One of the experiences I had on my 6 day solo in nature was lying in my sleeping bag just outside my tent fly looking up through the tree canopy to the night sky. I could see stars and I started to shut my eyes and go to sleep. Suddenly I heard rain drops falling on my stretched nylon tent fly an arms length away from where I was lying on the left of my sleeping bag. They made a drumming sound but I couldn’t feel any drops on my sleeping bag. The drops petered out to a drizzle and then fine spray just as fast as it had started. Maybe in the branches above I was being pissed on by a possum? I felt myself lucky that it wasn’t landing on me even though it was less than half a metre away. I decided to stay where I was and head back to sleep. Five minutes later a loud drumming sound of hail stones falling on, and bouncing off, my tent started. I felt two of these bounce off the tent and onto my sleeping bag and then it stopped. Maybe now I was being pooed on by the possum? Was it aiming to get me or just being indifferent?
I wondered what would happen to my sleeping bag if I rolled on top of possum poo all night. I decided this needed investigation and I reached out, for the only time on my solo I felt I needed to use my head torch, and looked for the poo. In the dead leaves and grass next to my sleeping bag near the top and the bottom I found two pellets of possum poo. They were quite firm and not sloppy. This was a good sign for my sleeping bag and for my poo handling. I shone the small circle of light in the darkness onto the poo. It was a clean green cylinder about a thumb width long and a quarter of a thumb width in diameter. I found two dead leaves to protect my fingers and thumb and then I gently bent the leaves in a pincer motion and picked up the possum poo and just threw it quickly and forcefully out from light and away from me and into the dark.
Three metres to my right was the beautiful, gently cascading stream that was my constant companion with lovely bubbling and burbling sounds over and between rocks day and night. Between me and the stream was also a little bush with its own ecosystem of ferns, leaves and dead vegetation decomposing to provide it with nutrients for life.
When I turned the light off and settled back to go to sleep in the darkness again I felt a dreadful feeling of regret wash over my body. I asked myself where did that poo go? I see myself as a responsible and thoughtful person and conscious of what to do with waste in an ecosystem. I now regretted not just carefully lifting the poo from the left side of my sleeping bag and gently resting it an arms length away under the little bush on the right side of my sleeping bag so that it could be nutrients for the grass and the bush without causing discomfort for me. In the emotional constriction and small circle of light with my concentrated awareness I had just thrown what I didn’t want away into the darkness, mindlessly unaware that there is no such place as “away”. I started to think, did the poo go in the stream? This was the water I was drinking. Will Peter and Danny downstream of me, and me, be drinking possum poo tainted water? I had an uneasy night’s sleep and reflected on how humanity lives mindlessly in the world like this all the time, creating and disposing of waste ignorant of the ecosystems we live in and how if we were more mindful and thoughtful we can work with nature to turn waste into food for some of the other organisms we live with.
The next day, when it was sunlight, I looked for the poo in and around the stream without luck. I hoped that Peter and Danny will survive downstream and forgive me. I accepted that if Claire was having similar dilemmas upstream from me, that I was still drinking the water. I wondered if people in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia could collaborate and listen to each other’s stories, mistakes and insights about the Murray-Darling River system and learn to honour and respect the water, each other and mother nature. My lesson: whenever life is narrow, focused and intense, relax, be present, connect with nature and be mindful and open before reacting unconsciously.
Other experiences I had involved a sea eagle, blue-tongue lizards, birds, bubbling water, ferns, sky and a snake.