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Selected Podpieces


On one side of our yard a wooden fence blocks the view, but at the north end between that fence and the neighbor's garden shed is a gap where we can see right into their yard. One March day in between storms I was standing at the kitchen sink when I happened to look out the window just as a coyote trotted past the gap and disappeared behind the fence.

I dropped the dishcloth and hastened into the bedroom. The window there looks out at the Four Corners, the little wild hill where our property meets three neighboring properties and no one tidies. It's a popular animal trail, not just for coyotes but for foxes and deer and turkeys. Maybe box turtles, too.

Sure enough, within a few seconds the coyote appeared from behind the fence, moving through the low bare branches of cherry and viburnum. Then a second coyote appeared, trailing after the first. This was a treat. I've often heard more than one coyote singing at night, but I rarely see them in groups.

These were the familiar tall, long-legged Cape Cod coyotes. They stopped briefly on the slope above our compost pile and sniffed the air; they'd probably heard the crows shrieking the day before when they discovered half a dozen aged corn tortillas there. But today there were only coffee grounds and broccoli stems, so they went on their way, disappearing into the semicircle of pines and shrubs surrounding Carol's perennial garden.

To see a coyote fills me with – I don't know what the feeling is. Exhiliration, joy. I like the way they live among us but not of us, can take us or leave us. I love wagging, lickspittle domestic dogs, too, but the total indifference of a wild coyote is another kind of thrill. Maybe it reminds me that the world doesn't revolve around human activities, that what we do means nothing to the earth's nonhuman inhabitants, who have dealt for centuries with the spread of humanity and will continue to deal with what we've done, not caring about us one way or the other, even as the very planet changes around them.

Maybe this is why people like to kill them, too. I imagine that shooting things is fun. Aiming a warm gun at something, and firing, and watching some animal drop dead, probably causes a spurt of endorphins and the thrill of victory. And shooting an aloof, disdainful predator – one you think will kill you if it gets the chance – is probably greatly satisfying to that kind of hunter.

It wouldn't be satisfying to me, though. To see the fierce green fire die in the eyes of a coyote would break my heart. I prefer to catch glimpses of them moving through the underbrush, crossing the driveway, sitting silently on a hillside watching me as I walk through the meadow below.

Watching me, wondering what a human being might be thinking. And not really caring.

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