Present Tense

Lessons from a porcupine

34-porcupine-pearThere’s a porcupine hanging around our house. He/she suddenly appeared the Sunday morning after I returned from my final week on the job in Denver. We were alerted to this arrival when our younger dog, Ember appeared at the door with a nose full of quills.

We extracted them quickly and she was fine, but the varmint remains. My husband immediately suggested getting rid of it. Many friends weighed in with ‘shoot it’. We explored hiring a local guy to trap and relocate, but decided his fees were a bit too steep.

For you city folk, I’ll fill you in on the ways of the elusive porcupine. They climb and eat trees and often nest in them. You may have walked right underneath them on many occasions. They are not aggressive and are quite solitary; you will rarely see more than one, unless it’s a mother and her young ‘un. They move quite slowly, which is why you will see them dead on the side of the road in rural areas and they do not ‘shoot’ their quills, except in cartoons.

Porcupines are actually rather peaceful, little vegetarians, but the quills are a major problem if you have dogs. I know this from personal and expensive experience. Which is why we are struggling with what to do about our prickly, fellow earth traveler.

We have to do a quick perimeter search before we let the dogs out at night and last night, I looked at my husband and said “Who is this porcupine and what does it want?? Why is it here?”

I Googled ‘porcupine spirit animal’ and this is what I found for when a porcupine enters your life:

It’s time to free yourself of guilt and shame and reclaim the innocence that you left behind as a child. Open your heart to those things that gave you joy as a child; remember fantasy and imagination and bring them into your life again. Make sure that you do not to get caught in the chaos of the world, where fear, greed and suffering are commonplace.

Know that you are protected and that protection is always available to you. It’s time to be yourself, and trust that it is safe to be who you are. The focus here is on faith and trust and the knowing that you can move mountains with these powers.


Protection, not threat. We live in a time where we seem to believe that we can eliminate all threats, often by killing them. It’s easier than listening or empathizing or trying to find common ground. Thus, the advice to ‘just shoot it’.

I went out last night with a flashlight to commiserate with our visitor, who I found sitting under a huge cottonwood tree. I told him/her that it was time to move further away from the house because we were fearful for the dogs. He/she turned and waddled away and up a tree and in that moment, I felt such a wave of sadness and affection that I had to take a deep breath to keep from sobbing; over a porcupine.

We are so quick to shoo away that which we don’t understand; so quick to see everything that might be different as a threat. There is always danger, but I think that many times, our reactions heighten that danger, rather than dampen it.

There is chaos in the world, protests in our streets. Politics is divisive and the common reaction is ‘just shoot it’ as if that solves everything. How about ‘just talk to it’ or ‘just listen to it’ becoming our go-to reaction?

So, Mr/Mrs Porcupine. Thank you for the lesson. Be well.

December 5, 2014 - Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. As always, Jane, well said.

    Comment by Sushil | December 5, 2014 | Reply

  2. Great story and lesson, Jane! I am a firm believer of “everything happens for a reason”. It’s the only way I can get myself through life some days. We live in a beautiful area in the foothills near Denver (Morrison). It always frustrates me when neighbors complain about the wildlife here – deer, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, birds. That is what fills me up and has drawn me here. It saddens me when neighbors are trapping animals and moving them. I feel like I am losing friends. We are sharing the space where they are supposed to live. Thanks for having an open heart, Jane, and connecting with our animal friends! I hope that porcupine listened well and will not bother your wonderful fur kids again!

    Comment by Kathy Graybill | December 5, 2014 | Reply

  3. BAM! is right. A very powerful message, you’re so right that our “instinct” is to kill it, get rid of it…How different would our lives be if we took time to “talk to it, or just listen”

    Thanks for sharing Jane.

    Comment by Audi | December 5, 2014 | Reply

  4. What an amazing lesson – know that it is safe to be yourself! Jane, you are my favorite blogger ever!

    Comment by Jennifer | December 5, 2014 | Reply

  5. That’s pretty amazing. There aren’t many folks who will pick up on the messages the universe sends us. Thanks for sharing and reminding me that it’s ok to revisit the innocence and joy of my younger self. Sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in the stress of our day-to-day here and now that we forget to find the joy in the moment, regardless of what it is. I think this is a particularly timely lesson as we get caught up in the stress of the Holidays. Time to start believing in Santa again. 🙂

    Comment by Sher | December 5, 2014 | Reply

  6. Wow, Jane. That was an incredible find; a divine visit. Who knew? Keep us posted.

    Comment by Ted Lytle | December 5, 2014 | Reply

  7. WhAt a great story. I love the lesson and meaning! Wonder what our visits from the skunk means……I’m tired of washing my dogs!

    Comment by Mary LaFrance | December 5, 2014 | Reply

  8. I got goosebumps reading this! What I loved the most is that you searched to learn about this creature which unveiled an amazing connection. Thank you!

    Comment by Mandy | December 5, 2014 | Reply

  9. Ok, now I feel horrible. I thought when you wrote it showed up after your retirement that there was a spiritual element to it’s arrival. I don’t even own a gun. I don’t know what I was thinking….. SInce I read what you found out about it’s spiritual meaning, that means you need to start climbing trees again yourself. I remember reading somewhere that you were the best at it. You are spot on. Neither people or porcupines are disposable. I already knew that and followed that mantra about people. I have since learned that about the quilled wonders. Thanks again. I hate guns anyway….

    Comment by Tim Lankerd, Ann Arbor, Mi. | December 5, 2014 | Reply

  10. This is precisely the type of post that made me subscribe to your blog – and continues to make me glad that I did. Thanks, Jane, for opening our minds and filling our hearts. I freely admit that “just shoot it” was my first reaction as well. So thanks for making me take a second, closer, and different look at things. (And yet, somehow, we’re surprised at the amount of violence in this country and around the world despite many of our first reactions being ‘kill it’. -sigh-)

    Comment by Mark | December 5, 2014 | Reply

  11. What a timely discovery! This helps put some things in perspective. It is timely as we go into the holiday season and will be looking forward to a new year…

    Comment by Kris | December 5, 2014 | Reply

  12. That is a great story Jane. That is a lesson we can all learn. Mother Nature knows best. One time my husband was digging some post holes when we lived in the country. As he dug one a small snake scurried into the hole. Being a lover of animals, he didn’t want to just bury it under the dirt and post, so he told it, “You have to come out of this hole now.” The snake immediately vacated the hole and went on it merry way. Oh the things we can learn from our animal friends.

    Comment by Joan Glasgow | December 5, 2014 | Reply

  13. Very nice Jane, let’s just hope your dogs have learnt their lesson & not poke their nose in to where it’s not wanted. Then everyone can live together

    Comment by Steve Harrod | December 5, 2014 | Reply

  14. Thank you Jane, great Lesson!

    Comment by Leah Ann Henry | December 5, 2014 | Reply

  15. And there you go…what amazing timing for you. I’m reminded of a song by Jewel in which she says “In the end, only kindness matters”. It is the absolute truth.

    Comment by Renee | December 5, 2014 | Reply

  16. Thank you for this insightful post. Even though I don’t always (or even often) manage to do it, I love the approach of looking at a problematic situation/person and asking “what do I need to learn from this?” Hard to do, but when it works it’s gold.

    Comment by Tracey | December 5, 2014 | Reply

  17. Lovely writing

    Comment by Peggy | December 5, 2014 | Reply

  18. Beautiful, Jane. How inspiring that you looked at this in a “what am I supposed to learn” mindset.

    Comment by Jennifer | December 6, 2014 | Reply

  19. Jane, you have amazed me with your wide-open mind and freeing of your soul. I have to admit that I always LOVED everything you said on the radio, always a little sarcastic and cynical (like me) , but I did assume you were wrapped pretty tight which is what you’ve admitted to all of us. I love that you are enjoying retirement so much and you inspire me with your lessons. Thank you for letting us in to your life.

    Comment by Lichelle | December 6, 2014 | Reply

  20. Just beautiful Jane! Your writing always touches me!

    Comment by Carol Brust | December 7, 2014 | Reply

  21. great insight Jane, thanks and by the way, I miss you on Mix!!!! Hope everything is well for you, your thought of often

    Comment by Deb Veltri | December 10, 2014 | Reply

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