Sunday, November 4, 2012

Virginia Opossum


      Possums, of the Virginia Opossum family of Opossum, have thumbs on their back feet.  There where two such Possums on my way to purgatory this early morning.  Both of them waddling about on the tarmac roads, so twice I had to apply breaks, hold my breath, and twice it seemed to me that of those creatures on this earth, Possums are amongst the strangest.  Their lifespan is about two years, four if safe and well coddled under the care of men in white coats, who have written so much about the brain to body size ratio of the Virginia Possum.  This Possum figures amongst the lowest on this scale, but a Possum's brain has two qualities well worth recalling.  A Possum can remember an unpleasant taste for up to a year after a single encounter, and on this scale of memory, a Possum is better at remembering than Rabbits, Dogs and Cats.  The other thing worth noting, is that a Possum scores very highly on the all important test of maze solving.  Much better than a Rat.  And what joy those experiments must have been to conduct.

    However, I'd like to try hard to put aside the characteristics of the Possum Mind.  I am going to try not to think of a particular experiment in which a Possum playing possum was hooked up to both a heart monitor and a brain activity monitor in an attempt to better understand whether a Possum playing possum entered a catatonic state.  And I'm not going to mention that Possums have more teeth than most other Mammals. Instead I'm going to contemplate Possum Being by raising the matter of a Possum's walk, which is really very charming to watch, especially when he's looking for a good spot to actually get off the tarmac road and into the bush.  The walk  has been described this way, "a primitive plantigrade-quadrupedal type of movement when on the ground."  As I understand it, this type of movement, is when a creature potters about with the soles of his four feet, flat on the ground.  Which makes running very difficult, as those who are also flat footed might attest.  Nor does a Possum drag his tail, when he's about his work, he holds his tail up, level with his back. Something which if I still had a tail, I too would always try to do.


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