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Goodbye Grandmother Porcupine

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This article comes from the NOFA/Massachusetts 2019 October Issue Newsletter

A poem by Judy Hall

Some people may not have much love for porcupines. And I understand why. We have experienced the frustration of Erethizon dorsatum ("the animal with the irritating back") attacking our fruit trees. Even so, I felt sad seeing a ‘grandmother' porcupine run over on the road in front of our house. 

I say grandmother because I knew her.

I say grandmother because she was so big and her face was grizzled with white and gray whiskers. 

I say grandmother because I admire how she survived for so many years.

I say grandmother because I’ve had a relationship with her ever since we moved to our land in 2012. 

I call her grandmother because I know where she lives, lived. I have visited her home many times and showed it to countless guests over the years. It’s very impressive, nestled at the base of a hollowed out Hemlock, the scat pile in front at least 3 feet high.

I call her grandmother out of respect because she was here first, living in these parts at least as long as we have, if not longer. Because she was so large when we first met her we like to imagine that she was one of the many that Marion Herrick fed. (We found evidence of them living under the old summer-kitchen floor.)

I call her grandmother out of respect because even after Marion was gone she continued to make her way up from the forest year after year, on spring and summer evenings, to nibble on grass and clover behind our house.

I say grandmother because over the years several different small ones have followed her to this field of clover, and even this year small ones follow in her footsteps.

Grandmother Porcupine
Grandmother Porcupine

I say grandmother because I miss her, she was my relative in the sense of “all my relations”, and it has been a mutual relationship. She has respected (or ignored) the fruit trees after we put up fences, even though she could’ve easily climbed over them. I appreciate that.

I say grandmother because I find myself grieving and to me that means she found her way into my heart. I’m very sad that she came to that kind of end.

Goodbye Grandmother Porcupine. I’ve followed your tracks in the snow, over logs across streams, up to the Hemlocks. This spring I saw you hanging out in the old snag that finally fell down, enabling you to reach the tops of the young saplings that you love. 

Goodbye Grandmother Porcupine. I expect that for the next few weeks your body will feed other creatures. I expect that eventually if not already, one of your offspring will move into your home and continue your line.  

Thank you for bringing me lots of feelings and experiences over the past six and a half years, and for the connection we had with you. Thank you for the insights you brought us and the glimpses into the world of our wild neighbors with whom we share this land. 

As one grandmother, now, to another, good-bye.

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