Saturday, June 25, 2005

(Not) Playing 'Possum

Yesterday was a hot day in Southern Indiana. When I left work just before 5 o’clock, the thermometer in my car said 101 degrees. That was artificially high – the car had been sitting in the sun all day. By the time I got home 10 minutes later, it was reading 93 degrees. That was a much more accurate reading.

Now summer heat is a relative thing. For the 15 years we lived in Memphis, a 90 degree day was nothing unusual…unless it occurred in April. Here in Indiana, though, it’s a different story. Last summer we did not have one day where the temperature reached 90. This year, we’ve already had a handful…with more on the way.

While in Memphis, I developed a summer survival skill - I refused to complain about the heat. I figured that complaining did nothing to lower the temperature and only raised my awareness of how uncomfortable I was. For most of the time we were there, I told people I actually liked the hot weather. (In hindsight, this may have been the cause of some the the suspicious sideways looks I got from many of my acquaintances.)

After nearly 7 years in Indiana, I still don’t complain about the heat. I like the climate here. We have four complete seasons. In the fall the foliage is usually spectacular, especially in nearby Brown County. Most winters we get enough snow to enjoy the holidays. (Granted, this last winter was the extreme case.) This year’s spring was a roller coaster – very warm in April, then cool through May and into June. Summer seems to start suddenly – we go from cool, pleasant days to HOT almost overnight.

But it’s nothing to complain about.

So yesterday we got home after another mind-numbing week at work. I sat inside for a few minutes and checked emails til Mary got home. Despite the heat, we both ended up outside. After being cooped up in our respective offices all week, it felt pretty good to piddle around in the yard for awhile. Mary watered her gardens and trimmed the roses.

One of Mary's beautiful roses. Posted by Hello

I got out the rake and worked at de-thatching the front lawn. I had no illusions about doing the whole thing…just wanted to get a start. It was also a very restful, almost meditative, thing to do – repetitive and mindless in the sense that it required no conscious thought, yet occupied the mind enough to push out all thought of work, deadlines, and meetings.

After 20 minutes or so, I had done a couple passes down the side yard, and had several piles of dead grass to mark my progress. Mary came around and told me to clean up and move out, so she could start the sprinkler. I’d had enough meditation, so I did as instructed. I filled a trash can with the dead grass and carried it around to the compost pile in the back yard. I dumped the grass and turned back to the house, idly thinking of sipping a gin-and-tonic on the back porch while the world cooled off into evening.

As I passed by the corner of the back porch, I was jolted out of my reverie by the sight of an unexpected guest.

An unexpected visitor. Posted by Hello

I don’t know where this critter came from…and I’m sure he must have been wondering “how the heck did I get here?!” I yelled at Mary to come take a look, then ran in for the camera. I kept my distance, not certain of how fast a startled ‘possum could move. (In the back of my mind I was reviewing all the data I had about ‘possums – 100% of it involved memories of dead ones on the side of the road. Not much evidence of agility or speed, but I wasn’t going to take any chances, especially since I saw him raise up and arch his back as I approached. How far could a ‘possum jump?)

We eyed each other for a few minutes. He made no effort to leave the porch. It was, after all, the end of a long, hot Friday. Mary and I left him on the ledge and went in for the gin-and-tonic. Periodically throughout the evening we looked out to see if “Peter Possum” was still around. He was always in the same spot. Around 9pm we saw him, then went out front to turn off the sprinklers. When we looked again, he was gone.

We walked around the yard, shining a flashlight into the bushes, but didn’t see him again. I guess ‘possums can move pretty quick after all.

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