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Feb 8th 2008
There are coyotes that live in the woods behind my mother's home. Small, sleek creatures, yellow dogs with amber eyes, grinning jaws and perked ears. They're the color of mud and honey, able to vanish into the woods from a foot away, able to move like ghosts.
You can hear them working in the garden, the lining of their doggish footsteps, smell the soft, slightly sour tang of their musk as they observe you.
One of the pups used to come and play with our dogs, before it realized that our dogs were not, in fact, the ugliest coyotes ever, and it returned to its pack, never looking back after that social faux pas.
I used to walk out in the woods, hear the soft sound of their footprints, follow their tracks, hear the sharper, more edgy sound of the hooves of deer as they moved around me, invisible to my eyes unless I curled up among the leaf-litter, and stayed still.
Some of my peers are afraid of them. Coyotes. God's Dogs, some called them, the Old Trickster Incarnate. They say they rip the bellies of dear, lead dogs to their packs to eat them, and would kill people if they could. But I'm at ease with the beasts, as at ease with the shy creatures as I am with 'my' ravens. I am not their prey. They will not hurt me. I don't go into the woods smelling of anger, fear and blood. I don't go into the woods smelling of gunpowder and death. (cont.)
Feb 8th 2008
I move quietly as I may, following the sound and motion of the wind, trails of deer and rabbits, and even there, in the middle of nowhere as they call it, I can still hear the highway traffic, find the occasional beer bottle, condom, plastic rings from soda cans, cigarette butts.
When we first moved there, the woods were quieter. Fewer people moved about out there, and the animals treated us without fear. They didn't know better. Now? Now they are ghosts, they move like ghosts, and you see them only from the corners of your eyes, or smell the musk of their fur.
When I first lived there, I once came across a deer, from a distance of a foot, and we stared at eachother, before both of us turned and bolted. A dog fox pranced through our garden close enough to touch, grinning ear to ear like he was god, and the garter snake was a skinny thing, not the old leviathan he is now, at 6 or so years of age.
You won't see them, now, unless you move quietly, move like they do, observe the world from the corners of your eyes, and go without fear or anger. They smell those things, the wild ones do, and they keep away. Because they've learned humans are no strange curiosity; but a danger.
The coyotes are the most ghostly of them all, butter in the sunlight, a rare laughing bark or a shrill howl that could drive you mad, sends shivers deep down your spine with the joy of living. No matter what the hunters do to try and get them, they escape, laughing, to gambol about the woods, chasing deer across the road, or rabbits through the undergrowth or through our gardens. People poison them, trap them, shoot them, and they still are there, laughing, smiling, alternatingly shy as anything and bold as brass.
I don't go into the woods in the winter; only in summer when the ground is dry, when it's safe to move and you don't have to worry about twisting your ankles on the hills, or slipping and sliding and breaking yourself to bits in the muck. But while I can't be out there, following them, I can hear them at night, when the air is still and your breath comes in clouded puffs, and while most people I know would say we're better off without them, I smile.
A world without coyotes would be a sad world. Thank god the buggers are as sly as they are.
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