I’ve been watching this porky for two weeks now. It moves from branch to branch in a fir tree just down from the house. Last year I saw a prickle of porcupines (that’s what a group of them is called). Then again I never saw them all together. It could have been the same one. It’s kind of hard to tell them apart.
It’s a little bigger than a basketball balanced on slim branches. Big old tubby, without a care in the world. Calmly eating, moving, sleeping, and watching. When the wind is strong, it gets bigger, almost the size of 2 basketballs. The breezes lift up its quills. When the breeze stops, they settle softly against its back.
Baby porcupines are called porcupettes. They are born with soft quills (fortunately) that harden within days. After 4 months or so, they head off on their own. Porcupines are happily solitary animals. They do what they need to do and that’s that.
Animal symbolists describe porcupines that appear in life or in dreams, as signs to inspire us to face our weaknesses and vulnerabilities head-on. We then do what we can to protect ourselves from anything or anyone that wishes us harm.
First we ward off potential threats with warning sounds by rattling our quills. Just a reminder that we aren’t aggressive. Then we puff up, doubling our size as a visual cue that we aren’t going to be shoved around. Finally, when all else fails we run sideways or backwards into our tormentors. Maybe we don’t want to see the effects.
Sometimes I have to remind myself that perceived threats are just that. Thoughts, comments, or actions that aren’t meant to harm. There is just something in the air and it will pass. Down with the quills.
Porcupines also prompt us to rediscover the joy and innocence of childhood, remembering the days when our quills were soft. We are encouraged to leave the chaos and turmoil of our adult worlds and to honor our internal playful sprit.
Perhaps by sitting in a tree, calmly watching the world go by, repeating a mantra like “Polly porcupine and her prickle of porcupettes patiently picked through the prickers” will help.
At this time, many of us are living the solitary life of a porcupine. It’s an opportunity to practice equanimity.
“Equanimity is not insensitivity, indifference, or apathy. It is simply nonpreferential. Under its influence, one does not push aside the things one dislikes or grasp at the things one prefers. The mind rests in an attitude of balance and acceptance of things as they are.”
—Sayadaw U Pandita, “A Perfect Balance”
Picture yourself resting on a tree limb. Observe how you feel, your surroundings, the woman constantly taking your photo. Shake your quills if you think it’s necessary, then relax.
Namaste- this porcupette’s climbing a tree today.