Possum Magic, or How to Feel 100 Grams Better in a Bad, Mad Season


La Nina has come to visit and she’s outstayed her welcome here in formerly sunny-almost-every-day Queensland.  Enough with the rain, enough with the floods, enough with the inland tsunami.

The dams are beyond fuller than full.  Adults and children are dead or missing.  Houses are wrecked and their occupants homeless.  Enough.

What is it with this crazed climatic family?  Before La N., El Nino hung around for years and years, kicking dust in our faces, spitting desiccated chips in our eyes, killing our native animals and livestock, burning off bushland, burning down houses, and burning out the light in so many people’s eyes all over Australia.

They’re like guests who come to holiday with you, this Nina, this Nino.  They arrive smiling with promise and potential, and their baggage – and don’t they have so much of it – but, like glitter, twist ties, and repeats of Two and a Half Men, you just can’t get rid of them.

What can you do about power that’s way beyond the control of teeny-weeny humans?

The other day, our state Premier, Anna Bligh, stood up to be counted, after a long period of dilly-dallying and less than inspiring shenanigans from the government benches.  She made a speech in which she called on everyone to remember who we are, and it bears repeating.

We are Queenslanders, she said.  We’re the ones they breed tough north of the border.  We’re the ones they knock down, and we get up again.

Strange to say, but a small marsupial must have been listening in at the window when Our Anna roused the citizens to get up again.

Meet Claudette, the sweetest little ring-tailed possum to grace our garden since – well, she’s the only one we’ve found so far.  But you get the drift – see photo for adorability factor up to wazoo.

Claudette – her name appeared from nowhere on a breeze of idle thought – was abandoned, we think, by her mother.  The pair may have been attacked, or frightened, or both, and in these circumstances, the baby – who usually travels on her mother’s back once she’s big enough to leave the pouch – gets shaken off as the mother goes into defensive mode and tries to save herself.  Unfortunately, possums don’t always return to collect their possumettes.

Lola found Claudette in a palm frond, wide-eyed, alone, waiting.  We waited, too, and watched, hoping for Claudette, senior, to return.  By the afternoon, with butcher birds gathering above Claudette’s tiny head, ready to knock her off her perch and – let’s not go there – we stopped watching and took action.

Once we managed to retrieve her from the tree – courtesy of Lola’s magical marsupial manoeuvrings – and place her in a comfy container, she went instantly to sleep, probably a little dehydrated, and certainly exhausted by the effort to remain alert.

We phoned the local vet for some wildlife carers’ names, and found Lyndal, a possum expert and all-round decent human being.  Lyndal put Claudette in a custom-made possum pouch – soft, bunny-rug fabric, just the right size for a 100 gram ring-tailed girl – so she could warm up and calm down sufficiently to be fed a special wildlife formula.

Lyndal phoned us later to let us know that Claudette was feeding and sleeping and doing all the things small furry beings do.  She said Claudette is particularly loving and gentle and she feels confident that once she reaches 500 grams or so, she can go to a soft-release site – an enclosed aviary-style area.  Here, other local carers – all of them volunteers like Lyndal – keep watch as possums like Claudette get used to natural surroundings again and meet other possums – they’re a community-minded bunch, the ring-tails, Lyndal tells us – before their full release into the open.

The moral of this everyday memoir?  Take from it whatever feels good, and I’d like to think that Claudette hung on instinctively until she could make it – with a little help from her friends – to somewhere safer, somewhere loving.

Not everyone has been or will be as lucky as Claudette, but I have to say I’m very proud of all of our fellow citizens who’ve stood up to be counted as these terrible floods wreak havoc and tragedy.

In the end, what we have are the mindful moments that make up our lives and, if we’re lucky – and by now we surely know that nature is random, and careless – each other.


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