By popular request…
The snow had gone, even from the deepest shade of the hazel copse, from the dampest shadows by the little brook, when I found the hedgehog. It was lying on its back, ribs spiking to the sky, opened like a tin can. Something hungry had found it in the dark depths of winter, and the spiny remains had lain hidden beneath the snow until now. No blood stained the earth around it, no gore and signs of mortal struggle. The little animal was long dead, but still I felt a sorrow that rose in my throat and made my eyes sting.
Suddenly the sound of birds trilling in the trees sounded callous; the pale spring shadows were menacing. I imagined a ferocious weasel, or a rat perhaps, taking a fierce pleasure in uncurling the poor, Beatrix Potter creature and torturing it to death. I imagined the snow, blood-specked, crows watching, settled like vultures on the overhanging branches. I hated the cruelty, cried for the picture book, Disney nature that would never allow such a messy death. Even in the joyous bustle of spring, death was never far away.
That night, the image of the dying hedgehog, the sharp pangs of its pain kept me from sleep. The moon was full. It filled the garden with silver magic, drawing me to the window with the sighing of the breeze in the thinly-leaved branches—the sighing breeze and the eerie bark of a night animal. The lawn was pale as a sandy beach. In the middle, a group of animals were playing, parents and four cubs. Foxes. One parent watched, mounting the guard by the top of the steps. The other rolled and chased the cubs across the silvery grass.
The pieces fell into place. The wary parents playing with their cubs, the playground beneath the moon, and the dark, winter famine months. Everything was necessary. A hedgehog’s life so a vixen could give birth to her cubs. I saw the answer to the puzzle, bathed in moonlight—in winter death, spring life is never far away.