We were away for the weekend in Connecticut, and when we pulled into the driveway late last night and unloaded the car, we heard an odd shriek coming from a corner of our yard.
I thought I heard something, but decided it was our cat Tuna protesting that we left her alone for three days. (It’s probably worth mentioning that Tuna is a typical feline and seems to care less on any given day if we are home or not, but still, I thought it was her).
My boyfriend D. asked if I had heard the odd noise, and grabbed a high-intensity flashlight from the garage. We snuck over to one of our apple trees where he thought the noise was coming from, and pointed it toward the sky. The branches were full of small, green buds of apples.
What the heck was that noise?
There were the culprits—two porcupines, huddled next to each other, sharing the same branch.
They kept on shrieking.
I remember seeing a porcupine in our driveway last year. He was holding an apple between his paws and happily munching on it like one might gnaw on an ear of corn, periodically turning it to get at uneaten sections. (In the picture, you can see that the greedy little bugger didn’t stop at just one, either.)
We saw him once again that summer in an apple tree, and stood under him as he trembled, clutching the branches with his little hairless feet.
In Native American lore, porcupine is about the power of faith and trust. Jamie Sams and David Carson say in Medicine Cards that porcupine is at the south of the medicine wheel, the place of childlike innocence and humility. By understanding the basic nature of the porcupine, we can gently remind ourselves “not to get caught in the chaos of the adult world where fear, greed, and suffering are commonplace.” The medicine in porcupine is therefore about relieving severity and seriousness and opening ourselves to the world of imagination, to the things that gave us joy as children.
So, what does it mean when there are two of them, and they are shrieking in one’s apple tree?
Well, they could be participating in some mating activity. Apparently, porcupines do mate in late summer and early fall, and they tend to be quite vocal when they mate (there’s something about the male doing a little dance and urinating on the female’s head. Nice, huh?). They can make all kinds of noises—moan, grunt, wail, whine, cough, and click their teeth. But these porcuplines didn’t appear to be doing anything R-rated.
Porcupines are solitary animals, so perhaps they were fighting over whose tree it was. It was the very same tree we had seen one of them hanging out in last summer.
(At this point in the story, you might be wondering how I know that one of these porcupines is the same one we saw last year. Well, let me tell you—I can feel it’s the same one, with my child-like imaginative spirit that they have now reminded me of. Or, I suppose I could be assuming it’s same one for dramatic effect.)
We left these very familiar porcupines alone, and they were gone this morning when I headed out. I went to visit my dad at his nursing home. He is 84, and I had to awaken him from a nap to visit with him.
I told him all about the two porcupines. Before we had to sell his house five years ago, he used to love to track the animals that came into his yard. He would tell us all about the fox in his driveway or the bear that tore apart his birdfeeder.
He smiled at the story of the two porcupines, and muttered something. He still had the covers pulled up to his chin.
“What did you say, Dad?” I could barely hear him, and I squeezed his hand. He has had a few strokes, followed by some TIAs, and he sometimes struggles to articulate himself loudly.
“The two porcupines…” he said, coughing slightly.
“Better…to be seen and not felt,” he whispered. And he smiled.
I laughed. And I knew everything was going to be okay—those porcupines showed up to remind me of just that.