rain dance

It has been raining for days and will continue to rain for several more. The clouds are thick and low outside of my windows. The tree line below my house is obscured by grayness. It is a good day for staying inside and reflecting on the year that is coming to an end. I like to imagine that all of this rain is washing away the old year in preparation for the increasing light and longer days that will follow the solstice. Perhaps we fill these winter days with lights of all kinds and our homes with friends, good food, warmth, and laughter in reaction to these short dark days at the end of the year. Today I have to choose between the call of the inner and the call of the outer.  It is a tough choice to make.  Both need my attention.  Every year around the holidays, I try to strike a balance between the two.  Right now, the rain is encouraging me to stay in, light a fire, and turn my attention to myself.

The irony of living in a rural area on a rainy day is that there is no staying inside and staying dry. I have animals and chores that call me outside all day long.  I am grateful for the animals in my life and our trips outside together even on a day like this. They keep me connected to the earth and the natural world, which is especially important during this time when I am putting so many hours into my work. Two weeks ago a family of coyotes moved into the area along the creek bed below my house. I hear them night after night yipping and howling.  They sound close enough to touch. Coyote is proving her reputation as mischief-maker and I am aware every day of her presence.  One night I opened the front door on my way out to do chores, but when I reached for the muddy Dansko clogs that I had left on the mat I couldn’t find them. It took a few days of doubting my memory and looking everywhere, to accept that they had been stolen by Coyote. Another night, when I went down to feed the horses in the dark, I hooked our coyote appetizer sized dog to a 25 ft leash that I have there to keep her from wandering off. I walked a few feet away and suddenly thought that I needed to go back and check on her.  I gathered up the leash to pull her in and it came up severed and empty.  We were lucky. I could see her just a few feet away in the darkness and called her in. The next morning there was a one-foot piece of the strap on the ground. Coyote had chewed through it in two places. Coyote had set a trap for her dinner.

A psychic friend told me that my new four legged neighbors are a mother, her three young ones and an unrelated older male. Knowing this, that there are only 4 of them, has made sharing the property a little easier. I am accommodating them in much the same way that I accommodate rattlesnakes in the summer. I give them a lot of space and never forget that they are there.  I do not loose sight of the fact for a minute that coyotes are wild animals that would just as soon eat my pets as a rabbit for dinner. One night they made sure that I would never forget that fact. I got home very late, took my dogs out and went down to feed my horses. When I reached the bottom of the property I could see and hear the coyotes crashing through the bushes 30 feet away. I was irrationally frightened. I knew that they posed no danger to me. I kept my dogs close. I could feel the coyotes watching me as I sped through the evening tasks of throwing out hay and filling up water buckets. After I had finished, and just as I was about to head back to the house, the coyotes broke into their crazy chorus of yipping, yapping, barking and howling. It was terrifyingly loud and close. I have seldom experienced the primitive power of the animal world in such a direct way. It was as if they were reminding me that I was a guest in their world least I forget and think I am allowing them to remain as guests on my property.

They have quieted down since that night.  They have earned my healthy respect and no longer need to remind me that they have claimed some rightful territory. We have reached an understanding. I no longer leave shoes outside my door, even in this weather, and am more careful than I have ever been to bring my cats in at night.  On their end they have agreed to eat the rats, mice, gophers, and squirrels (I prefer that they leave the rabbits alone). They have however not agreed to stay out of the compost pile or the horse’s grain buckets at night.  I can live with that. Reading Charlotte’s Web as a kid, and The Pea Patch Jig, has left me with a healthy imagination about what happens with animals when people aren’t near by. Sometimes I imagine the flock of crows, pack of coyotes and small heard of horses that live here all hanging out and shooting the breeze in the late afternoon while I am at work.  I am certain that Coyote now entertains them all with her stories and her mischief.

1 comment to Coyote

  • Gilda

    When I was a young woman, I recall that no one I knew would have tolerated sharing their land with Coyotes or anything that made life uncomfortable. Your recounting of the Coyote family brings me into this century where women such as yourself are facing Nature as being part of us and not something to be controlled. I applaud and admire your honesty and spirit and wish I could say I would do the same. Even so I know the meaning of being one with Nature and also keeping a careful eye out.

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