Sunday, June 30, 2013

the colors of summer

Tuesday
So many flowers this morning, many whose names I don’t know or maybe have forgotten, but some I do know: ox-eye daisies, orange hawkweed, goat’s beard, all the different clovers, buttercups, star flowers (or maybe stitchwort or maybe both), and … drum roll, please … bird’s-foot trefoil.

Daisies, clover, bird’s-foot trefoil, and friends.

Along the roadsides blue and pink lupines; along the porch wild columbine. Snip, snip, snip—off with those skinny dead heads!

The heady wild columbine.

The Honeycrisp apple tree has leafed out and Fireside’s blooms have been pollinated. Every morning I check both for caterpillars, usually finding a few thin, dark-furred critters moseying about. I squish them.

Bugs are rife and raft and all over, singing, clicking, buzzing, chirring, biting, crawling, scurrying, flying, zipping, zapping, chirping, being. In general, as long as they stay outside, they do not bother me. Only the occasional individual or horde becomes an irritant to be cursed or smacked.

The morning birdsong is joyous, but perhaps because of the oppressive heat by evening the birds are quiet. And everything sweats.

The lovely goat’s beard.

I live, at long last, in a field of wildflowers.

Wednesday
That crazy stillness before the storm. Sky all shades of grey and rumbles of thunder. Another warm and muggy day. Did a little business at the Hancock Tori and shot this video through a knothole in my display.



(And then the fans stopped rotating and the radio went silent and the wind whooshed in. Out on the porch I took this video.)



Thursday
For the first time in two years, since I had electricity brought to the cabin, the lights went out. Elliott hunkered down in the bathroom. I made dinner and read. The storm passed and the electricity returned. Now, again, it is warm and muggy and incredibly still. Like living in a sponge.

The clouds of summer / western sky /
the view from a porch on a Thursday in June.

Sunday
A flurry of ideas on this delightfully cool, clear, 40-degree morning. But they are like butterflies and my head a loose net. I heard something odd on the radio: Two-thirds of the cows in this country are milked by people who are here illegally. And the bumper mosquito crop has been good for business—The Soap Lady has been buying scads of beeswax because people are buying scads of her “Don’t Bug Me” body butter. (It contains beeswax.)

Yesterday, in the midst of a very good and busy farmers market but at a moment when no one was at the booth, I spotted a little white poodly looking dog across the way. I had two near simultaneous reactions. First, I thought of Oola and Pearl, my sister’s two little white poodles. Then, the dog cocked its head and there was an expression of what seemed to be curiosity for something ahead, and a feeling welled up in my chest and tears filled my eyes. These pangs have hit me a number of times lately. A few weeks ago after the market I was getting some hot tea at the muffin shop. There was a jar of dog treats on the counter. I thought oh, I’ll get one for Buster, remembered no, Buster’s dead, and looked around in a vague panic for a jar of cat treats to get one for Elliott, but of course there is never a jar of cat treats when you need one so I felt suspended. To get to the van I had to cross a busy street and it took too long—I was crying by the time I opened the van door. I’d been just fine until I saw that jar of dog treats.

My old pup Buster, about a year ago.

A couple of times at the market this summer I’ve been visited by a little dog who reminds me of Buster. The dog is a mixed-up, king-of-my-world-and-welcome-to-it terrier, and I’ve told the little guy’s owner how Finnigan reminds me of my dead dog and how seeing Finnigan makes me smile. Maybe he brings smiles rather than tears because he is so much his own little self, like Buster was so much his own self. One day Finnigan took care of business and then kicked bits of sod so high and far they flew every which way like a celebration gone wild.

The little white dog at yesterday’s market was toddling by my booth and holding back the tears was not getting any easier. I asked if I could say hello to the dog and knelt down to pet him, or her, I don’t know which, and all I wanted was to just grab that dog and hold tight, but I didn’t, I just petted and complimented and on their way they went.

Toward the end of the day I was sitting on the short wall that runs alongside and behind my booth. There’s a nice spot that puts me at the end of my display so I’m neither behind the table nor in front, just alongside. I noticed a girl coming toward the table from across the way. She was staring at the candles, smiling, transfixed, zeroing in. Others old and young, male and female, have come at my display in just the same way, with a look of wonder. I don’t know if it’s the color of the wax, the various figures, first one critter then the next, or what. I just know that they’re seeing something that makes them smile, makes them curious, that holds their attention, that draws them in, that draws them out. It makes my day.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

culture shock in a hockey arena during a rainy week in june, or why did the turtle cross the road?

I woke twice to Elliott’s strange yowl-meow that indicates he is at the door, usually with a snack. Both times I got up to check, opening the door a crack and peering out. The first time, the mouse was half eaten. Elliott gave me a long, expectant look. I said “good boy, eat up” and went back to bed. It was still light out, though barely. The second time I got up the mouse was whole. Elliott gave me the look, I responded accordingly, closed the door. As I stood at the kitchen sink with a glass of water I noticed twinkling lights in the field. Hundreds of little lights blinking on and off low over the grass and flowers and around the shrubby trees. Fireflies. It was dark, though not completely. Maybe somehow the near full moon was shining through this cloud that took us in a few days ago, this cloud that has rained upon us over and over ever since.

I was bone tired after standing in the cool damp all day at the Marquette Farmers Market. No rain, just penetrating dampness, rolls of moisture billowing about, and the Great Lake of Superior keeping it cold. I was also bone tired from two consecutive days of setting up and selling candles—the physical labor of lugging things around and the mental labor of interacting with gobs of people. Most of the week I am alone, seeing no one except the occasional neighbor, whoever’s at the grocery, the post office, or the bank, and then, this week, two days in a row of streaming people. I become this slightly different person who yaks and yaks with customers and by the end of the day I’m thinking “who was that person? Was that me?”

Friday’s fair was in a hockey arena in L’Anse. It was to be outdoors, along the Keweenaw Bay, a beautiful spot, but it was raining and had been raining and was to keep on raining so it was moved inside the arena. It was an afternoon event, and all morning I had spun my web alone in my cabin, a small fire going to ward off the damp, all the candles made and packed up, ready to go. I was writing, describing the rain, “ … there is darkness, not like the night, but like a thunderstorm, and lamps are on, and I can see raindrops bouncing on the roof of the garage. A great morning for washing one’s hair in the rain, which I won’t do, but will remember doing … ” and the very last thing I wanted to do was to leave this world to go sell beeswax candles in some other world.
Now heavier rain, lightening, thunder gets closer. And this, in my cabin on a rainy morn with a little thunder and a purring cat, hot tea, a blanket, a notebook, a pen, a fire, feeling immersed in all that is close yet a step apart from “the world,” is fine.
I know I have learned something, perhaps matured a bit in my life, because there was a time … well, I bitched about loading the van in the rain and having to battle mosquitoes to do so, and then driving and dealing with the mosquitoes that had joined me for the ride to L’Anse, but I did it, and there was a point in my life when I might not have. When I might have just stayed home.

Once at the arena—the “ugly building behind the football field” is how it was described to me—I was peeved because there was just one large doorway at the end of the building for us all to use to haul our stuff in. A curtain of rain run-off fell in front of the doorway and there was a doormat of mud. To get on the rink itself (concrete, not ice) just a narrow little door. The arena was abustle with people setting up their tables of craft work and baked goods, and in the middle of the rink folding chairs arced around a dance floor fronted by an area for musicians. My head was all amutter about not wanting be there, about how I should not be there, and about how this was not the place for me. It is, indeed, embarrassing now to admit it. I was feeling snobbish.

My spot was close to the entry so I hauled things in, all the while telling myself to do this only so as to remember, in no uncertain terms, to never do this again. I knew it was a bit irrational, that if it were not raining, I’d be fine, yet my thoughts yammered on. My table and display were up and I was about to start putting out the candles when I realized I had forgotten the box with my change money in it. Crap. Every opportunity, it seemed, to just go home, back to my nest, and it would be totally justified. But would it look terribly stupid if I packed up and left now? Did I care? And here’s one part of this—who in this arena did I know? Hmmm … It gives one great freedom to know no one, but it also constrains one to relying on oneself or to relying on strangers.

L’Anse is a small town of about 2,000 people. Two blocks from the arena is a bank, and it just happens to be the bank I use, so I drove over and told the teller I needed five dollars in quarters, twenty-five dollars in ones, and thirty dollars in fives. I signed the withdrawal slip, got my money, headed back by to the rink, dripping rain all the way.

It took a while, but I finally settled in and the damn muttering in my head stopped. I saw a neighbor or two and others I’ve met briefly here or there. The music was great, and I marveled at the purity of the voice of the young woman who sang in Finnish. I learned that she is a town favorite, that as a little girl she won hearts by singing in nursing homes.

I noticed a few people in Native American dress—women in outfits strung with fluted tin bells that jingled when they walked and men in leather and feathers. They were members of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Native American Dance Troupe, and when they performed I was quite simply blown away. The firm and loud drum beats backed by singing (though I hesitate to call it “singing” as it is something quite other, I know not what) wrapped around me thrilling me down to the gut. The dancers flowed in a circle, performing different dances, all symbolic of some aspect of life as interpreted by people for whom this land is home in a way so few of us know. I have seen many great live performances in my time, including ballet, opera, Broadway musicals, legends such as Ella Fitzgerald and superstars such as Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan, but never before had I seen a live performance of Native American dance and music. The fact that I was seeing it not by choice but by happenstance made me realize my great good fortune to be exactly where I was, despite myself.

At some point I had a conversation with two people in which I rambled. Reading my little handout about beeswax and Pea Pickle Farm, one commented that moving here from Chicago must have entailed quite a bit of culture shock. I have never much explored that because I am here specifically for the lack of people, and I have had no problem adjusting to the wide open spaces. Yet of course there are people here, and the U.P. is steeped in culture—or should I say cultures—like no place I’ve ever known. There are the Finnish traditions and words and jokes about Toivo and Eino, there is the hunting culture, the mining culture, the lumberjack culture, the living-off-the-land culture, and there is the country culture and farm culture and the culture of isolation. The culture of canning and preserving and fresh eggs and goat’s milk. There is a culture of dancing to fiddles and accordions and there is a culture of art and music that feeds off the culture of the woods and lakes and rivers. None of these are cultures I was brought up with or exposed to in any way until I moved here nine years ago. And the move was to be a joint venture, a shared experience with my husband at the time, but he left and the culture shock of being suddenly single, of having to experience my life alone, let alone this place alone, was the predominant shock, the one I had to deal with every day in every way. For a while everything else that happened, no matter what it was, including my father’s death, was background. And then of course two years ago, I moved again, to this part of the U.P.

Now, there is still a part of me that is shocked when I find myself muddy and wet on a Friday afternoon setting up at a craft fair taking place in a hockey arena in a little far northern town because that is where I live and because making and selling beeswax candles is how I earn a living.

The half-wall of the ice rink was white dashed all over with the black marks of the hockey pucks that have hit it over and over again. And the things that are, in essence, culture shock are the very things that bring me back to earth, that ground me. The candles. The Finnish folk songs. The drums and dancing of the Ojibwa. The very old gentleman who, after the dancers, sat in a metal folding chair playing “lumberjack” harmonica (no hands) with another man on the bones and spoons, weaving together tunes that were nothing I had ever heard but were hauntingly familiar. And the babbling I did was about coyotes and the Northern Lights and how the first time I saw twinkling lights out in the fields on a summer night I had no idea what was going on, even though I grew up catching fireflies in a glass jar.

Just north of Michigamme driving to the Marquette market in yesterday’s early morning fog, I spotted a dark blob ahead in the road. My first thought was “turtle,” but I knew it could be any dead animal or any thing. It was in the northbound lane, I was in the south. As I approached I slowed, saw it was a turtle, a huge turtle with a shell no less than 12 inches across. The turtle was heading west, but had stopped in the middle of the lane, seemingly mid-step, head and tail and feet all stretched out, poised, ready to go. It was probably a snapping turtle, but I can’t say for sure. I made a U-turn, pulled off the road, put on the flashers, got out of the van and stood behind the turtle, herding it along. There were no other cars, then headlights appeared to the south. By the time the car passed, we were out of its way, and the turtle made it safely to the other side of the road. I got back in the van, made another U-turn, saw the turtle was heading down the embankment, and went on to the market.



It is not like seeing or hearing it live and this is a different event, but enjoy.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

creeping toward the summer solstice, mosquitoes and mehiläisvaha, elliott eats a mouse or two

Heat & Skeeters
Tuesday, June 11
A light breeze helps, but an all-day sun and temperatures climbing to the upper 70s have me, tonight, staying in. It’s too hot. The skeeters are thick. I’ve been wondering what it is about mosquitoes and screens. They latch on to the outside of a screen, so many of them, and sit there. Why is that? Why don’t they go latch onto a tree somewhere far away? We creep toward the summer solstice, that longest day of the year, as if the sun being up from 6 a.m. to near 10 p.m. still just isn’t long enough. We’ll go another few days, another few minutes, stretching that rubber band of daylight until … snap. I am pretty sure I have SADD (Seasonal Affective Disorder Disorder), the symptoms being a vague irritation brought on by the ever-present daylight of summer.

Another day dawns. But where is the night?

Mehiläisvaha
Wednesday, June 12
At the tori today in downtown Hancock (tori being the Finnish word for market) I set up to sell beeswax. The market is held every Wednesday and Saturday on Quincy Street on a deep and broad grassy lawn that fronts a massive, near 100-year-old, two-story brick building that was once a middle school. Now it’s part of Finlandia University. The city provides a couple of large tents for vendors to set up under, and the market is a mix of interesting stuff offered up by a few hardy regulars and a few curious newbies, like me. Then there is the occasional once-in-a-blue-mooner, like The Pancake Brothers (or so it said on their caps). These fellows set up a table with some Finnish CDs and carved wooden cups and boxes. They said they had just arrived from Finland a day or two before, in town for FinnFest 2013, which takes place here next week, and they’ll have a booth at the FinnFest tori, I suppose selling pancakes. All that to say I learned today the Finnish word for beeswax: mehiläisvaha. As I tried to pronounce it and was corrected, over and over, the word started jingling in my head like another word—no! A tune! A dance! In yet another language. Ever been to a Jewish wedding? Try it:

muh heelaz va ha …
muh heelaz va ha …
muh heelaz va ha …
muh heelaz va ha ha ha ha …

The Finnish Pancake guy who taught me mehiläisvaha began singing it better than I. The song (as I have now looked it up) is “Hava Nagila.” And all that to say that that is how I came to be singing the Finnish word for beeswax to the tune of a Jewish folk song in downtown Hancock today.

Jeepers. I hope I wasn’t dancing, too.

Enter Bob Dylan.



Midnight Mosquito Madness
Thursday, June 13
One mosquito strategically placed by an ear can seriously disrupt even the most peaceful slumber. But that was last night. Tonight, I’ve been settin’ out on the porch and the mosquitoes are, for now, elsewhere. Crickets, however, are plentiful. There is a relentless chirp in the air.

The temperature is perfect, and I feel a bit drowsy. Elliott and I sit, I in the chair and he beneath it, barely moving. Nothing much moves but a slight breeze that riffles the leaves and grasses, the grasses, in places, now knee high. The birds must be sticking close to their nests, hidden in the trees. Only hummie zips by once in a while.

Summer has crept in and taken hold. Out in the fields the blue-eyed grass is blooming (and thank you to whoever named it that), and the wild columbine planted along the front of the porch last May is all a-dangle with its flowers of red and yellow. The lawn is messy with stalks of fluffy dandelion heads and the occasional seed drifts by like a dressed up speck of dust. The rest of us are dressed down, nowhere to go, for now. We set.

The Milky Way
Friday, June 14
So cool last night I used all the blankets and slept well. At 3 a.m. Elliott meowed so I got up. He was right outside the door chomping on something. I closed the door. Through the large south windows I saw the Milky Way.

Elliott’s Late Night Snacks
Sunday, June 16
The farmers market started with a drizzle of rain but that moved off, the sky remained cloudy. It was a good day, but my new beeswax sign—mehiläisvaha painted on a board and hung from the tent’s cross braces—inspired only one person to comment. I learned something key about pronouncing Finnish words: accent the first syllable then just plow right on through.

After the market I worked at the gallery until six, so driving home I had to finish the plate of cinnamon rolls, and once at home I had to plop down on the sofa. After a bit, I heard Elliott meowing. He’d been in all day, rushing out when I came home. Now, maybe he was ready to come back in. I went out on the porch and spotted him around the corner, snacking on a mouse. He looked at me making a soft growly noise deep in his throat and went back to eating.

Much later I awoke to the howling, yipping, and barking of coyotes, as if in an amphitheater of wild dogs. I went down to see if Elliott would come in. He did.

Wild columbine.

Now the morning is layered in dew and all the smells of summer lay distinct and heavy. Damp earth, damp grass. Damp leaves and blossoms and fresh-cut wood. A sift of pine and cedar and a dash of spruce. The dew, the dust, the old barn wood, the cows down the road, the hay, the weeds, the mice, the mosquitoes. The air is infused. The sky is clear.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

apple blossom time

Monday morning, June 3
Quiet. The steady tick of the kitchen clock. Frost. Blanket. Clear dawn.

My first spring at the cabin, two years ago when I was just visiting, making plans, feeling overwhelmed and exhilarated, I became aware of a few large, old apple trees on the property. Three are along the drive at the top edge of the gully. They are unkempt with many dead, falling down branches, but when I first saw them blooming—beautiful.

Apple trees along the drive.

One day I got excited when I spotted apple blossoms towering above a thick growth of alders and who-knows-what on the far side of the front field, so across the field, alongside the marsh, and into the jungle I went to find one of the biggest apple trees I’ve ever seen. Almost all the blossoms were beyond reach, way overhead, and the trunk of the tree was thick, rigid, rippled and mossy, lined with pockmarks. Below the tree’s spread, the forest was dark and quiet. I marked the narrow pathway through the undergrowth into the tree with a pair of large galoshes I had found in the garage. Without trail indicators, I figured in the fall I might not be able to find my way back to the tree, to taste the apples. But when I did find my way back, the apples from the ancient tree were few and mostly beyond reach. And the apples from the trees along the drive lacked flavor.

The old apple tree in the woods.

Tuesday morning, June 4
Frost again. Burning a downed beech limb in the woodstove. It’s from a dead tree just east of the creek, beyond the garage, and must have blown down during one of those high winds last week, though I just noticed it yesterday.

I love wild apple trees, the spring blossoms intoxicating the air, the autumn fruit crisp and sweet. Some wild fruit is not so good, of course, best left for the deer, but some … oh my. My favorite apple is not the Fuji or the Honeycrisp, it is an apple with no name that comes from a tree behind my friend’s pole barn. His favorite apple comes from a tree next to his house with branches so close it nearly reaches in.

The trunk of that big old apple tree.

Wednesday morning, June 5
A soft rain falling. I forgot to set the alarm, so simply woke to a grey light. Elliott’s lack of fuss in the morning is quite remarkable.

Apple trees are everywhere and anywhere in this part of the U.P., along the road, alongside ditches, in people’s yards, behind barns, in fields, next to the post office. There are whole blooming orchards of apples, some tended, some not, the ones that are not perhaps just remnants of orchards crowded out and crowded in so the blooms spill out over the tops of tag alders and all those what-have-yous, looking like unruly soap suds escaping from the fist of a dirty hand. The wild apple trees are big and small, lanky and trim. Their blossoms are all big and white and blushing pink.

To find the old apple tree, take a right at the black galosh ...

Thursday morning, June 6
Now at the other end of the spectrum as a light morning is darkened by a thick blanket of lush green. Green curtains have been draped across the trees, layered and shut tight, blocking out the woods. It is the opposite of winter. Funny how I now long for a thick blanket of snow to bring light to this dark.

In the late 1960s, my family went to Wisconsin every fall to pick apples, to an orchard near the Illinois state line. We would go with two or three other families, leaving the suburbs in a caravan of station wagons on a golden September morn, driving through the country, idling in line at the orchard, eventually driving slowly between the rows of trees until we found the perfect spot to collect our bounty of McIntosh, Red and Golden Delicious, or Jonathon apples. With tailgates down, the moms got out picnic lunches and the dads set up the little portable black-and-white TV in order to watch football games or maybe baseball. There was one dad who always sent us kids off to find the biggest or smallest or reddest apple for a prize, and I believe there was something about throwing apples, or maybe not throwing apples … anyway, we went wild in the trees, climbing up, picking apples, eating apples, and probably throwing at each other any small, wormy apples we could find. One year my sister ate so many apples she threw up in the outhouse and we busted our guts laughing. The vomit was a huge pool of lumpy yellow and pink accented with bright, glossy chunks of red. And one year the back of my red stretch pants snagged on a branch hanging me up in a tree for a while until someone noticed and got me down.

Friday morning, June 7
Apple trees are blooming. One of the newly planted, almost, but more so the old, established trees, of which I’ve discovered a new one in the middle of the front field. It is not large, but yet seems old with plentiful blossoms. Elliot walked out there with me as I explored, also going into the copse dominated by the huge old tree whose blossoms I can see from the cabin. It was magical in there. Maybe Sunday I’ll write about apple blossom time.

Fireside’s blossoms-to-be.

This morning dawned at barely 40 degrees, but the sun warms the day. Last night the air was thick with the fragrance of blossoms, apple and choke cherry, and thick as well with mosquitoes. I stayed in, behind the screened windows. Friday the beech trees sent their seeds out into the world giving me the “snow” I longed for. The fluff now lays in little drifts around the yard and in the pots amongst the petunias. At the Lake Trout Festival in L’Anse yesterday, a good day selling beeswax, a cool breeze off the Keweenaw Bay, and an image I cannot shake: a person with purple hair eating blue food. Though calling cotton candy “food” may be a stretch.

Apple blossoms in a vase in the bath.


Yes, I’ve written about wild apples before.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

porcupines and apple trees, dandelions and trout (do i really need to tell you, what it is i write about?)

Monday I planted six broccoli starts and three sunflowers I got from neighbors across the road. The broccoli is in the small garden dug last year, and the sunflowers are along the new garage wall. In the mid-week heat that peaked at 85 degrees the sunflowers grew an inch or two, but last night, anticipating frost, I covered them all with plastic. This morning’s thermometer is at 35, so no frost, but the next two nights are to be colder.

All week the bright colors of spring have been melding into a summery green. Daffodils droop. Across the lush lawn dandelions frolic. Wild strawberries roam freely. One evening, about six or so, when the first storm of the week blew in with a smack of southern wind, the grass in the fields waved and flattened and fluttered. That was the day I planted apple trees, one Honeycrisp, about six or seven feet tall, and one Fireside, a bit taller. They are in front of the cabin where scrap wood piles used to be. The charred, ashy ground may or may not be good for apple trees, but it was certainly good for digging holes.

Me and Fireside.

Overall, it has been a week of small events. I saw my first porcupine and ate my first trout dinner from the river. Also, in a dream, I bought a dog at Walmart. A little brown and white dog, kind of like a chihuahua but not as fragile, not as tiny, not as shaky. This dog had substance. The cashier put him on a scale to scan him, but there was some difficulty, so another Walmart person came over to help. Meanwhile, I was talking to the dog, saying “What a good dog! You are such a good dog!” because the dog was just standing there on this steel platform looking at me over his shoulder, so patient, so good, and so completely unconcerned.

I first saw the porcupine last Saturday, when I went to visit Buster’s grave to let him know the farmers market had gone well. His spot is at the top of the riverbank, and just down the bank are some big old spruce. I heard a scrabbling in the trees and sure enough, when I looked up, there was an animal, a porcupine, shimmying down the tree just beyond Buster’s grave. The porkie’s black face was so uniformly dark I could not tell if he saw me or smelled me or heard me or what, but he knew I was there. He began moving back up the tree, slowly, moving almost like a snake. When he reached the first branch, he sat. He turned this way slightly then that way. He showed me his back and lifted his quills, displaying them, as it were, and saying, or so it seemed, “Hello. I see you. Look out. See what I got here? Yeah. Be careful. You can look, but don’t touch.”

My first porcupine.

He wore a heavy robe of quills over his body and on his paws big mitts of quills. On his tail, more quills. He kept moving slightly, but didn’t go anywhere, and once in a while he would stop to do the quill thing, opening them up, closing them down, like a slow tune on an accordion. Elliott had followed me, and when he came up behind I held him back. After a minute or two he turned and headed home. I stayed for a bit, to watch the porcupine.

My first porcupine, a little bristly.

The next morning I saw the porkie again, in the next tree over, and the following night there was a porcupine high up in a beech just beyond the garage. I have a book, a chap book, really, called Animal Energies by Gary Buffalo Horn Man and Sherry Firedancer. They describe 58 animals, from alligator to wolverine, by their habits, their “medicine gifts,” and their soft spots. They describe what one might learn from the animal, especially if the animal has come to you in some way. (Believe me, I’ve looked up “Fly” many times.) The porcupine entry starts off: “Porcupines cannot move fast at all, but they have very little to run from. Their bodies are quite well protected by the 30,000 quills that they can raise for security.”

Porkies do not shoot their quills; they don’t need to. The quills come out easily enough. Just touch one and you’re in trouble.
Porcupine gives us the power to reflect aggression back to its source. How hard an animal strikes a Porcupine is how deeply the quills will be embedded.
But there are no quills on the porkie’s belly. A fisher (those weasels!) can sneak under porcupines, flip them over, and attack with great success.
The message is this: Everyone is vulnerable in some way, so don’t let your ego make you feel invincible. 
Between porkie sightings I visited a friend who I don’t get to see much. He kind of reminds me of a porcupine, or maybe the porcupine kind of reminds me of him.

A neighbor did the fishing, caught trout, dropped off a couple. I fried them up for dinner. I had been down at the river earlier that same day, saw a muskrat, got a mosquito bite. On my way back to the cabin a turtle crossed my trail. He (or she) was about the size of a salad plate, maybe six or eight inches across.

Two trout on a plate.

So it’s been that kind of week. As I stood on the porch one night waiting to see if Elliott would come in, mist and fog rose and swirled through the darkening light and wound its way through rain-slicked trees. Frogs croaked and sang, insects whirred and buzzed, birds squawked and hummed. Every morning, the rich smell of spring has taken me back to every spring of my life, and one morning down at the river a sharp aroma of rain-washed cedar and spruce and woods simply hurled me back to the few childhood memories I have of being in the woods of Wisconsin. My parents were not campers, and they had no use for the woods except for the occasional walk through and for gatherings with friends. And the memories we share of those times are of the people and of the parties. But when alone, the memory I share with myself is of the rich smell of damp woods, unfurling.

PART TWO