Thoughts: Coyotes in the Night

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I am sitting at my favorite diner, The Pawlet Station. Coming in and getting settled, they were playing John Lennon and INXS (Elegantly Wasted, one of my favorite songs of all time.)

Driving over from West Pawlet, geese were flying their way south.  I saw three flocks in their storybook perfect “V” formations. It’s an elegant thing, those “V”s. a reminder along with the cold mornings that Winter is coming.

At some point early in the morning, I woke to the sound of coyotes in a frenzy. They were not far, somewhere behind the house.  In the woods maybe, or perhaps in one of the neighbor’s chicken coops.

I worried briefly about the cat. She didn’t come in when we went to bed.

I don’t often worry about her, even in the cold. She’s spent a lot of winter nights out. A thick fur coat and a layer of fat (slender, she is not) protect her just fine. But coyotes? Anything is fair game. They aren’t too pickey.

I padded down while the yipping was going on, about 3 in the morning, and called her from the back door. The Coyotes went quiet, skulking into the night.

But no cat. I went to bed.

I don’t worry too much about things I can’t change – and that’s pretty much most things. One of my lessons in life is just how little I actually control. I just deal with what happens. That’s something I can do, deal.

One of the things that has come to amaze me in life is how everything can change in a moment. You hear the words – “I want a divorce.” “We have to let you go.”  “You have cancer.”  A car comes out of nowhere. Life is full of moments that change our paths completely.

Fortunately, there are as many, or perhaps more good moments that change everything too. The moment we met the person we love. The birth of a child. That “Ah-ha” moment when things come together for us. A windfall. A spiritual epiphany.

Moments.

Change.

Everything.

One of the words that has pervaded our society in recent years is mindfulness. Mindfulness changes everything, we are told, and while there is some truth to it, it is not the whole story.

Mindfulness changes nothing except our ability to appreciate more of those moments. It prevents us from missing them because of all the past recriminations and worries about the future. We get to deal with one moment at a time, not the flood of thoughts and emotions from either side of now.

I went back to sleep after I tried to get the cat in. I didn’t worry. All the same, I was glad when, before leaving for the diner, she met me at the door with a “What took you so long?” look and passed me by in a direct line to the food bowl.

Really, I just wanted to write about the coyotes this morning. I didn’t have coyotes in Virginia (I understand they have since moved in.), so the sound of them in the distance hills when I moved to Vermont was new to me. I have come to understand their cries. The yips of the young in the spring. The full-throated frenzy as they encircle and take their prey. The wails of pain when one of the pack is hurt or caught in a trap. There’s a whole language there. A whole world just out of sight.

Farmers hate them and they have a right to. Coyotes eat what they can catch, and a stray sheep or chicken, even a stray dog or cat in the night, is, for them, fair game. They are indiscriminate and can lay waste to an entire coop of chickens in a moment. It’s not about what is right or wrong. It is about what they can catch.

It’s the flip side of nature. The part that often doesn’t make the picture books or romantic vignettes of wildlife videos we look at longingly on YouTube. We live in two worlds, side by side, with entirely different rules and worldviews and at times at odds with each other.

Each has a beauty. And each has its own terribleness.

Cats, and some people, live on the cusp of both worlds. You can’t look at my cat, plump, shiny furred and prone to long naps in my lap while I read, and not think she lives in my world. But she is also a creature of nature. She kills all sorts of little beasts in the night. Hyper-alert, she defends her turf with a primal instinct. The other cats and dogs walk around our yard, mostly avoiding her. Some nights she curls up to the crook of my legs in the bed. Other nights, she is a creature of the dark, never coming in.

It is easier living in a place where everyone and everything is manicured and plays by the same rules. It is safer. More comfortable. I can understand the call for that, why many people are more comfortable in safe, same, neighborhoods where there are few wild animals (including the two-legged kind) who live with a completely different set of instincts and customs.

It’s safer.

It’s also less fascinating. The older I get, the more willing I am to live in less safe situations. To be less comfortable. To be in places where people and nature are not like me. It’s a little scary at times, like as I listened to coyotes last night, so close and so frenzied. But it’s also a chance to learn, to experience, to live in the moment, to grow, and to make what once felt unsafe feel safe. Eight years ago, the beserker yips of the wild animals nearby my house would have freaked me out.

Last night, I just went back to bed.

All the same, I was glad to see the cat in the morning, sass and all. It was a good start to the day. I had nothing to do with it. It was a gift.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

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