Pine Trees and Porcupines

13 Aug

Last summer, after driving the almost 600 miles to my mom’s house in Maine, I happily stretched my legs and walked into town that night to see what was going on. I took the old road, the one nobody drives or walks on anymore. Just as I rounded a corner something caught my eye and I slowed down, making very little noise as I came up to it.

It was a porcupine. A cute, pudgy, prickly thing, that once it turned to see me, decided to hide. It quickly shoved its head inside an old, rotten, half hallow, fallen pine that was right in front of it. Leaving three-quarters of its body exposed.

I kept my distance out of respect and awareness of the mighty quills, but I did laugh and spoke softly to the cutest thing I might have ever laid eyes on. “You know, I can still see you. You hide exactly like a three-year-old playing hide-and-go-seek.”

Growing up playing outdoors and doing things like building forts with my brother, or collecting buckets of acorns in solitude when he started school were the best parts of my childhood. Nobody was worried about me. No one helicoptered me. It was a different time I guess. The benefit from it, is that for me, nothing—no store-bought thing, no fancy dinner, no book or film, no amazing concert I ever saw—nothing, compares to just being in the woods.

Being in the woods is simple. I don’t buy things at REI or L.L. Bean to prepare. I just drink a big glass of water, put on my 20-year-old hiking boots and go. And I never know what I will find.

This summer, my friend Bob and I came across two beautiful owls, one adult, one young. The next day, we sat and watched four wild turkeys act like knuckleheads, chest bumping and chasing each other in a goofy circle. We watched them for maybe five minutes. But that ridiculous sight and sharing it with a good friend is one I will treasure long into life. It isn’t a memory easily forgotten.

Prize Find

Prize Find

A few summers back, I was walking through the woods and a coyote ran past me a couple of times. I honestly got a little scared and called my mom asking what to do. She, being the toughest lady I know, advised me well, “Just pick up a rock, and throw it if it gets too close. You have thumbs, animals don’t. Remember that.”

Good advice. I used it once when a male turkey, with his tail feathers spread wide, would not let me walk past him on the old road. He was courting some broad in the woods nearby. Every time I tried to pass he would make that horrible, guttural turkey sound and come at me. After trying to explain to him that, “Dude, I am not interested in her! Let me by!” I just picked up a rock and threw it towards his direction, obviously with no intention of hitting him. He scooted into the woods and I was on my way. That same walk produced the biggest buck horn I ever found. I was beaming for days at my prize.

Being in Maine for much of this summer has made me really happy, really peaceful. I have plans yet, to hike up three new mountains, each in my old hiking boots, with just water and a map I trust. My cares, worries and the reality of modern life—a reality that never feels real at all, compared to just being in the woods—all get left behind.

No one is helicoptering me here, in the woods I am free.

© Mad Question Asking – 2013 All Rights Reserved

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