Aren't Possums Beautiful?

Aren't Possums Beautiful?


All life is precious

A quilted tapestry

Each is important

In Nature’s mystery.


The above words are one verse in a song I wrote about 8 years ago, a song called Smile if You Want To. I was reminded of them when bringing in wood to start the fire on a cold morning two days ago. The kindling was comprised of branches I’d pruned by hand from bushes on the edge of the property a couple of years earlier; bone dry wood that was stacked neatly under the deck. The lowest branches lay directly on the ground.


As I crouched feeding wood into the fireplace I noticed a number of creatures making their way independently across the floor away from the fire. They had obviously been hitchhikers on the wood I’d brought in. They were smart to get away before getting tossed inadvertently into the fire.


What were they? A red worm, a cockroach and a spider. The worm was easy to catch by hand, as was the spider. I took them outside and bade them farewell. The cockroach was a little more difficult to catch. They’re fast. But persistence paid off and he was soon with his cousins on the lawn.


In this country people intentionally try to run over possums with their cars at night because these imported mammals from Australia have decimated some New Zealand forests. The possums were originally brought here in the 1800s for the fur trade. They have thrived and proliferated with no known predators (save man). But I believe what we resist persists. Kill one possum and another will breed to more than make up for it. All life is precious and is part of a complex balance and evolution that will work if we work with it. The possum, the worm, the cockroach and the spider have roles to play and I want no part in the destruction of any of them. When you love Nature she loves you and you are rewarded abundantly. When you fight her she fights back.


Here’s the chorus from Smile if You Want To:

Smile if you want to.

Laugh if you can.

Join in the circle

That touches every land.


Keep smiling,


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In this Voices from the North interview recorded at Shangri La in New Zealand’s far north, John engages Gentle World co-founders Light and Sun in a wide-ranging philosophical discussion on the ethics of a vegan non-violent lifestyle.

Sun and Light are celebrating forty years from the day they decided to do everything in their power to stop being part of the violence in this world. On that day they stopped eating meat. Becoming a vegan is an ethical decision. For some this decision is lasting. This couple have not strayed from the course they set in motion all those years ago.

Despite making the choice for ethical reasons, they have found their health has also improved. But as Light points out in the interview, “Even if becoming a vegan made me limp, I’d do it.” Obviously, that depth of commitment comes from someone who feels deeply and compassionately about all beings, not just human beings. Light has been known to give an interesting twist to the Golden Rule. “Do unto animals as you would have them do unto you.”

Light tells the story of veteran broadcaster Paul Harvey having the chimpanzee Washoe on his show. In 1965 Washoe was taken from her home in the wilds of West Africa by the U.S. Air Force for space research. This is the chimp that had learned to sign over 250 words in American Sign Language and taught them to other chimpanzees. The three words she signed to Paul Harvey were, “Let me out!



These three words changed Paul Harvey’s life. Washoe had spent her life in captivity so that humans could do research on her. All she wanted was to be free.

Sun wraps up our interview by way of a heartfelt appeal for humanity to deeply consider the possibility of evolving individually and collectively to ‘non-violence’ as a way of life. She says, “The next evolutionary step for humankind is to move from human to kind.” And she asks each of us to expand our compassion beyond the bounds of our families, or our race or our religion or even humanity to embrace all beings with love.


The move to let go of our old patterns of eating may seem difficult for many. Listen to these two deep thinking and acting people to receive the inspiration required to make another step towards stopping being a part of the violence in this world. They have demonstrated by their living examples that change is possible at any time. They’d be quick to point out that we are each a ‘work in progress’. Each individual simply needs to be the changes they want to see in the world, one small step at a time. Then the day will come when the lion sleeps with the lamb.


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Radio host, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives and the recently released Beyond the Search, books to lift the spirit and touch the heart. See

“In Search of Simplicity is a unique and awe-inspiring way to re-visit and even answer some of the gnawing questions we all intrinsically have about the meaning of life and our true, individual purpose on the planet. I love this book.”

Barbara Cronin, Circles of Light. For the complete review visit:

“In Search of Simplicity is one of those rare literary jewels with the ability to completely and simultaneously ingratiate itself into the mind, heart and soul of the reader.”

Heather Slocumb, Apex Reviews