A little after midnight I was walking through Hyde Park. I had been buying supplies at Woolworths at Town Hall. I saw a possum on the grass. It was just watching me a short distance away, so I put my groceries down to try and get a photograph. The possum immediately went over to my bags. It had evidently smelled the pears and apples in my groceries. I said, as gently as I could "no, no." and got a pear out and put it on the ground. The possum came over and started to eat the pear while I watched.
Just 220 years ago this was a swamp where we were. Brushtail possums were plentiful. Now the swamp is Hyde Park, named by settlers homesick for a small island half a world away. There are buildings up to 80 stories high now just metres away from the park. Thousands of people are living in apartment blocks that reach into the sky. More than four and a half million people live in the suburbs beyond.
Yet here in the very center of this great city, the possums thrive. Whenever I walk through Hyde Park late at night they are there in the trees, or on the grass. I always speak softly to them and try to honor their ability to adapt. It is not often that I have food suitable for them to eat. Tonight, the juicy pear seemed to be appreciated, and I could spare it. Some animals eat just a few bites from fruit and then go on to find another. This little possum, once he had it in his paws, ate it all with dainty little bites, and with each bite would look up at me while it chewed.
It is hard to tell what it might have been thinking. I had the feeling, however, that it had the sure and confident thoughts of a being who was the true ruler of the land, who was patiently allowing us to collaborate in inhabiting it. We, after all, have our uses, we eliminated the dingos from the area, and some of us bring the occasional pear, or apple, or orange. I feel it is like paying a little rent for being here to the true landlord.