Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Getting to the Point

Nibbling on leaves and twig tips
gnawing at a rind of bark
enthroned within a cottonwood crown
I squint up at the distant moon
Listening to the whispering songs around me
susurrating through the gathering dark.

Inhaling scents like memories
A thousand quills at the ready,
Although I’d write most 
of life’s every renewing wonder,
of innocent faith and trust.
A barbed retort might become my only resort 
should I find myself crossing swords 
with some diligent foe or stubborn swain
Though rattling my hollow display assertively
is often enough to get my point across
all the defense necessary for my humble domain.

Stout though never porcine, chisel-toothed
yet proud of my lustrous locks.
I am content to watch as others forge their paths,
confident that mine is the only one tailored to me.
I’ll slumber in my solitary chamber
hidden in the hollows of these roots
content and secure as I have been
since Coyote armed me from the Hawthorn tree.

Come winter we folk may gather in some cozy lodge
to share tales, warmth and company
picking our teeth with discarded cervid points
sanguine in our survival, certain to adapt.
I can help you through Life’s prickly situations
guiding you to the salt of truth
through the maze of humanity’s traps.

For those new to the game, each poem is inspired by a Teacher found in Nature; a star, stone, animal, plant etc that holds lessons of Wisdom for us. Can you guess who is singing today? 

“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.” 

― Bruce Lee

"On a cold winters day, a group of porcupines huddled together to stay warm and keep from freezing. But soon they felt one anothers quills and moved apart. When the need for warmth brought them closer together again, their quills again forced them apart. They were driven back and forth at the mercy of their discomforts until they found the distance from one another that provided both a maximum of warmth and a minimum of pain. In human beings, the emptiness and monotony of the isolated self produces a need for society. This brings people together, but their many offensive qualities and intolerable faults drive them apart again. The optimum distance that they finally find that permits them to coexist is embodied in politeness and good manners. Because of this distance between us, we can only partially satisfy our need for warmth, but at the same time, we are spared the stab of one anothers quills." Arthur Schopenhauer

The Porcupine (aka quill pig, thorny pig) is an herbivorous member of the Rodent family. There are around 2 dozen species of porcupines found in Africa, Europe and Asia as well as the Americas. Approximately 25 to 36 inches ( 60 - 90 cm) of head and body with an additional 8-10 inches (20- 25 cm) in tail; Porcupines are the third largest rodent in the world, second largest in the Americas. Primarily nocturnal, they like to curl up in tree hollows, cozy forks, convenient nooks like under porches or sheds, small caves, and crevices during the day before browsing the night for tasty treats.

Their large chisel-like teeth make quick work of the barks, twig tips, stems, leaves, flowers, grasses and berries that make up the bulk of its diet. Trees from Cherry to Hawthorn to Pine are important Balancing Energies to this Teacher and study of them, or any of the Plant Nation, will benefit those called by Porcupine. Wolverines, Fishers and large species of Owls are their biggest natural predators. Mountain Lions, Bobcats, Coyote and Wolves have been known to take out their fair share too. Although their dens may be neighborly close, Porcupines are largely solitary creatures, preferring to live alone unless mating or raising porcupettes (aka pups or piglets). They are less active during the bad weather of Winter, but do not hibernate. They may gather in groups of up to six though, especially during this season of solitude.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? ~Shakespeare

When I'm feeling
I get nasty,
I get whiny.

Stay away or
I might stick you.
My sharp words are
quills to prick you.” 
~Laura Purdie Salas,
Stampede!: Poems to Celebrate the Wild Side of School   

They have soft fur as well as approximately 30,000 quills making up their coat -hard protective hollow hairs, sharply pointed and barbed- which act as the porcupines' main defense. Some tales say that Porcupine was too proud of his lovely soft fur and was given quills to teach him humility. These protective quills can be raised and rattled as a warning display to potential predators or rivals. Many once curious critters will give the Porcupine a comically wide berth in later encounters!

Respect is as important lesson from this Teacher as Protection. Respect for self, respect for others, respect for the World around us are all important goals and intricately bound together. It is nigh impossible to practice healthy respect for others if you cannot respect yourself too, for example. Porcupine with his solitary ways teaches us the importance of being comfortable with only your self for company. Being aware of and attending to your own needs opens the door to being aware of and respectful of the needs of those around us. If any one view is unbalanced, it will affect the other two.

Although loosely attached to the porcupine, their quills cannot be launched as once believed, but are regrown to replace those lost. They can be extremely difficult to remove as well as painful to those meeting the pointy ends, and in some cases may even be fatal to those on the receiving end! Each quill has between 700-800 barbs at its tip, and will continue to work its way deeper unless removed. Each point is also pre-medicated with a natural topical antibiotic to prevent accidental self-quilling! Infants are born with soft quills which harden in just a few days.
Hair brings one's self-image into focus; it is vanity's proving ground.  Hair is terribly personal, a tangle of mysterious prejudices.  ~Shana Alexander

Porcupines are rather self sufficient and typically move out on their own by six months old. They typically only have one young at a time though twins are not uncommon. This swift independence indicates challenges early on in life for those called by this Teacher. Porcupine people learn quickly to rely on and take care of themselves. They often have a "prickly" attitude, their game face for protecting their vulnerable selves. Those who rely too heavily on these protective techniques may isolate themselves to their own detriment. Loving Kindness can make us targets for predatory people, but keeping everyone at a distance isn't healthy either.
Those native to the Americas are excellent climbers, while Old World quill pigs are more noted for their swimming. The buoyancy lent by their signature quills is an important trait when looking at this Teacher's symbolism. Hair most often symbolizes Strength/Vitality/Virility; a sensitivity or more direct connection to the Divine as well as an Awareness of the world around us. Hair can represent our emotions, political alignment, religion, self-esteem, thoughts; tangled, defiant, or neatly braided. In fact our views about our crowning glories can be rather complex and a great deal has been written on the topic throughout history. Perhaps the most important thing I can say about it here is that Hair is potentially the most powerful symbol of both individual and group identity. 

Coupled with the symbolism of this rodent's powerful jaws and teeth (Be careful with your words), their Quills are a reminder that thoughts come before speech. They can protect us but they can also potentially hurt us. Be mindful of the gates preceding statements, please... Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? Keeping our thoughts Mindful, healthy, reasonable is the first habit to developing a mindful tongue! Remember too that we hear our unspoken thoughts, and the cells of our bodies will react either positively or negatively accordingly. Do you find yourself belittling or berating yourself? Do you feel weighed down and confused by the abundance of thoughts bouncing around in your head? Do you turn your barbs outward by verbally lashing out at those around you? Nobody ever made themselves feel better by making others feel worse. 
Time to take a break! Curl up for a nap, have a refreshing drink, color a picture, step outside for a few minutes, take a shower, wash your face; whatever circumstances and time allow we Must make time for ourselves in order for those healthy habits to flow outward. Meditative techniques are very helpful. If you don't know where to start or feel unable, buy yourself a coloring book and crayons. Any steps you can take to become comfortable with both Silence and Solitude will be beneficial. There is tremendous power in simple confidence which allows us to explore our own potential as well as allowing others to follow their own path in peace.
What soap is for the body, tears are for the soul. ~Jewish Proverb

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward. ~Kurt Vonnegut

Perhaps Porcupine's biggest message to us is to not only be Aware of, but hang onto your most innocent joys and simplest pleasures. A great deal of strength flows from being able to laugh with the joy of a child, to simply enjoy the moment you are in fully without doubt or fear. With historically few exceptions, not a single human being yet has died from too much laughter. We've all met (or occasionally been) that person who believes themselves allergic or immune to the need for fun.
"No time" "Not productive" "When?!" "Too tired!" "with what?" "what would people think?" I hear people complain in a variety of ways on this topic. What are you waiting for? Life may have handed you a cactus today, but nobody made you sit on it! Being happy is a choice we are asked to make over and over every day. Being wise enough to seek out a little time each day to do something that makes you happy is never wasted or pointless! 

When was the last time you played? Play is important business and if you can't remember the last time, then you haven't been making time for it! I once advised a dear friend, "As soon as you hang up this phone I want you to get in your car. Drive immediately to the nearest playground and get on a swing; you need fun NOW!"  The point being... no excuses, no thoughts; just go have some fun! Tell a joke, or at least try to get through an entire day without complaining about a single thing. Smile more; whatever it takes! Trust me, so worth it.

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” ~Rumi
Porcupine gently reminds us that it takes a lot of Faith and Trust to maintain a healthy sense of Innocence and playful Fun. Children typically don't worry about what the neighbors will say, where their next meal will come from, or how to make ends meet. In normal circumstances, children simply trust that things will take care of themselves while they handle seriously important tasks like pretending to be super heroes or blowing bubbles. Porcupine asks us to remember that joyful innocence, and take active steps to renew our sense of wonder by practicing this important lesson. These are the things that balance our strong protective measures and need for both Silence and Solitude.
Porcupines love salt and discarded deer antlers, so may be found gathering over either. Deer (and other Cervid) antlers are full of calcium, phosphorus, and mineral salts making them very attractive to the Porcupine. They have been known to gnaw painted surfaces like tool handles or picnic tables, clothing, canoe paddles or even through doors to get salt! Salt intake is something Porcupine people should be aware of for obvious health reasons. Too little can be just as bad as too much! Symbolically, Salt is most often representative of Life or Truth. While porcupines may get sufficient salt through their love and consumption of salt-rich plants, concentrated sources will most definitely get their attention.

Porcupine people also tend to seek out Truth and life-affirming activities. Truth is important to supporting their lessons of Faith and Trust, but can also become a fear or obsession if focused on too much. Porcupines don't see very well but have an excellent sense of smell. Listen to your instincts. Porcupine people can easily overlook the big obvious answer in searching for hidden truth, or simply because the particular truth before them is uncomfortable, potentially painful. If something in a situation doesn't "smell right" to you but you can't see why, accept that your instincts are serving you well. Don't drive yourself crazy trying to find out the whys and wherefores, just follow your instincts. Truth will always reveal itself eventually, and sometimes we need to step back from a situation to see it clearly rather than stick our noses in closer.

There is a vast difference between Solitude and Isolation. Porcupine says there is nothing wrong with being social, provided you balance it properly with time for yourself. Pro-Solitude is not the same thing as Anti-Social. If you spend all your energy helping others rather than attending to your own needs and issues, you may have unbalanced Porcupine energy. Trust issues, lack of self-confidence, lashing out verbally as a reaction to your own thoughts or emotions, placing too much faith in others, and a complete lack of Joy are all indications that you may need help from this humble Teacher. How does Porcupine appear in your life?

"I'm antisocial, they say. I don't mix. It's so strange. I'm very social indeed. It all depends on what you mean by social, doesn't it? Social to me means talking to you about things like this." She rattled some chestnuts that had fallen off the tree in the front yard. "Or talking about how strange the world is. Being with people is nice. But I don't think it's social to get a bunch of people together and then not let them talk, do you?" ~Farenheit 451

“At any given point you can release your greatest self. Don’t let anyone hold you back. Don’t let anyone dilute you. Don’t be peer pressured into being less than you are. People willing to dilute themselves for the sake of others is one of the great tragedies of our time. Stop letting others define and set the pace for your life. Get out there and be your best. Do your best. Live your best. Make every day count and you’ll see how exponentially more exciting, thrilling, successful, happy and full your life will be.” 
― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

KEYWORDS: Trust, Instinct, Innocence, Protection/Security, Boundaries, Faith, Kindness, Personal Path, Humble Strength, Renewal of Wonder, Recovery from Grief


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