Monday, January 09, 2012

Visitor from the Wild

Yesterday morning, in the blanched winter sunlight of nearly midday, a long-legged, brush-tailed form loped across the open lawn behind my house, eventually crossing to settle under a stand of trees opposite.

At first I thought it was a fox, for I have seen red fox before in my domain. I have seen fox by the roadside near, in the farm fields, and by the river, and I know that a den of fox was wintered on the island of the river behind my parents' house when I lived there. So seeing a fox is unexceptional, although a rare delight.

But this was big for a fox, and dingy, not the dark red of a fox. More tan, with a hint of red. The large bushy tail was like that of a fox, with a white tip at end, as were the black-furred front legs, but the whole animal was larger, leaner, and longer. And not at all shy. Wary, and alert to its surroundings, but not as shy as most fox I've met before.

Astonished, I jumped for joy and ran for my camera in another room. When the animal had settled down under the trees‚ which took a long time, for it turned many circles, scratched itself, got up to turn again in the way canids do before settling in grass. It's fur was more tan than the red mulch of the bed under the pine trees, but when it was still it blended in well. Cars went by in the distance, and the stand of trees is surrounded by lawn and houses, but I wonder if anyone but I knew it was there.

I believe that it was a youthful, gangly coyote. Not the largest coyote I've ever seen, but larger than most fox. Some of the markings make me think it's a fox, but that face and ears make me think coyote. (If you know better, show me.)

I've seen and heard coyote all over the USA, in my travels. But never one in my backyard. It was obviously on a trek, and resting in the heat of midday, soaking up the sun. Not hungry at the moment, although judging on how lean it was ti was probably half-starved most of the winter. After turning circles and scratching at fleas numerous times, it curled into a ball under the trees quite peacefully, and stayed there for at least an hour or so. I crept with camera in hand out on my porch several times, and shot photos through the window, mostly unobserved.

So it is that wild nature enters our lives, briefly and with astonishment. I look out the window today, in hopes of seeing another coyote, or a fox, or deer, those more usual visitors. I mean wild nature, as embodied in wild animals, neither tamed nor domesticated, and not subject to or aware of the laws of man. The laws of nature are not the laws of man. Of course nature itself is never separate from us. It's a fallacy to believe that we ourselves are not part of "nature," or that "nature" doesn't interact with and interfinger with our daily lives. In large urban centers, peregrine falcons make their nests on skyscraper ledges. A pack of coyotes lives downtown near the Chicago River. Granted, I live in a small town in a rural area, and near me are wild woods surrounding a river, areas kept natural and not "managed" by men. There are swimming holes in the river, and trails along its track, but when I go in those woods I am often quite alone. Except for the wild things. It's good to encounter the wildest of the wild, those beasts never tamed, and never destroyed or tamable. It's good to see a wild coyote in my own backyard. I keep looking out the window where I write, hoping to catch another glimpse, maybe a timeshadow of a flick of a tail, a glimpse of bright golden eye above a narrow snout. Something wild has stepped into the daylight, and spent some time under shelter, then trotted on, with its loping ground-eating stride. It leaves behind a memory that stirs the breast, makes me yearn for wilderness, if only to encounter the wildest of the wild again, however briefly. A brief moment of awakening to the larger reality or the greater world. Right in my own backyard.

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Blogger Glenn Ingersoll said...


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Blogger Art Durkee said...


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