And share alike

Sharing, I have discovered, is basic to survival in the woods. I am fast learning that what's mine is not really mine at all but community property. The community being rabbits, racoons, squirrels, deer, a variety of fowl, an impressive array of insects, and the grandame, Ms. Possum.

Ms. Possum is teaching me what many years ago my mother labored to teach me with little success. Mother had placed a tantalizing cream puff on the table in front of me in the hope that I would offer to share with her. Taking no notice of her presence I began to devour the delicacy, whereupon she asked if she might have just one bite. In that instant cherubic innocence took flight and I fiendishly crumbled the entire puff into mere flakes.

Ms. Possum is less direct in her teaching methods. She seldom appears in the back yard before nightfall and on those rare occasions when discovered there behaves as if I were the interloper. She has never told me I must share but elects to demonstrate by helping herself to whatever pleases her palate. Her favorite meals come from the medley found in my trash cans.

Having awakened on two consecutive mornings to find the can lids off and refuse scattered about, I determined she would not have her midnight snack at my back door again. Collecting the malodorous, dew-soaked garbage i decided to pile bricks atop the lids and foil the old girl.

However, being an indomitable teacher she was not letting me off so easily. If I wanted to live in her neck of the woods I was going to share and that was that.

Each day I again gathered strewn refuse and each day piled additional bricks on the lids. Each night she removed the bricks as before and, dining by starlight, probably gloated over having out-foxed (or out-possumed) me again.

My spouse, listening patiently to my daily complaints, finally suggested turning the two lids so their grips faced the same direction and running a broom handle through them both, after which we again added the bricks. I turned in for the night gleefully smug.

In the morning it was apparent that my spouse also had a lot to learn.

Ms. Possum's brand of instruction has finally borne fruit and the word is out. The squirrels use our roof as a short-cut between the oak trees. In summer the rabbits nip off budding flowers and share fruits and vegetables from the garden with the raccoons. The wasps take up residence above the side patio and the bees declare my mailbox the "in" place for lounging.

Life in the woods is definitely not for the selfish.

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