Lessons from a Hedgehog

‘Tis the season for time change. Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I could care a fickle fig about time, however, I am not immune to the impacts of time change.

Or seasonal change. Or light as it changes throughout the day.

I have always been weirdly sensitive to light, but this past year, one thing has become very clear to me. We are creatures of nature and changes in temperature, light and seasons impact us more than we might realize.  

This lesson I learned from my hedgehog.

A year ago, I finally gave in and got a pet hedgehog.

Russell the hedgehog. I anticipated, that like me, as a nocturnal creature, we could keep each other company. I let him roam free at nights and his little feet would make the sweetest tapping noises as he snuffled around the room searching for cozy corners and kibble. He was very content to explore and then hide under the sheepskin floor mat which he claimed as his new napping nest.

One morning I noticed the door ajar and couldn’t find him anywhere. After tearing apart my house, leaving no corner unsearched, I still couldn’t find him. I assumed he must be in the floor and perhaps previous owners had put out poison for the mice and he might have ingested it. I slept on the couch for a couple weeks in the case I would hear him, but nothing. Eventually after a month or so, I gave up and gave in, back to long winter nights alone, with no sounds of little hedgie feet tap tap tapping around the floor at night.

In late March, I remember it was a Sunday, I could smell spring in the air. It was still snowy but there was something about the air that felt as if there had been a break. I felt that hope you get in your chest when Canadian winter is finally coming to an end.

Two days later, my downstairs neighbours sent me a text:

Hedgie is alive. We can hear him.

I drove home, mindful of the still-icy roads. As soon as I walked in the door, I could hear him, his quills rustling against the floorboards.

I immediately freaked out, called a friend to come over despite it being midnight. We moved the kitchen around so we could locate him. Finally, the next day, lured by his kibble, I scooped him out of the little hole in the floor. Other than the fact that he was almost a super model, having lost his chubby little belly, he was totally fine.

He had been looking for a quiet dark place to hibernate, and had found it.

Now, the fact that Hedgie lived in the floor for months and came out unscathed is amazing. But more than that, the fact that he knew it was Spring is what really gets me! There had been hardly a change in temperature and though things were melting, it was still snowy and cool out. His floor hideaway would have been warm for the most part, so how did he know?

He just did.

And in this, I realised, so do I.

A local artist who I admire recently posted on Instagram about the struggle when Fall hits and your mental and physical wellbeing takes a dive. Many people talk about Seasonal Affective Disorder, but I believe that beyond this, many of us experience more subtle shifts in mood, health and wellbeing as the seasons change.

We have the luxury of being warm and lit inside when it is dark and cool outside, so it’s easy to forget that we are connected to nature’s changes. But if a hedgehog, also inside, can feel the movement of the seasons, perhaps we might consider paying attention to this as well.

My aim this year is to prepare myself for the seasons and do my best to move with them. This year, I’ll be ready with soup, cozy nesting material and an email response that might read, “I am sorry I cannot return your message as I will be hibernating until early April.” Time change is here and I know what that means:

Winter is coming.

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©Jessie Hannah 2019