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Opossum Bones

 

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My three-year-old son and I take a walk through a fern forest in South Florida. Cyprus groves, swampy waters, tadpoles, and millions of ferns surround us. The 250-acre preserve is not far from our home. I come here when my soul needs restoration and revival. To look in all directions and see nothing human made is healing. I want my son to see the “real” Florida. I want him to know our world outside of concrete freeways, suburban sprawl, and the seemingly endless variety of shopping lots dedicated to constant consumption.

We walk through the forest.

Taber picks up sticks and rocks. He plays. The sun shines. It’s quiet. We are the only two people to be seen. Endless green colors punctuate a clear blue, March morning sky. Two hawks fly above us and tears fill my eyes. I’m so grateful for this moment.

We stay much longer than anticipated and nap time is forthcoming. So, I pick Taber up and put him on my shoulders in order to expedite our walk back to the car. We find a quiet pathway and stop to admire a gopher turtle. Then he sees the bones.

“What’s that mama?”

From his perch on my shoulders he points to bones and fur, remnants of a dead opossum. I stop so we can both look clearly. It’s the first dead animal — outside of the lizards our cat occasionally hunts — that he’s seen.

“Those are bones. The bones of an opossum.”

“What happened?”

“It looks like a bobcat ate most the opossum. Then the vultures and ants ate what was left, so only bones remain.”

“That made the bobcat happy, but the opossum sad.”

“Yes.”

We walk again down the trail. Then, suddenly he wants to go back and see it one more time. I turn around and we look — this time in silence.

On the drive home, Taber asks me to tell him “the story of the opossum.” The juxtaposition of the bobcat’s happiness and the opossum’s sadness leave him in a pensive mood.

It may be tempting to tell the story from only one perspective — to emphasize only one animal’s point of view. But life involves cultivating the capacity to see more deeply. Speaking clearly and calmly about the cycles of eating/death/life offer up lessons for all of us.

We still talk about those opossum bones.

  • March 16, 2015
  • By Amy Wright Glenn