Wombat ways

You stifle a cough, so others won’t stare
but can you spare a square?


You yell, you scratch, you’re quite a pair
but can you spare a square?


Don’t be lured into our lair
but can you spare a square?


This moment is heavy, and equally rare
but can you spare a square?


They don’t have masks, yet still give care
but can you spare a square?


All the dye has left my hair
but can you spare a square?


The panic creeps up like a snare
but can you spare a square?


I have 1 and you have 10
it’s fair, I swear!
but can you spare a square?


When the devastating wildfires were at their peak in Australia, I came across an article that touted wombats as heroes because they were going against their territorial tendencies and herding fleeing animals into their burrows, offering refuge from what raged above ground. This immediately pulled at my heart because when my daughter was two, my Australian cousins generously sent her a tube of plastic Australian animals, and for whatever reason, she immediately gravitated towards the wombat. That little plastic fellow never left her tiny grip for more than a minute over the course of the next year or so.

The thought of their fuzzy, pudgy, bodies scurrying across the landscape ushering anything in their path into safety, regardless of species or creed, both lifted my spirits and brought up the sentiment that I wish it didn’t take a crisis to open up our comfort zones and show up for our community.

Scientists later debunked the story saying that no one had ever actually witnessed a wombat exhibiting shepherding behaviors, but rather the other animals must have stumbled upon abandoned burrows. The wombat’s hard work was indeed being extended to others in their absence, but it was an unintended gift.

Fast forward a couple of months when, in addition to flames, a global pandemic would sweep the globe. Now instead of welcoming people in for survival, we are forced to hunker down, board up the entrance, and actively keep visitors out, just as the wombats originally intended. The swinging pendulum of what constitutes an act of service is making my head spin.

It’s no secret that technology is something that I often resist in the name of good old fashion human connection. However, in this case, it’s not only keeping us together, it’s enabling us to adapt. The internet has become our burrow, swelling with art lessons, free concerts, coveted museum tours, Zoom and FaceTime meetings, and virtual happy hours. I just pray that this does not lull us out of our busy lives and into a new normal. I hope we continue to crave personal interaction, so we can soon flood coffee shops, restaurants, schools, and offices and never take that freedom for granted again. I am trying to give myself grace, while soaking in this unexpected quality time with my family, even if it’s heavily peppered with intermittent work and meltdowns, lots of meltdowns. I am trying to find comfort as we sink deep into these rhythms and not fear the monotony as one day melts into the next without the usual demarcation of obligations and set schedules. I need to remember that while I am merely adjusting to this unprecedented time, no matter how temporary, there are real heroes (no offense to the wombats) who do not get a burrow, who do not have the luxury of adjust. Heroes who are the front lines, running our grocery stores, caring for those who are ill, and fighting desperately to innovate and control this pandemic.

One thing that seems to remain constant, no matter where you find yourself in the spectrum of all of this intensity, is that one can never have enough toilet paper, but please don’t forget to share. We have to take care of each other.


MARISSA B. NIRANJAN is down to her last roll of toilet paper but will always have a square to spare, although you will most likely find it waving in the wind, like a little white flag of surrender.

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