In a world currently plagued by COVID-19, falling stock markets, the condo insurance crisis in B.C., protests and rampages and climate destruction and possibly the end of life on earth as we know it, today I would like to talk to you about hedgehogs.
Up until this past Christmas, I never gave hedgehogs any thought. I might have seen them in a children’s book when I was a child, but other than the boxes of chocolate hedgehogs that Purdy’s Chocolates sells, I never think of hedgehogs. Do you?
Oh, on second thought, I’ve already lied to you. I guess there was that one day last fall when I wondered whether I might consider getting a hedgehog as a pet since I can’t have a real pet, a cat or a dog, in my apartment which I consider to be a human rights slight.
Then I found out that hedgehogs are nocturnal and I am an early-to-bed, early-to-rise creature and I didn’t want the spiky little thing running over me or manically racing for the edge of an imaginary cliff on its hedgehog wheel at 4 a.m. during a strenuous workout right smack dab in the middle of my preferred hours of shuteye.
At Christmas, I thought I would give a few neighbours on my floor in my apartment building Christmas cards. Rummaging through my Christmas box, I came across some cute cards from years gone by. There was a quaintly illustrated picture of a stylized hedgehog on these cards. I don’t actually recall what the hedgehog was doing or what the card said or what hedgehogs have to do with Christmas at all, but it was a Christmas card so I wrote something in each of them and slipped them under the doors of a few neighbours.
The next time I ran into one of my neighbours, she thanked me for the card. She proceeded to tell me how she thought it was very strange that I should give her a card with a hedgehog on it since she’d just returned from France, she may have said Normandy, and every night, through the mist in the backyard, they made a ritual of watching for the hedgehogs. The spunky, spiky little ones would never disappoint. In turn, I found her story a little odd since in my research on whether to get a pet hedgehog or Erinaceinae, I thought it said that you weren’t likely to spot a hedgehog during the winter months because a little like bears, they hibernate, albeit less intensely.
When she told me her story, I had to remind myself that hedgehogs were actually real. They weren’t just cartoon characters or stuffed animals or chocolates in triangular boxes waiting to be devoured. I smiled inside with contentment learning that somehow my choice in card had been so innocently spot on.
Before Valentine’s Day, in my local Pharmasave, there were a bunch of hand drawn cards and it said on the back that the artist was a mere 13 years old and a James Bay resident. These cards were wonderful and the first one I spotted was of two hedgehogs, one giving the other a single rose, the rose in the shape of a heart. It was so damn cute. What is it with hedgehogs lately, I thought to myself as I bought the card. That was hedgehog coincidence numero trois!
Yesterday in my Saturday wanderings, I was at Munro’s, a local iconic bookstore adjoining Murchies, a local iconic tea shop. I was doing what you do there: scanning and browsing and considering, and I came across a package of things called “Book Buddies.” And to think I’ve always considered the book all the “buddy” anyone would ever need. I didn’t know what these “Book Buddies” were so I had to read the package. I thought they were bookmarks. But as I took a closer look, I realized they were perfectly useless post-it notes for your book in case you had an epiphany during your reading.
This particular package of “Book Buddies” when I looked even more closely, contained paper hedgehogs. What is going on here? There they were again. Three hedgehogs of varying shades. “Helpful Hedgehogs” the marketing said. And they even had plucky names: Henry. Stucky. And Frenchie. How could I not be charmed?
Sometimes, it’s these inane moments that bring such joy in their innocence and the uselessness of something like a Hedgehog post-it note for your book, with only enough space to write a single word, that can make an ordinary day almost sublime.
How would I use these? What one special, cryptic word would I write to myself that could be so significant and necessary? Someone had killed a tree for this? Would “Kaboom” suffice on page 35? How about “Wow” for page 42? Page 240: “Kowabunga?” Page 350: “Hegderama?” You see? Useless! Utterly useless.
But having said that, can I just say, I’ve come to understand how lowering one’s expectations is a highly under-rated exercise, and one that I partake in almost every single day.
Maybe we should all learn to be happy with the small coincidences and the weirdness of that unspoken but well known life law. You know the one. The one whereby as soon as something–a name, a word, a car– enters your awareness, especially when you’ve never previously given it two thoughts or even knew of its existence, it will pop up everywhere. Like a hello from a long lost friend, you will feel like everything you need is suddenly in that moment. For a few seconds you will be very happy and for a change that will be enough.