Updated: Jun 20, 2020
Several years ago, at the hairpin turn, my headlights capture a lifeless form. I know it’s you, coyote. I have seen you crossing this road before. I park. Darkness flanks me as I walk to your side and pull your still warm body off the pavement so you can fold back into the earth. I search for the right resting place, flashlight in one hand, your hind legs grasped in my other. I hear myself ask you, Is this spot ok?
I kneel, breathe deeply, take you in. My tentativeness dissolves, shifts into tending. I gently straighten your broken leg, then stroke your fur and feel the tough pads of your feet. I notice you aren’t so different from my dog. Your wide-opened mouth reminds me of Shadow’s morning yawn - the same curved canines and rows of molars. I cover you with leaves, murmuring a prayer, knowing nothing more to do. Heading home I traverse your territory and imagine you loping the ridgeline, silver in moonlight.
Days after, sitting in the autumn sun, I sense a presence, as if the coyote speaks from her grave: Carry me. I am one of the ancestors. Keep us close or we vanish. And then you are truly all alone.
Recently, driving home at dusk, I’m thinking of you coyote, as I always do rounding that turn where I found you. A few miles later, on the other side of the road, I see an animal, walking toward me. I slow down – there’s no traffic - and sure enough, it's a gorgeous young coyote. The first I’ve seen in months and months. I’ve been missing you.
You don’t run, just saunter along the road, looking my way. I back my car up to stay alongside you. We make an odd couple, us two – you advancing, me driving backwards.
I’m enamored and concerned. I can’t bear the thought of pulling you off the pavement as well. I drive across the road, along the shoulder, to scare you off, but you only scramble ten feet up the slope, your head cocked, peering at me. I shout “Get OFF the road.” Like a child so used to her mother’s worried words, you do nothing until I get “tough” and clap my hands sharply. You disappear.
I sigh with relief and drive a quarter mile. Then, on a hunch, I turn around. Sure enough, there you are, in that exact same place. I repeat our dance, the one that ends with a clap. You run, I drive, then turn around, you’re back, again and again. We do four rounds of this. Finally I park with my lights off and wait. It's now very dark. You don’t appear. I head home, filled with your presence. And wistful, wishing we had met on some dirt lane where I could stop and simply absorb your grace. For now, so very alive – the both of us.
Last night, I find a picture of a coyote and prop it on my dresser before I go to sleep. A conversation with a good friend went awry, and I’m hurting. I need Coyote Medicine. I wake at three a.m. and look out. In the moonlight, a large light-colored coyote stands right by my glass door, peering in. His mate waits up the patio path. Finally he turns to go, glances back one more time.
This encounter makes all the difference. I can’t explain this magic and don’t need to, but I do need kinship. The message echoes - Keep us close. You are not alone.
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