Daily Weirdness, With Possums

Kage Baker firmly believed that the basis of the world as we know it is weirdness. Most human endeavour, she felt, was an attempt to explain, ignore, or encompass weirdness. People don’t usually like it, you see, and they structure their lives – their habits, their families and civilizations – to normalize the surrounding sea of weird that is actually the normal state of the Universe.

Artists, writers, scientists, mystics and loonies are often just the folks who fail to do that. Sometimes they can’t help but notice these things, and it makes them very unhappy. Lots, though, just don’t care – those folks tend to be creative,  and often happier than others. Unless they get committed or something, of course; and sometimes, they’re both. Van Gogh, for instance (whom Kage took as a combination mentor/bad example), seems to have been quite contented when he was actually painting – it was only the rest of the time, when the poor man could not reconcile himself with the “normal” world, that he suffered.

Kage’s solution, personally,  was to ignore as much as she could manage of that world that insisted on the consensus view. She dodged that dreadful moment of despair that takes out so many sensitive people, and managed to survive the fatal season of adolescence. The world was weird, and she could live with that a lot easier than trying to live in a world where she had to pretend not to see the weirdness. It was one of the generators of her writing.

Some of it, too, may have been due to my first research project for her: queries into gravity, velocity, knot quality and how far the drop has to be to successfully break a neck. It scotched her plans to leap from the balcony of the Student Union at Immaculate Heart College with the two volumes of the OED clutched to her bosom; and by the time she got over being 16 or so, the urge had passed. (I may have exaggerated the difficulties somewhat …)

BTW, this is not a sad recollection. Teen aged girls do that sort of thing all the time. Luckily, most of it comes to nothing fatal, and it can be a healthy and transformative stage on the way to maturity. Learning you don’t want to die is good. Kage took the lesson. A clear-eyed look straight at the world’s weirdness confers much wisdom; and a lifetime of amusement, as well. Win/win/win situation. You’re not dead, you’re not a teenager anymore, and you’re usually entertained.

I have been much delayed over the last week by a flood of daftness. Various oddities have been making life take off on sorts of peculiar tangents around here lately. It being spring, we added a bird feeder to the squirrel feeder on the front porch; and while the squirrels cannot get to the bird seed – the feeder is suction-cupped to the window – the birds can and do raid the squirrels. It doesn’t work very well (ever see a sparrow try to make off with an entire peanut in the shell?) but the conflicts provide hours of innocent entertainment. Also, lots of fat squirrels and birds.

Of course, at night the larger wildlife come out to check out what the daytime combatants have tossed out in their battles. Raccoons, skunks, possums and coyotes will all eat peanuts, and they do come up on the porch to do so. Only the coyotes are polite enough to run away when we try to come in or out after dark; the skunks ignore us (but we can’t ignore them!) and the raccoons stretch little starveling paws out of the tree branches as we pass, begging to be domesticated. But the possums …

In the 34 years my family has lived in this house, exactly ONE (1) possum has made it into the house under its own steam, and it came through an open dog door (not presently in use). One was imported by the cats, but it was unwilling and was besides easy to extract and release to the wild; the worst result was sulking cats. As of today, we have now had two separate volunteer possums in a week, trundling around the house and eating all the cat kibble.

Four days or so ago, my nephew Mike came out into the living room in the middle of the night – I was up, insomniac and reading – to inquire in a puzzled way as to what to do about the possum in his bedroom. In the general Call To Quarters, the possum vanished into the boxes of storage in the back of the closet. Mike spent a couple of days rearranging things in there, including building a ramp to an open screen to encourage it to leave. And, in a tribute to his engineering, it did! Though we never quite  figured out how it had gotten in …

However, this morning both Mike and I were awakened at an ungodly hour by Kimberly apologetically announcing that there was another possum, this time in the living room. Armed with experience and elbow-high gauntlets, this time it took Mike only 15 minutes to corner the miscreant behind the television stand and grab it. I must admit, it was both tiny and pretty cute, and completely ungrateful to be evicted into the plumbago bushes out front.

This time, it not being the middle of the night, Mike went hunting for the means of ingress. He discovered that possums had chewed away the edges of the gasket whereby the clothes dryer vent hose exits through the laundry room wall. He has packed it round with steel wool, stucco tape and insulation foam, so we are now fairly well possum-proof. Unless, of course, we have a possum portal. Which is entirely  possible around here.

For these reasons, and several other problems, I do not quite have a working tricycle yet.  That adventure is yet to begin. But I have a great lock, a Welsh flag for the back, a good pith helmet for the sun, and my wheels will be together soon. In the meantime, observing the world is an interesting past-time once again, instead of a grief, and all is pretty good in this strange old world. I am not 16 myself any more, and am quite happy about it.

More about sinkholes, giant blue worms, California tsunamis, the next date the world is supposed to end and other strange wonders tomorrow. Hopefully, the world will be tame enough for me to write more about it. Onward and sideways!


About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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7 Responses to Daily Weirdness, With Possums

  1. Neassa says:

    I found that neighborhood cats would bolt when I yelled at them to stop eating Jenny’s food and get out. That raccoons would leave, pausing to look over their shoulders to see if 1) I was serious or 2) I’d gone away. And that possums would ignore me entirely and just keep eating. Even poking a possum with the random walking stick only made it shift around away from the stick but not away from the food. The only possum that ever reacted was very young and he tried playing dead – which included opening his mouth and showing me all his sharp teeth. I told him I was going to bed and that he knew the way out. Jenny-cat always had the sense to sit back (and up) and watch the dinner show.

    Looking forward to seeing the tricycle!


  2. Allison Hansen says:

    Possum ramp, genius!


    • Kate says:

      And it worked. Some patience, a little cat kibble and.water on the windowsill, and Pogo removed himself in the night. Mike has definitr DIY, post-disaster engineering skills.


  3. Luisa Puig says:

    I remember, when I was living at Ye Olde Homestead on Magnolia Boulevard, that once I came across an entire litter of young possums, who had somehow managed to be inside an outdoor steel, lidded trash can.

    At first I wasn’t sure what it was I was seeing inside the dark can. The best I could make out were four (or more?) perfectly round furballs, expanding and contracting, but not having any visible features (oh say like heads, feet, tails). Devoted fan of Sci-Fi that I was, of course I thought “My God! We have an infestation of breathing fungi balls!”

    Gently nudging the can’s exterior, however, caused the little ones to unwrap themselved (all together, like possum synchronized dancers), look up at me, then look at each other in puzzlement, and then look back up at me with another of their very primal survival instincts:

    They all bared their numerous sharp teeth and hissed at me!

    I immediately dropped the steel can lid back onto the can and ran into the house.

    Beloved Mumzy came out soon afterwards and, upon inspection, informed me that they were indeed baby possums, but sadly, that they were probably also orphaned possums, as she had seen a dead adult possum out on the street the previous night.

    Oh dear. Big dilemma. Now I was a terribly frightened, yet sympathetic ‘do-gooder’ (as a lot of suburban girls can be). So Mumzy, indulging my wanting to do the ‘right thing’ for the orphans, while also agreeing that Magnolia had too much traffic to assure any animal’s safety, suggested to me that I look through the “Yellow Pages” (remember them?) to find an animal shelter (no kill, of course) that would perhaps take them.

    And that’s how I first came to learn about the Animal Wayfare Sanctuary in Tujunga Canyon where they would not only take in the possums, but also ‘rehabilitate’ them (i.e., prepare them for living in the wild, away from suburban homes and traffic).

    I don’t know if the Animal Wayfare Sanctuary still exists (they were most famous for taking in retired circus animals) but those folks were really great. Mumzy and I gave them a small donation towards their efforts on animal ‘rehabilitation,’ and so my adventure with the possums ended happily.

    For years afterwards, sometimes Mumzy and I would laugh at the world (in general) and suggest that perhaps ‘someone’ ought to be ‘rehabilitated’ somewhere away from humanity. It was a great long-time joke between us.

    Thanks for the memory jogging, Kathleen. Perhaps we can find ‘rehabilitation’ for errant members of our current jumble of a world. Or better yet, perhaps we can get possums to ‘rehabilitate’ the errants destablizing our world today.


    • Kate says:

      I agree, possums have an undeniable goblin charm – especially the little ones. And I would so much rather return things to the wild, even toothy, silly little housebreakers like possums. In fact, I live in the perpetual hope that one day Someone will release me back into my natural habitat. I hope there are oak trees.


      • Luisa Puig says:

        Oh, that would be lovely, indeed.
        Say … the old Agoura Faire site *was* saved to become a public parkland.
        I’m sure many of the old oaks there would welcome you back as a dear old friend. ❤


  4. Kate says:

    Oh, I do hope so, Luisa. I was once on first name bases. with some of those trees. As were we all.


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