I suppose it was inevitable that bliss from the past months of walking the woods with Nora would get interrupted in a dramatic way. I got a glimmer of what was coming when I noticed she disappeared from our usual path so completely one day that I couldn’t hear the characteristic crunch through the leaves or thunder of racing legs and she raced past me to keep the lead. She was out of sight out of mind until I heard the barking. Loud insistent barking like that could only mean one thing. She had found some living thing to play with, torment, or chase. Whichever the case, I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop whatever was going on so just kept walking the path. The barking finally stopped and Nora finally re-joined me on our walk.
The next day the same thing happened, only this time I decided to go see, not rushing, just walking my regular pace in the direction of all the racket. By the time I got there, all I could see was the large furry behind of something high up in the tree Nora was now guarding with diligence, her barking reduced to an occasional yelp. She finally lost interest and off we went back on our usual path.
Out again a few days later Nora didn’t even make it into the woods before chasing a cat up a tree.
No way that cat was going to play or move until we were long gone, enabling us to move into our walk soon enough. And then, memory like a steel trap and nose to wind, Nora took off in the direction of her other new furry friend and the barking began again. This time it was really screechy, insistent in a frantic kind of way, she sounded out of control. I veered off and crunched through the woods until I came to where we had stood few days earlier and there it was, moving slowly in circles on the ground, and in every way trying to escape Nora’s insistence.
Nora of course got too close and bam, her head emerged in a whimper with the telltale quills hanging from her snout. Now I knew it was a porcupine.
It’s now twenty-four hours later and two of the offending quills still hang from her nose and lip. You would think I’d be able to reach over and just pluck them out for her. But she is on high alert and won’t let me near her. Like when this happened before in the spring, I want to see if these two strangely isolated quills will make it out on their own.
Reflecting on all this in the space of anxiety we both seem to be feeling today as a result, I wonder if Nora wanted more than to just play. Yes her tail was wagging, but she was also being fierce, much like her relationship with her tuggy, without a gentleness that might allow the porcupine to trust her intentions. The porcupine didn’t know what Nora wanted and so fear was initiated, and quills sent.
I’ve been told a lot in my life that I am too serious. That I need to relax, put my intelligence on hold to have fun or enjoy my bliss. Of course this just makes me feel crazy and discounted. And as much as I can imagine the gentle loving generally non aggressive porcupine having a grand o’ll time playing all by himself and only feeling fear and protecting himself when something insistent gets too close, my empathy is with Nora at the moment. She literally cannot lick her wounds. She is stuck with the painful reminder of rejection of this possible playmate, of having fun her way.
So the only way out I can see is to open up with empathy to the porcupine in me too. Understand that my appreciation for the discovery of adventure each day, for having fun the way I have fun is right here, every day at my disposal and is a damn good way to have fun. It may be expressed more like Nora, with exuberant energy, but it is still fun in the way that fun can be considered enjoyment or lighthearted pleasure. I can always feel where childlike innocence of faith and trust live in the infinite possibilities for what can be seen and felt and created each day.
Mostly right now, I miss my easy lighthearted time in the woods with Nora when we are typically aligned and moving through sacred space individually but together at the same time. I miss the day free of the anxiety of anticipating pain and discomfort. This is the kind of day when taking that particularly beautiful picture,
communing with my beloved brook,
or making that particularly yummy thing to feed myself makes a big difference.
A thin slice of my homemade levain bread toasted like a cracker, with pieces of the Cabot’s xtra-sharp cheddar cheese that I buy a pound of at a time from the gigantic wheel that always lives in the neighborhood corner store, topped by the canned pickled peppers I made a few months ago, sweet yellow peppers from the farm, roasted skinned cored sliced and combined with fresh garlic and ginger in a light vinegar brine with a touch of olive oil. A simple combination of complex flavors, amazingly delicious.
I’m hoping I don’t have to take Nora to the vet tomorrow. We’ll see.