The House That Nature Took
Copyright 2020 by Christine Hand
in this leafy suburb of Queensland is the house that we decided would
be our forever home. Surrounded by large trees and shrubs, it
provides us with the seclusion we desire together with the nearness
to all amenities and the city centre. We share it with the local
wildlife, crows, bats as large as unfurled umbrellas, the laughing
kookaburras, magpies and rainforest birds nesting on the large trees
and the miner birds, blue-faced honeyeaters, rainbow lorikeets,
peewits and butcher birds on the smaller shrubs. Brush turkeys and
blue-tongued lizards rummage and ransack the garden while the smaller
garden lizards do comparatively little damage. By nightfall, the
possums emerge, some carrying their babies on their back, nipping
lithely from branch to branch and stealing the show for us all. At
first, they are wary of our colony of six cats, then they decide that
as fellow mammals they are part of the larger family.
long, the possums decided that the house looked inviting, they
stepped inside, took a look around, would walk through the lounge,
then up the stairs to investigate the bedrooms and out through the
balcony doors that spanned the length of three bedrooms. The
left-over cat food was the main attraction and soon they settled,
unknown to us in the space between the roof and the ceiling; it gave
them ease of access to the house, as and when needed.
Dad, come and have a look, quietly though. It’s an injured
possum,’ said Matt. In his bedroom was the injured marsupial,
feeding on a banana.
are you going to do with it?’ I questioned our son who was a
put some antibiotics in the food so hopefully it will get better with
balcony soon became the makeshift surgery and it was much needed. We
did not realise how much the possums warred amongst themselves,
inflicting some horrific wounds. They soon realised where to come for
treatment and would hide behind the bookcases for safety until well
enough to venture out again. They were fed and treated.
rustling noise over a couple of nights disturbed Matt from his
studies; he took a good look around his bookcase. There, between the
books was the tiniest little baby possum, nervously sheltering
itself. Matt was concerned. This little one was too young to be away
from its mother. What could we possibly do with it? We fed it and
slowly it began to relax. As the night wore on, it tired and soon
fell asleep on Matt’s bedroom slipper under his desk.
one in the morning, an adult possum appeared and looked with concern
at the bookcase. No baby there but it soon found its little
offspring. There was visible joy in the baby’s eyes. But there
was unfinished business for mother possum. She had spotted the
left-over banana and apple that had been given to her baby; delighted
at the sight, she immediately set about eating until she was replete.
And now it was time to leave. Baby possum jumped on her back and off
they went into the darkness of the night. The baby-sitting service
was utilised until baby possum was old enough to go its own way.
Wouldn’t any mother take advantage of such an opportunity? It
was so much easier to find food without baby on board. Besides, there
was the added advantage of keeping fit with her arboreal gymnastics.
In time, the baby was able to fend for itself but both mother and
baby returned each night for a treat of fruit and nuts Matt kept in
his room especially for them.
passed and the possum population in our house had grown
exponentially. They thumped around and ran across the ceiling like a
herd of elephants. We could not leave any food out. I woke up on many
a night to find a possum on my bedside table quite nonchalantly
eating my chocolates. The wrappers littered the room and balcony.
They had taken over our house!
came the strange chirping noise that rose to quite a crescendo as the
evenings waned. We were curious about the sound, trying to work out
what it was. It was the possums. The numbers had grown to such an
extent that they needed more space; they had found their way into the
gap between the two floors of the house. The possums had acquired a
time to get the possum man to get these darned creatures out of our
roof,’ said Dan my husband.
can’t possibly do that! Where will they go?’ I cried
jolly well have to find a home in the trees. There’s plenty of
them out there and that’s where they belong.’
opposed the idea bitterly but there was the argument that if they
urinated, it could end up coming through the ceiling and further, if
one should die up there, we would have to put up with the stench of
the decaying corpse. Very unhappily, I acquiesced.
possum man arrived and yes, he found several avenues through which
the possums were getting into our ceiling spaces. I asked him how he
would go about his business. I was worried about them dying in there
if they were unable to get out. But this was a humane solution that
he had. He would set up traps that would allow the possums to get out
but the trap did not permit a way back into the house. These he would
keep in place for a couple of weeks until the ceiling spaces were
cleared before blocking them for good. I was content with this
solution so he set about to work. In the meantime, I made a visit to
the pet shop to find some readymade homes for the possums, something
we could hang on the trees.
Possums Find New Homes:
was overjoyed when the incessant chirping sound disappeared. He would
be able to deliver his webinar in peace without possum worries that
evening. Gigi, our newest and youngest feline always sat on his desk
during this time and would participate every now and then by walking
across the keyboard. The webinar participants had got used to her and
loved the interruption.
the webinar session, Dan tried to open his desk drawer for a pencil.
Strange, it was suddenly so heavy to move; something seemed to be
jamming it. The drawer slid out with difficulty and Dan drew back in
surprise. Curled up inside was a large ball of fur. Evicted from one
home, Mr Possum had found another and he was certainly going to stay
put in this one. Dan prodded it. It opened one eye to see what the
disturbance was, shut it quickly, tucked its head in its furry body
and went back to sleep. Further prods had no impact on Mr Possum, the
day was still young! The webinar participants grew curious about
Dan’s distraction so they wanted a look in as well. The camera
had to be directed so that they could see Mr Possum -something rare
and exotic for most of them. The audience was excited and keen to
keep tabs on what Mr Possum was up to so every now and then they
wanted a peek.
Possum slept through the entire session. The time had to be right for
it to wake up, emit a yawn, casually climb out of the drawer and
scamper off. Later we found that this was not the only drawer that
your comeuppance,’ I said. ‘You evicted it from its home
and now it’s come to live that much closer to you.’
investment in the Possum Catcher was very temporary indeed. Before
long, the possums found new and ingenious ways of re-entering our
ceiling and there they live, thumping and scampering around to their
heart’s delight to date.
of the Magpies:
summer, we were overwhelmed by a colony of young magpies. The
Australian magpies are much larger than the European counterparts and
have some beautiful songs on offer. We had on many an occasion helped
a family with their offspring by providing them with food for their
voraciously hungry mites. But this summer, it was an invasion of
almost twenty-five young ones. We were constantly throwing out food
and actually buying entire loaves of bread just for them. The odd
thing was that there were no adults amongst them. How strange, I
thought. The entire summer passed by and finally their feathers
changed colour turning these chicks into young adults, now able to
fend for themselves. It’s at this point that I began to notice
the parent couples coming over to partake of my offerings of food.
What devilry was this? They had stayed away from their young when
they were most needed. Most families of magpies comprise of two
chicks so for a group of twenty-five, at the very least, twelve
couples were involved. Had they all conspired to dump their offspring
on us, the adoption centre, leaving themselves free of their parental
duties? This I dare say is exactly what happened.
say that there is more activity in the brains of birds than those of
humans. I truly believe this now. Two of these young magpies were
rather ambitious. They wished to be fed in the kitchen rather than
outside. It became a battle to shoo them out each time, but they were
clever little things and discovered that if the door was closed, a
second entry point existed, the cat flap. Thankfully, most of the
birds have found new ground to forage barring three or four that
don’t appear to want to leave us.
what of our house full of cats? They have little to say apart from
the odd guttural sound which says, ‘Go away, stop being so
noisy and leave me alone, I want to sleep.’ They are in their
teenage years after all!
Hand lives in Queensland, a sub-tropical part of Australia which she
has adopted as her home.
is fascinated by cultural differences, a result of many years of
travel and work overseas. She enjoys good food, gardening and
spending time with her six cats. ‘A
Figment of My Truth’ is
her first book of short stories in search of a publisher. She is
currently working on a novel
is a Brisbane-based academic and writer with a penchant for
whimsical short stories. She focuses on creative non-fiction.
was frequently published in the ‘Korea
a regular writer for an online platform ‘Suite
were of an academic nature and covered topics of a diverse range,
mainly socio-political, financial, and historical. Christine
covered current affairs, book reviews and biographies.
short stories, ‘Amazons up in Arms’ and ‘Escorted
to Death’ were recently published by Adelaide Magazine.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher