Ask the Animals
"But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind."
Job 12: 7-10
The Advent discussion group was in a merry mood as we began our exploration of Gayle Boss’s essay, “Opossum.” One of our leaders was showing us a Christmas ornament, a shiny opossum meant to hang upside down on the Christmas tree. We found the irony of an ornamental opossum amusing until one member declared, “Actually I have a history with opossums. I admire opossums!” When asked to tell us more, she shared the story of Petunia, a blind, deaf opossum she cared for while working in an animal refuge. Despite her sensory challenges, Petunia was gentle and trusting. Her coat was kitten soft. When refuge staff held her, she relaxed and seemed to enjoy interacting with visitors as an affable ambassador for marsupials.
Hearing Petunia’s story shifted the conversation and helped us focus on opossum’s vulnerabilities to predators and, with a hairless tail and ears, to frost bite in the deep cold of New England winters. Opossum’s winter survival strategy of seeking shelter and food in areas of human habitation elicited compassion for this solitary creature. One member confessed , “ Now I feel like I should put out food for the opossum as well as birds.”
On the four Sundays of Advent this discussion group gathered to read aloud from All Creation Waits, a collection of essays by Gayle Boss. Her book connects our Christian season of Advent, the natural cycle of the sun’s waning heat and light and wildlife’s instinctive responses to the encroaching darkness.
We marveled at how chickadees, black bears, cardinals, and squirrels, among others, make themselves ready for winter. Each creature’s unique winter survival story helped us see Creation’s wonders with new eyes. The animals informed us, “The dark is not an end. It is a door. It is a way a new beginning comes.”
Praise God from whom all blessings flow, Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him for all that Love has done, Creator, Christ, and Spirit One. Amen