chasing a porcupine

In all my years walking the woods here, I have not once seen another animal other than Yogi and Nora, in clear view. These days, it is just me and Nora. I’m still getting used to making the walks into the deep woods off leash without him, still trying to reconcile his wandering instinct that most likely will never change, with my desire to let him run free. But I have found him one too many times at the side of the main road after too long looking for him, watching him try to cross, wanting to wander even further. And so Nora and I leave for our time in the woods to the sound of his wailing from inside his crate. He knows where we are going and doesn’t trust yet that his time will come later, a nice long walk at the gorge or down to the brook, on leash. It’s the best I can do. I need to respect his ways. He has quieted even before we are out of earshot.

It is early, bright sun, blue sky and a barely perceptible cool breeze this morning. I let the woods do their magic, dispel the last of the accumulated worries and bits of fear that found their way into my awareness overnight. By the time I wake up, it is mostly contained. But there is always a lingering sense of something unwanted there, like a trickle from a body of water that looks contained, but can never really be truly contained.


This is the beauty of the woods for me. It eagerly soaks up my lingering doubts, drinks it deep and transforms the energy of the moment into one of promise again. Nora races ahead, comes back to find me, splashes in her favorite spot in the pond, and honors both her freedom, and her invisible tether to me, at the same time.

Then, after all these years, I see a porcupine, fully present and in full view right smack dab in the middle of the path. It is a big one, dark and very much alive. Nora races ahead to greet it, and of course, the poor thing turns to scamper off as quickly as it can. But the porcupine’s slow lumber is no match for the lightening quick movements of Nora who has now begun to bark frantically, maintaining the distance between herself and the creature a very uncomfortable few inches. My yelling falls on deaf ears. Exorbitant vet bills flash through my mind as I watch the large quills of the porcupine sway back and forth. It tries to escape up a face of rock. But Nora runs around to greet it at the top. I can’t watch. I simply walk away, calling to Nora to come, ‘this way’, ‘treat’, finally muttering, as if she can hear me, ‘you are making a big mistake Nora, please please please come…’. The barking stops. Silence. I hear her thundering up the path behind me, and note as she races past that she is quill free.

At home I open my animal medicine book (Medicine Cards, by Jamie Sams & David Carson) to the chapter on porcupine. “Porcupine has many special qualities, and a very powerful medicine: the power of faith and trust. The power of faith contains within it the ability to move mountains. The power of trust in life involves trusting that the Great Spirit has a divine plan. Your task is to find the pathway that is most beneficial for you and that uses your greatest talents to further the plan.”

Yes, the Woods tell me each and every time, just keep writing your path. Become the child again. Appreciate this new day as an adventure for discovery.

Porcupine is a gentle, non-aggressive creature. It’s quills are only used when trust has been broken. It does my heart good to know that Nora chasing the porcupine, barking her desire for connection, might not have been a threat or something to fear. The porcupine might not have liked being chased, but somehow it trusted that there was no bite behind Nora’s bark. Or so I’d like to believe. And why not have faith that animals can mirror for us the way to open our hearts and trust? “Trust can open doorways to the creation of space. The space thus created allows others to open their hearts to you and share their gifts of love, joy, and companionship.”

As if in answer, we emerge from the woods back into a sunlit blossom filled space.



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