The August moon is waning and the time of letting go has begun. Coons have been gone for weeks and the second batch of possums went tonight. Birds and squirrels are a constant coming and going, so there isn’t much angst involved.
Letting go of porcupines is another story.
I have begun to think that everyone needs a porcupine in their life. Like many people, they are sometimes sharp and prickly, but you love them anyway. When they are babies, they learn to trust you and you can handle them gently without gloves. They are vocal enough to let you know if you are late feeding and grunt happily when you appear with their bottle.
When you feed a porcupine, you can do nothing else. You can’t talk on the phone. You can’t eat your breakfast. You can’t even drink a cup of coffee. It takes two hands, one to hold the porcupine and one to hold the bottle. Sometimes they hum while you feed them. You can’t rush them either. They take their time and you have to go with it or end up with a hand full of quills.
Feeding a porcupine is a lesson in mindfulness. It’s total calm (or else). It’s my Zen. I will set the computer to “The Great Bell Chant” and we sit . Sometimes the porcupine finishes first…sometimes the chant, but no matter what else you have to do or how hectic your day, you have those moments to sit.
I miss those moments of calm and the chance to simply sit. When they are weened, it’s all too easy to skip my times of mindfulness. Sometimes in the evening though, after everyone is tucked in their respective beds, but me, I will sit in the chair and listen to the porcupine softly snore.
The time comes though, that even that ends. The porcupine moves to an outdoor cage or enclosure where he learns to climb and munch watermelon, corn, leaves and grasses and crisp sweet potatoes. I often wonder what they think when they get in the woods and there are no sweet potatoes growing in the trees.
Then in the waning moon of August, it is time for them to leave. It doesn’t always work on the first try. I was worried that tonight might be one of those nights when you bring them back home and try again in a few weeks.
We know of a perfect place at the end of a dead end two track. It was once a homestead and there are little bridges of rocks across the creek that winds through it. The orchard and house are gone, but a few wild apple and pear trees have grown to replace them. It is lush with ferns and thick with oak, pine, beach and cedar. In other words, it is porcupine heaven.
We took along the possums that were eager to run off into the woods when the cage was opened and they were encouraged to experience freedom. The porcupines take a bit more time.
I carried her along the stream bank, showing her the different plants, the crossings and the best trees. I found a beech with a low branch and allowed her to climb from my hands to the tree. She whined and clicked her teeth with anxiety. She nearly tumbled off the branch, so I put her on the ground. She quickly (as quickly and a porcupine can) came to me and started climbing up my leg.
Scooping her up, we walked some more. Her high pitched whine and teeth clicking gradually changed to a lower pitch of excitement and chatters. I found a big white pine with lots of thick low branches and let her crawl from my hand to the branch. At first she climbed away from me, then turned and started whining again and came back to my arm.
We just talked to each other (I talked, she whined) till she calmed down and we repeated the process. After two or three times, back and forth, she climbed higher in the tree away from me. She tasted the needles and bark and grunted happily. She had taken her choice. She was home and I could leave.
I admit. It was hard to walk away. I looked back several times to see if she was trying to reach me. She wasn’t. So in the gloaming dusk, I left her.
I hope she’ll be safe. I hope she’ll have enough to eat. I hope she finds a mate. I hope she has a long life with many babies.
I hope, that somewhere in that slightly primitive brain, she will remember me.
I know, I will remember her.