interdependence

the naturalist approaches, his hand splayed out in front of us showing four distinct pieces of a porcupine’s scat. he urges us to keep an eye on the trees. we all scan the forest as if the porcupine is right there waiting. the forest looks back at us. later, the naturalist points to the cocoon of a gypsy moth. with a low hum of concern, the group presses close, muttering we’ll know what to look for then. we stop again when the naturalist finds the rotting corpse of a porcupine overhung with thin naked branches, the black and dirty white of its quills stark against the leavings of winter. the group moves on but I stay and look. a man stays, too, silent. finally, he leans down and reaches in. he plucks a quill from the dead porcupine and puts it in his pocket. he looks at me and says, do you want one, too?