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Porcupines

So … I’ve been more reclusive than usual. Which is pretty hermitic. I note that there are no Retort entries for 2013. What happened?

 The Swampy Cree have a conceptual term which I’ve heard used to describe the thinking of a porcupine as he backs into a rock crevice: Usá puyew usu wapiw (“He goes backward, looks forward”). The porcupine consciously goes backward in order to speculate safely on the future, allowing him to look out at his enemy or just the new day.
Howard Norman, The Wishing Bone Cycle

Ursula Le Guin quotes this paragraph in her essay on recovering utopian visions, “A Non-Euclidean View of California as a Cold Place to Be.”

In order to speculate safely on an inhabitable future, perhaps we would do well to find a rock crevice and go backward. In order to find our roots, perhaps we should look for them where roots are usually found.
–Ursula Le Guin, Dancing at the Edge of the World

Le Guin is seeking a “cold,” or yin utopia, as opposed to the usual hot yang utopias. “I go backward, look forward, as the porcupine does” is the traditional beginning of Cree storytelling.

James Clifford also comments on the Cree formula.

These words initiate story-telling: the porcupine back into a rocky crevice and looks warily at an enemy, or at the future. The admonition is to go slow, cool down (Levi Strauss’s famous contrast of “cold” and “hot” ways of being in history is evoked). “Go backward. Turn and return.”
–James Clifford, Returns: Becoming Indigenous in the 21st Century.

What I’ve got, besides a couple of books churning in the publishing mill, are mostly fragments from my journals, some of which I’ll share here, in a somewhat random order.

Nobody’s seen a porcupine around here for some years. Used to. Often.

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