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Bright Leaves, and a Possum in a Pickle

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A morning run with Baker. I try to take my usual pictures of him trotting ahead of me, and as soon as I stop to do that, he turns on his heel and heads back to me. You'll see that big pink tongue in almost all the photos, because that's what he does as he rushes back to me.  Licking the chops is actually a submissive gesture in dogs. I think Bacon knows I'd rather he just kept trotting, so he apologizes when he runs back to me. It's sweet.  This is new since he went deaf.

Of course he always gets kisses when he comes back, and I get my picture anyway, and it's better with Bacon's smile.

You really can't waste a day in October. It's all going so fast. A ferocious gale, complete with pounding rain and hail, hit not long after I took this series of photos. Of course it stripped many leaves from the trees.

It's not the most brilliant fall in memory, that's for sure. Who knows what conditions make for a perfect fall? Severe drought doesn't seem to be one of them.

Several weeks ago, we found a sock that looked like it belonged either to Waldo or Ronald McDonald. It was at the big curve by Fergus' pond. 

And last week, we found t'other one!!

So if I wanted to, I could have a pair of Waldo socks. I kind of like seeing them on the roadside, and trying to imagine why they're a half-mile separated. I envision a tussle between two teens in a car, and a lot of laughing, and two tossings out. So I leave them, because that makes me smile.

So does Mr. I Walk The Line, my wee little Man in Black.

Another thing that makes me smile is chicory against weathered barn siding.

Woo boy, that is good stuff. The cooler the temperature, the deeper the color (these are two different days here).

Of course Chet is always willing to improve my flower photos.

The odd red maple is lighting up, and the sugar maples are getting going, too. Ohio's fall color is way ahead of Virginia's and West Virginia's. I know that because I put 1,030 miles on my Subaru this past weekend driving to Richmond and back.
I don't want to do that again any time soon.

Caught this little line of staghorn sumac chorus girls frolicking in a doleful row of monklike junipers.

Back home, I found some ironweed blooming with chicory, backed by fall foliage. That's a hard thing to find. They're blooming now only because this meadow was mowed twice this summer. Somehow the butterfly weed and dogbane persist. It's one of the best for wildflowers and butterflies.

The last sweet peas, and a pillowed, weathering sky.

While nobody was looking, the Three Graces slipped on their party dresses.

More on them later.

I promised you a possum in a pickle. I went out toward evening to dump some compost and saw a possum, motionless by the fence that surrounds the pit. 

He had tried to get through a gap in the stock fencing that was only about 2" x 4". Oops.

When I spoke softly to him, his ear twitched. I could see by the dirt around him that he'd been there for some time, perhaps since the night before.  Oh poor dear little possum.

I ran and got some nippers and my bat gloves, and carefully cut the wire and bent the ends back so he couldn't hurt himself in struggling free.

Being a possum, he didn't even try to struggle free. He just lay there. So I gently fed his body through the big gap I'd made and laid him on his side, free.

I stroked his sides, checked him out (he seemed fine) and went inside to get him some water, apples, plums, and cooked chicken. He did not resist. He just exposed his many pointy teeth and said hnnhhhh shhhhh

I dribbled water into his mouth with a dropper. He lay there, catatonic, for about an hour. I knew that this was his possumic response to the stress of being confined for so long.  It's called thanatosis from the Greek thanatos = death and osis = sight or view of.  Also called tonic immobility, it's an involuntary physiological response to extreme stress, or sometimes simply to being upside down. It's a very odd behavior, but it must work for opossums; they've been around and successful for a very long time. Thanatosis occurs in many fish and reptiles, and you can induce it in iguanas, anoles, rabbits and chickens, among many others, by holding them on their backs. I used to be able to get a mild version of thanatosis out of my macaw, Charlie, by laying her on her back in my hand. She'd go completely still, blinking very slowly, until righted, and then she'd snap right out of it. It never seemed to upset or compromise her; she'd just go quiet. It certainly helped when nail-clipping time came around! Because a macaw who doesn't want her nails clipped is a hideous thing, with a vise-grip defense.

In researching this condition, I came upon this Wikipedia photo of a Burmeister's leaf frog in thanatosis. Which I had to lift and share, because AGGK, snort, waah!

Me, on the night of November 8, should the election go badly south.  I mean, even souther than it has.

After an hour and a half, as dusk fell, Brer Possum was sitting up, looking around very slowly. The food was still untouched. At the two hour mark, he was gone. And so was all the fruit and chicken. Sweet possum. Had a bad day, with a good good end. And now he's got a nice little door he can use to help himself to fresh kitchen stuff.

Here ends Bright Leaves, and a Possum in a Pickle.


Possum playing possum. I rescued one from our washing machine when it was in the basement and caught one on video in the compost bucket on the back porch. Glad you came to the rescue!

I've never seen an opossum and had no idea they had such a furry coat! Perhaps you're in for quite a winter? Thanks for yet another delightful tail.

Beverly Jensen

Posted by Anonymous October 25, 2016 at 6:42 AM

Wonderful rescue story! I'm so glad that possum was able to wake up, eat the food, and skedaddle out of there. Beautiful photos of fall there! Love seeing Chet still out there jogging with you.

Great story! Happy ending.

Posted by Isabel Rose October 25, 2016 at 7:50 AM

Reading this blog post has started my day on a positive note! Thanks Julie.

I love your posts, so full of And that frog photo? SQUEEEEEE!!!

Thanks for teaching me a new word "thanatosis." It also works in baby alligators - a trick I would often use when getting them out to let the public touch them at the nature center.

What a great post! Thanks for sharing his story.

of course you stroked his fur! Any chance you can,....
And that leaf frog, wahh!
So glad you took pics and shared them with us along with a great story. I'm hanging on to as many glimmers of kindness as I can these days. Can't wait for November 8th.
Wayne, PA

I always love a happy ending and laughed about the socks too. Reading your blog just makes my day.

Love walking with you. Had a mutt dog Chamois color hence his name. Found bellyup ground hog in his basement bed once & more than once I'd tell my husband to dispose of "dead" possum out by his car only to discover it gone 1/2 hr later...

Great story :-).

Oh, my goodness. Perfect in every way. But the frog-on-his-back photo? Killer.
As is your storytelling. You'll get us through these beautiful days and this horrible election cycle and put joy smack in the middle of it all. Thanks and love! Xom

Posted by Anonymous October 25, 2016 at 11:45 AM

I am a TOTAL fan of rescuing any injure wildlife. I can't think of one I would pass by...although there may be some I should.
And I HATE HATE HATE roadkill. Makes me so sad.
But then I see buzzards circling and landing, having a feast and realize--the circle of life.
Ah, me.
Autumn does this...the shortening days, the quickening temperatures. Makes me...contemplative.

Your possum story reminds me of my own. It was some years ago when I was the single mom of some young kids. It was dinner time, homework was not done, and the dog was having a fit in the back yard. I went out back and found the dog standing over the body of a possum. Totally still, tongue hanging out, the works. I said to myself "I cannot deal with this right now. Maybe after dinner. Maybe tomorrow. And maybe I'll just walk the dog from now on instead of letting her out in the back yard to do her business" So I dragged the dog into the house and we all had dinner. Acting like the responsible person that I try to be, I went back out after dinner with a shovel and a garbage bag. But the possum was gone! It, too, had been in thanatosis. Even though I had heard of possums playing dead before, the possibility never crossed my mind. The animal looked dead.

I always learn so much in your posts! Even when you're wrong like saying red and fuchsia look bad together :)
Have a patch of ironweed in bloom right now that has brought me much delight. Every time I see it, I'm asking for a bobcat to come out. Probably impossible here, north of Columbus, but worth a shot!

Another possum story for you. A long time ago when I was living in San Diego, I was sharing a house with someone who was a bit squeamish with wildlife. We had cats and kept the food in the kitchen near the door. One day I opened the door and an adult possum came right in, ate a few pieces of kibble, then headed up the stairs into my housemate's bedroom like it owned the place. It came back down and headed back out the door after about 10 minutes. I wonder how many times it had been in the house! I never told my friend. A few weeks later I was putting the trash out and there were 4 baby possums in the can, but that's another story.

Ruth B.

Posted by Anonymous October 27, 2016 at 5:27 PM

I know how you love tech stuff, but if you could figure out why so many paragraphs of your recent blog entries are not left-justified, and fix it, they would be a bit easier to read.

I just found your blog this Sun.morning & am loving it.There was a time when I wrote from the heart but now a days I simply try to get in a post for a meme.I need to slow down & breathe.I will be back for more of your thoughts & photos,have a great Sun.,phyllis

Thank you for saving dear possum. We had one on our property in Mexico that we would encounter occasionally. I love them.

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