Wednesday, November 11, 2009
I Am Not a Naturalist
After the reading last night, I went over to City Grocery Bar to meet up with John Currence and Joe York. Several other people who were at the reading ended up there as well, including Bill Boyle (whom you may remember as the man who once attended a lecture about frogs) and his wife (whose name I won't give because I don't have permission) who works for the Audubon Society, which may explain the lecture about frogs. And SHE told me that crows understand the meaning and purpose of traffic lights! More evidence that we need to be worried about what the crows are planning. She also told me that chimney swifts - even ones who are not related - will rush into a burning tree to save baby chimney swifts. The nature stories were just beginning! And some of them would happen to me in person, yes, that very night. It was just a little after eight when I got a phone call at the bar from Theresa. She advised me to use the front door when I got home because there was a possum on the back porch and it wouldn't leave. It had been there for an hour, she said. She had intervened in a developing altercation between the possum and a neighborhood cat (shades of the cat who entered the groundhog's lair!), which had consisted, before Theresa stepped in to save the day, of some mild hissing and wary curiosity about one another - the curiosity being mostly on the part of the cat, verifying the old legend. I got home at about 11 (time flies!) and assumed that the coast was clear by then, so I came around the back as usual. There was the possum, on the card table on the back porch, lying on a tote bag filled with tubes of acrylic paint, looking mainly indifferent yet full of assumptions. Was it "playing possum" (pretending to be dead) as possums are reputed to do? It wasn't moving much, that's all I can tell you. I tried reasoning with it ("I already tried that," Theresa explained). I tried scaring it away with noisemaking that annoyed Theresa more than the possum. I shook the table (long distance, via broom handle). I threw a shoe at it (as Theresa had done earlier in the evening). Maybe it WAS playing possum. I walked off the porch and confronted it from the other side of the screen, which it was facing, by rattling a large bush. Oh, the possum hated that! Yes, my rattling of the bush finally got a rise out of it and caused another round of mild hissing. And the possum hissed too. Ha ha! No, really it was just the possum hissing. We stared at each other a long time through the screen and the bush and I started to like the possum. I learned some things about possums. 1) They are stubborn and patient. 2) When they yawn, their mouths open REALLY WIDE, wider even than you might expect. 3) Their paws are freaky. 4) They have (this one did, anyway; I am not a naturalist!) really long fangs that show even when their mouths are closed. I didn't expect that, based on my lifelong reading of Walt Kelly's POGO (pictured), of which comic strip Caroline Young has given me a number of vintage promotional figurines. Finally we just watched the possum through the window on the back door. It didn't do much, though at one point it sniffed the air vigorously. "It senses something," I observed wisely. And then A RACCOON WADDLED ONTO THE PORCH! DOES THIS KIND OF STUFF GO ON EVERY NIGHT AND WE JUST DON'T KNOW ABOUT IT? IS OUR BACK PORCH SOME KIND OF NIGHTCLUB FOR WILD ANIMALS? The raccoon (perhaps tempted because we had propped open the porch door so the possum could escape) didn't find anything interesting about our porch, not even the possum, so it turned around and waddled back down the steps. A little after midnight, I decided to check on the possum again and witnessed it lowering itself very slowly and eerily off the table, using its tail, it seemed to me, in the prehensile manner for which it is so justly famous. Then it left the porch. In other nature news, McNeil just called as I was typing this to tell me about developments with the large hadron collider which interests him so, you know, the machine that is going to end the world, and yes, this is a nature story, because McNeil said a bird dropped a bread crumb on the large hadron collider and broke it! I am not kidding! That's the way McNeil described the story on cnn.com, which I have not yet read. I like McNeil's version the best anyway. A BIRD DROPPED A BREAD CRUMB ON THE COLLIDER AND BROKE IT! Sounds like a fairy tale. And the bird dropped the crumb, claims McNeil, in the ONLY SPOT WHERE A BREAD CRUMB COULD POSSIBLY BREAK THE COLLIDER! According to the story, says McNeil, some scientists believe that the collider IS BEING SABOTAGED FROM THE FUTURE! Maybe the crows are doing it! The bird and the bread crumb tipped me off. McNeil says it is a "great story" with "a lot of weird stuff in it."