The kids were in bed. Chris was doing an evening session in the studio, and I had come down in my jammies to get a glass of water before retiring upstairs with a book. That’s when I heard it: a scritch-scratching sound. You know the sound. . . unmistakable in its “aliveness.” The alarming sound of CRITTER. . . indoors.
Mind you, we live in a 1910 converted beach cottage. It’s partially remodeled (it now has heat and insulation!) but there are still wee bits of wood that don’t fit together, and small gaps in the utility room floor we’ve never bothered to close up. The house has no basement—just a crawl space—because we live close to water, and it was originally built to be seasonal. As such, we’re not unaccustomed to discovering a stray field mouse from time to time. But this. This was something bigger. And whatever it was, was scratching its claws around my mudroom. *Shiver*
I grabbed a flashlight and cautiously crept down the back hall toward the sound, inspecting the cubbies and far corners when. . . I caught a glimpse of white snout; a flash of prehensile tail. I assure you, in that moment, I was not thinking opossum. I’m a city girl. I was thinking, RAT! I squealed, “Eeeeee!” dropped the flashlight and ran. . . back upstairs, where thankfully my cell phone waited on the nightstand.
<<Dials husband in studio.>>
“There’s a rat in our mudroom.”
“Who is this?”
“Very funny. I’m serious. I just saw it.”
“It can’t be a rat. Maybe the neighbor’s cat got in?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Are you looking at it now?”
“Of course I’m not looking at it now, I’m hiding in the bedroom!!”
“Ok, be right there.”
I pondered the deep sigh. Is he put out? Annoyed at the interruption? I’m not usually a damesel in distress. I take out the garbage. . . mow the lawn. . . I mulch! But a rat in the mudroom, to my mind, fell squarely within the parameters of: A Man’s Job. (Call me old fashioned.)
A few minutes later, my husband called for me to come downstairs.
“You have to see this,” he said.
Curiosity got the better of me.
“It’s a baby opossum,” he whispered when I came back down. “He’s cute. Look.” He shined a flashlight on a wee confused-looking opossum. He was cute. And thankfully, not a rat.
(Husband would like me to clarify that the aforementioned “sigh” was not annoyance. It was a sigh of the “what now?” variety common to old-home ownership.) Hmmph. Good.
“Poor guy,” Chris said. “He could be living under the house, though. I’ll call someone.”
We did, later that week. But the baby opossum and his family had already vacated the premises. Which is good news for all involved, including the mice who can now reclaim their rightful home beneath the porch.
Our kids were very interested to hear about the baby opossum. My animal-loving 12 year-old was sorry she’d missed it. Then she asked if I’d looked up the spiritual meaning of opossums. Recently, a friend told my daughter about the time a bear crossed in front of her car during a visit to Vermont. The bear had loped across her path slowly, and for a fleeting moment, they’d locked eyes. People live their whole lives in Vermont without that kind of bear encounter, she’d explained. It sparked her to research animal totems and messages.
Perhaps because a baby opossum seemed somewhat less auspicious than a majestic bear, it hadn’t occurred to me to look up its meaning. But when my daughter mentioned it, I thought, why not?
Here’s a small sampling of what I found:
Opossum is letting you know that the universe is working behind the scenes to fulfill your dreams. Be patient, allow things to develop, and trust that you will know the exact moment to make your move. Take a passive stance in all that is happening around you.
The opossum is a craftsman in the art of appearances. When it appears in your life it is telling you to wake up and pay attention. Things are not what they seem to be. By observing your actions, reactions, thoughts and feelings, deeper insights emerge. This emergence leads to self-empowerment.
The week before the opossum visit, I’d been feeling burnt out. It’s a grand and happy thing to launch a new book, but it’s also a TON of work. I was falling to prey to thoughts of, “What if it all amounts to nothing?” Fatigue, for me, usually gives way to a restless mind, and to anxiety. I began to worry about neglecting other projects for this one, about the fate of current projects in the works, about getting it all done, deadlines, revisions, house, kids, life, money. Gah!
I’d needed to center myself, but I hadn’t been able to.
Until an opossum walked into my mudroom.
Believe what you will about spirit animals, but for some reason, after the opossum incident, I was able to breathe and let go. Since then, I’ve been trying to take things one day at a time, to practice patience, and be a bit more self-aware. I’d been so focused on pushing forward, I hadn’t noticed the shift from momentum—to resistance.
Who’d have thought a baby opossum could be so helpful in that regard?
Do you believe in signs and spirit animals? If you have a story about one, I’d love to hear it.