Wednesday, June 25, 2014

opossums aren't pretty. and neither is tragedy.

There's nothing pretty about a opossum. Not one thing. 
Usually sighted in the gutter, post accident, the only fatality of a night time collision. Usually wet from run-off water, limbs splayed messily, eyes closed in the permanent rest of death. There's nothing pretty about opossums. 

Usually, that's how I see them: dead and gone. Until that one day I didn't. That one day when opossums went from all kinds of ugly to a little bit cute and a whole lot of metaphor. 
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Tragedy is like a opossum. 
Ugly, scary, dead in the gutter-ish. It's heavy and stinky and not a single kind of friendly. 

Sometimes I look around and life is made up of tragedy instead of thrills and frills and love and faith. I peer over edges, into nooks and crannies, under rocks and bridges only to find more ugly, less beauty. And it's then I wonder: is this what life is meant to look like -like a opossum, gutter-resting, ghost-faced, mean?
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There's nothing pretty about a opossum with a single exception: motherhood. 
Her fuzzy body covered in little mime-faced babies. All clinging to her back while she carries them: each and every one with a tenderness and caring not obvious by her ugliness. 

In those exceptional sightings, she whines, they load one by one onto the steady top of her back. She begins the trek from here to there slowly, bus-like, traversing terrain full of obstacles with not a single complaint. 
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Tragedy is ugly with one joyful exception: help. 
One hard month blurs into another. Tears and bellows drown out the sounds of spring and summer which fade quickly to fall, winter here, yet again. Years bleed into one another as dates disappear and all that's left is the pain like salt in a fresh, aching wound. 

Then comes help. Help that stops time, cleans up little bits and pieces of broken hearts, heals deep wounds within one's soul. Help arrives, loading up our troubles one by one onto its steady lap all the while patting our sore and tired back. Help arrives with a mission, with a desire, without complaint: it says I am here. Let me be. Let me do
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That Mama, she's determined in her role. 
Just as she's gaining momentum, making her way through the tall grass, a babe slips. It loses its grip and falls on to the turf of the the field below. She stops for that one, whines at him, reminding him of his place. The others look on with black holes eyes in their ghostly white faces. He struggles to catch up, pulls her fur as he settles in for the ride. 

Not one left behind, she thinks to herself. Every bit of these babes precious and dear to her despite when the open road, rubber tires, and human experience will one day say. Every bit worthwhile to her Mama soul. 
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Help, she won't accept rejection. 
Just as we've realized tragedy's gone and done us in, Help screams no. She lifts us up from that chasm in the sidewalk that's stubbed our toe and shredded our knees (and made holes in our favorite skinny jeans). She dusts us off, says we're okay, pats us on the butt to get us moving again. Loved ones look on tears in their eyes, fear in their hearts. Tragedy, it's not contagious. 

Loneliness no more is the motto in Help's heart. Every bit of life lovely and learning-ful to her despite our obvious frustrations. When the rubber meets the road, she's there, edging us in, keeping us out of danger's high beams, giving us space for each bit and piece of human experience. Every bit worthwhile to her motherly soul. 
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Opossums are ugly except when they're mothering. 
Like those babies, we are riding around on the back of life enjoying the cozy warmth of being surrounded by loved ones. Then Tragedy comes. It comes quickly and unexpectedly swinging its fists wild and chaotic, knocking us from our spot to the ground where all the air escapes our lungs in a fit. We lay flat, sad, scared, stunned. The tall grasses of life's troubles blow in Tragedy's wake and we can't see life as we recognize it. 

Tragedy is hideous until Help arrives. 
And Help, like a mama, always arrives. She slows life, reminds it that we're precious and dear, then whines for us to keep on where we were once keeping on. Help pushes us through the grasses of circumstance saying catch up. And we do. Because she said to.  
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This post is in conjunction with my guest post on Jaybird blog today. 
Visit here for more of my words, animal mamas, and thoughts on help.


  1. Even though I read this before publishing it has moved me all over again. This is absolutely beautiful, Amber. <3

  2. Your writing never ceases to amaze me.

  3. I love this story. On the literal side, you made me like opposums a whole like more. On the figurative side, right on. <3


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