6: Sugar Glider Encounter
One night while camping in Kakadu National Park – on the other side of the country and far away from my possum-inhabited abode – I was sitting on the roof of my car looking at the stars when I saw something little and grey flash past. It moved so fast my eyes barely kept up, I was only just able to capture the scene in my peripheral vision but I had no doubt I’d just seen a Sugar Glider.
I watched the enchanting little thing scurry up a nearby tree, leap from high in a bough and glide and land with a clop against the bark of a tree trunk some ten metres away, scurry a short distance up a bough again and repeat the process, gliding onto another tree before disappearing into the darkness of the undergrowth. I can vividly recollect the trajectory of the glider through the air (roughly at the height of my eye-line on top of the car).
Because the glider whizzed by in a flash I was left to visualise the finer details in my mind. I pictured big, alert, black eyes focused on a landing point. Once taken to the air, a fold of skin stretched out along the sides of its body between the fifth finger of each front paw and the hind-ankles, exposing the snowy fur of the underbelly and setting a body-frame taught like a kite of silver-greys and blacks; all balanced in a controlled glide by a long bushy tail. And together with what I saw and imagined, I got an overwhelming sense of an animal in total control of its own domain, such moves having been perfected by its Sugar Glider forebears over the ages.
But on this occasion, as opposed to my previous possum experiences, my encounter with this regal, dashing little Sugar Glider unfolded in its backyard as opposed to my backyard – within a natural setting more befitting of an Australian native animal, without houses, cars, electricity wires, feral animals or the many trappings of the modern urban possum.
Kakadu is a special place – a land pulsing with its own beautiful sense of nature and culture. One of its children had just glided past and I loved my Sugar Glider encounter for this very reason. There was no confrontation or standoff, no toe-biting or falling down into fireplaces, no felling of trees or squabbling in roof spaces, no blocking of weatherboard fascias. Neither of us altered our intentions and had I wanted to seek out any trace of this little grey glider in its own natural existence beyond my opportune encounter, my chances would be next to none.
Someone pushed the fast-forward button on the DVD remote because again my possum encounter happened so quickly. They must have then pushed the pause button because I sat for ages on top of my car in contemplation about the glider and where a possum tragic might fit into the bigger scheme of things. On that early August evening it didn’t matter to me what constellations were emblazoned across the big wide rooftop of the universe, I felt a part of it nonetheless.