I went on a possum walk last week. About 30 people signed up for a guided walk to see possums and owls. We had been having a few frosty mornings (minus 3 degrees Celsius twice in a row) and I was expecting the night walk to be cold. I layered up: thermals and wool; five layers on my upper body. It was a local walk, but I hadn’t been there before. We started in a car park and I met some of the early bird attendees in the dark. Then it got busier, as people started to arrive and the walk leader ticked off their names.
Eventually we had an introductory talk and started our walk. I had never walked this track before. I didn’t have a torch, but I followed the leader. I kept close so I could hear him speak, and see what he showed as he directed his strong light beam into the trees around us.
He said he was good at spotting possums. He said he noticed eyes as he scanned. He would scan the surroundings with his white light beam quickly moving, then swap to a red beam and stop—highlighting a possum.
We saw 10 to 15 brushtail possums, up to five ringtail possums and two, probably three, squirrel gliders in a two-hour period. Not once did I feel scared. I wasn’t tired. I wasn’t cold. Nor was I lost, though I didn’t exactly know where I was, and I didn’t know more than three people in the group and had only exchanged names with three others. I remember the names of the two leaders, though I doubt I would recognise them by sight. I learned quite a bit about them from listening and observing. Both are passionate in their separate interest fields.
On Sabbath I went back to the same place in daylight. To check it out, and to walk the dog. The trees, full of night life, looked dull and dead mid-winter. I didn’t find the native grass patch I had seen a few nights earlier. The new planted grasses in their weed mat beds hugged a path in patches; a path I hadn’t really noticed on my night walk. Our two-hour walk probably wasn’t more than a kilometre! The most interested party of my day walk was the dog. She was terribly excited about the smells and unfamiliar territory.
I live in a darkness. I can’t see. I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t know the people I’m with. I don’t have the innate ability to light up the night. But there is a Leader I can follow who knows the path and the highlights of the journey. He knows that it is a short time and distance, even though it may take all my life. If I follow closely, I am less likely to trip or lose my way. If I listen carefully, I will learn a great deal. If I watch closely, I will see amazing things.
My journey won’t be the same as your journey. We may not see the same possums. But, if we follow the same Leader, we will have a fabulous life even in the darkness, and we will arrive safely to our destination.
Too often, I forget what I am doing. Darkness closes in, isolating me. I can’t feel progress. I don’t have confidence or direction. I don’t know where I am or where I am going.
The best thing is that my Leader hasn’t left me alone in the dark. For some reason I have forgotten I’m on a night walk looking for possums. The Leader hasn’t left me behind. I’ve turned away, and am lost and struggling. If I turn back and fully participate in the night walk the Leader is taking, I will be okay.
Jesus said, “I am the light for the world! Follow me, and you won’t be walking in the dark. You will have the light that gives life” (John 8:12 CEV last part).
This piece was written for Sarah who was baptised on August 13.
April Wood is church librarian and on the Junior Sabbath school team at Albury church, NSW where she also works at the local public library.