Wednesday, December 11, 2013
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But it turns out that the porcupine is a prodigious if slow and lumbering climber, and depends on the bark, phloem and cambium of trees, especially conifers, for much of its winter diet. It so commonly is engaged in this gorging that it is considered a pest. It can almost denude a tree of bark, often working a ring around a branch or girdling the trunk, and in doing so, killing the tree.
In spring and summer, porcupines return to earth to forage, feeding mostly on grasses, sedges, acorns and flowers. They are known to intrude on food crops and have even been seen gnawing on a Michelin or two.
But I was momentarily stunned by the sight, as odd I thought "as seeing a snapping turtle in a sapling," as I told a friend later that night. It seemed it just should not be there, but it was, and by turning up, unexpected, it impressed upon me once again the marvelous surprises nature delivers without thought or provocation.
For a moment, our worlds collided -- the porcupine's and mine -- and the impact blew a hole in my brain, stopping all thought other than awe. We know now what it means to have heavy reality hit from out there: the asteroid drove that home, and then some.
But there are all kinds of alien objects, and subjects, descending on us like cosmic castoffs. This morning several crows are dropping out of the treetops like sheets of ash, onto the snow, where last night I tossed scraps of raisin bread like broken stars in the dark.
Over the weekend, the first flying insect of the season -- a sluggish mayfly -- trembled in uneven arcs around my head as I returned home from the grocer's. The owls are evident almost every evening, silent as death, here and gone and back again before you know it.
All the borders of the world are crumbling, as the season comes apart at the seams and spring seeps into the air. Porcupines in trees. They've always been there, I know now. But for a moment, they snapped my self-oriented thoughts like worn piano wire, snapped them sure, and put me where I belong, in harmony with nature and back in tune.
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