Movement brought my eyes up from the screen, as it always does. My desk looks out onto our side yard through a large picture window which offers a view of perpetual green and the activities of small creatures. Squirrels frolic and forage. Jays screech and wheel, blue tracers against a backdrop of lacy fir branches. A cat sits at the edge of the thick vinca, intent, and I imagine the families of mice huddled in its depths.
On this morning, however, the movement was large and fast, at the very edge of the large doug firs and smaller red cedars that form the boundary of our place. I looked up to see a coyote loping for the field from which I knew he'd turn toward the wild land by the river where they den. He was beautiful - thick coat in shades of gray, tail plumed behind like a contrail, pointed face a study of concentration.
Even though I love coyotes, every time I see one, a current of fear runs through my blood. It's unusual to see one in daylight, especially that close to the house, and my first thought was to wonder where the cats and Toby were. I had begun to think this summer that they'd moved on, our resident pack of wild canines. We haven't heard their howls or seen them in the field at dusk and I haven't seen scat in the usual places.
He was gone in a flash, leaving me unsettled and excited all at the same time.
Yesterday, I read an Alice Walker poem, "The Writer's Life." These two stanzas stopped me, made me go back and reread, and felt like epiphany:
If there is
It will come
On our head.
If there is a bird
Even flying aimless
In the next
It will not only
Where we are
I've wondered often in the last year at how much more connected to the wild I feel, how many more experiences with its abundance I've had, how every single day brings some bit of natural magic. The owls that I continue to watch in the meadow. A great blue heron feather on the beach. Deer dining on my blueberries.
The not-quite frog of last week that I saw a second time the other day in the same exact spot.
Simple and wonderful events like seeing a newly fledged tanager in muted gold landing on the edge of the birdbath, approaching, mouth wide open, the newly fledged towhee who'd been drinking, expecting to be fed. Both flew away in a fluster.
I discovered wildflowers this summer on a trail I've walked for years. Familiar friends from other places, but never before in that place. Corydalis, Indian Pipe, Monkey Flower. A stand of Goldenrod in the owl meadow that took me straight back to childhood wanderings.
And the coyote, close enough for me to see the whiskers on his muzzle.
A case could be made that I'm seeing more because I'm home more. But that wouldn't explain the appearance of the different wildflowers. Or the fact that I'm finding feathers so often - owl and heron and turkey vulture. Or the salmonberry bush arched for the first time over that same trail offering me fruit for weeks of the early summer.
No, I'm sure all of these gifts of wild wonder are mine now because I've chosen to follow the path of writer. A path that's been calling me into its wild uncertainty forever. Wildness that makes me feel more alive than ever before.
For Mary - she knows why.
You can read the entire poem in the October issue of Writer's Digest, or find it in Alice Walker's book, We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For. In searching for a copy of the poem I might link to, I discovered Alice Walker's amazing website, a place of wild magic itself.