint Sarah of Assisi, a nickname I will be glad to wear.
* * *

*With ME, anything I plan on doing regularly has to be within easy driving distance.

#I truly feel bad that he has to drive through hell and back both ways every work day, but, as he says, it’s worth it to have such a wonderful place to come home to.

^Which my two cats LOVE.  The feeders are nicely situated directly outside the best cat perches, so it’s like kitty TV for them.  The only downside is HOW MUCH SEED they eat.  My word.

+While I realize intellectually that some people actually do enjoy living in the heart of LA, I cannot fathom what it would be like to be them.  We are from utterly different planets.

%There are two houses on my fenced-in lot, mine and my neighbors’. Between us all, we have four dogs and four cats, and we share the yard, so all the dogs get to play together.  It’s a pretty ideal situation.

~Gus: a beautiful specimen of  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Kelpie” .  He is a subset of the breed with a thicker, denser undercoat, giving him a fluffier appearance than you typically see.  There’s a name for his coat type, but for once, my memory and Google are both failing me.

##Donna has that how to fix things gene, which I did not receive.

* * *

Sarah Allegra is a fine art photographer and self portrait artist in Los Angeles, when she’s not busy aiding local wildlife and helping lost pets. If you don’t mind some occasional artistic nudity, you can read her blog here: http://sarahallegra.wordpress.com/


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