The bear will be gentle/ And the wolf will be tame/ And the lion shall lie down by the lamb.” — Peace in the Valley


Two young bucks sparring in my backyard on Sunday in preparation for bigger battles to come. (Deer photos by my houseguest Janine Warner, founder of


Every fall the young bucks on this hill lock antlers in practice fights that sometimes get too rough. It shouldn’t have to be this way.


Inevitably one buck gets the worst of it and runs off, which is usually the safest strategy. As the Greek orator Demosthenes remarked in 338 BC, “He who fights and runs away may live to fight another day.”


Nor are bucks the most aggressive adversaries on this hill. As noted here before, a possum and raccoon have had more than a few hostile encounters on my deck. Because their skirmishes destabilize the area, I decided a while back to bring both sides to the negotiating table.

sharingI did this by putting some peanuts on the table. Both sides welcomed the gesture although the possum at first kept a wary eye on the raccoon.


Nor did the raccoon entirely trust the possum initially.


But over the course of several meetings that lasted well beyond midnight, the possum and raccoon found they could peacefully co-exist. It wasn’t exactly the lion lying down with the lamb, but it was a breakthrough in inter-species relations.

Negotiating a truce among the bucks in my pasture will, of course, take longer because because butting heads has been part of their culture for millenia.

In contrast, possums didn’t show up in West Marin until the late 1960s and weren’t here in numbers until the late 1980s. For that reason, it’s not too late to convince them and the long-resident raccoons of this ancient land to join paws in brotherhood.

And despite both sides now feeling less anxious around each other, I haven’t stopped my shuttle diplomacy, for I’ve taken to heart Henry Kissinger’s warning: “The American temptation is to believe that foreign policy is a subdivision of psychiatry.”