The story starts with taking out the trash about 8:15 pm Wednesday, an unusual thing for me to do. In fact, when have I taken out the trash in the evening? It involves driving the 3/4 mile driveway to the trash cans at Dry Creek Road, and who in their right mind would do that on just a whim? But it is part of the story.
I passed the first curve when my cell phone rang. I answered it on the Prius screen (so strange!), and it was a mayor of a local community. Could he put a journalist in touch with me about what our local Napa Vision 2050 group is doing about water security in Napa County? But suddenly, right before me, was the sweetest little opossum, staggering on the driveway. “Wait!” I exclaimed. “There is an opossum in the driveway!” and then I saw it was moving very slowly. It was injured. “I will call you back!” I said quickly and hung up.
The opossum was young. Not a baby, but not an adult either. And closer examination showed that it had talon marks on the back of its head and neck. I called two people I knew who had dealt with Napa Wildlife, got the phone number, and called. The woman on the other end, Leah, told me to throw a towel over it and pick it up, that it wouldn’t bite. “And don’t let it get into the blackberries. You will never get it out,” she coached. I found a pad in the back of my car to throw over it. But alas! It had shuffled off the road into the blackberries and was disappearing uphill into the undergrowth. “Put food out and wait,” Leah instructed. I dug through the garbage and found an aging avocado.
Being impatient as it was getting later, I decided to get a long PVC pipe and my daughter-in-law Lisa and her mom Pam, who was visiting, to help. We would rustle the brush with the pipe and scare it back our way.
They couldn’t believe it. Pam thought I was kidding. “I really need you,” I underscored.
“She’s a wild woman,” Lisa explained.
We returned to the site. By now, it was getting dark. Yip, there was the opossum by the avocado, but as we stopped, he struggled up into the brambles again. I went up after him, trying to differentiate between brambles and poison oak, trying not to think of rattlesnakes. We shined a flashlight under the brambles. We kept thinking we saw his white body, then realized we didn’t. I rustled the brush with the 10-foot pipe, but the opossum had hunkered down. So I gave up and drove Lisa and Pam back to the house, returning with a banana. I peeled the banana, placed it where I last saw the possum, turned off the car lights, and waited.
And waited. The night was dark, even though there would be a full moon rise before long. There was not a sound. As I sat in the car, it occurred to me to meditate. I imagined a root sinking deep into the earth, sinking, sinking, and an opening above that expanded into a sphere of love, pink love. I was the quiet, expanded, and in this peaceful state, I said (internally) to the opossum, I will help you. I will not hurt you, but I will take you to get help. When you are well, you can return here. But if you want me to help, you have to show yourself. I heard thrashing about further up the hill. Finally, I decided I had done all I could.
But what was most shocking was that as I rounded the last curve to our home, there was the possum right before me! I grabbed the pad, threw it over the possum, and gently lifted it. It squirmed a little, not much. It was skinny. How long had it been injured? I caught sight of its long snout and saw-blade teeth, wondering what made Leah think it didn’t bite, put it in a box, and called Leah. “I got the possum,” I told her.
She was surprised, given everything. “But we are closed,” she told me. “Put it in a box with a towel and bring it to Silverado vet tomorrow morning. It will just curl up and go to sleep. We will get it there.”
Of course, Lisa, Pam, and now my son Jesse were beside themselves with concern. “You are going to get bitten, Mom,” Jesse insisted as I transferred the little body into a larger box, punching air holes in the sides. I reassured them Leah said it doesn’t bite. Jesse insisted that we place the handle of the refrigerator truck over the top of the closed box so the opossum didn’t get loose in our basement.
And early the following day, I drove the opossum in its box (yes, it was still alive) to Silverado and waited in the car for the tech to come to get it. When she finally arrived to take the possum, I tried to tell her the miraculous story of getting the possum. I told her that he really wants to live, but she was in a hurry and was not interested in my story. She peeked inside. “He looks roughed up,” she said. “We will warm him up.”
Later that morning, I called Wildlife Rescue again. Leah was on duty. I asked how the possum was. They had told me that they have to euthanize a number of the animals brought in. Leah took some time looking at the records. The possum wasn’t listed yet. But later that afternoon, she texted me. He’s being treated!
On the way home that morning, the phone rang in the exact place that I had first seen the opossum the night before, the same place that I had hung up on the mayor. It was the mayor. We continued our conversation. He gave me a list of information that the journalist would need. I can get that, I told him and hung up, feeling oddly hopeful.