"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Saturday, September 11, 2010


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:

We know
If there is 
A butterfly
For miles
It will come
& maybe
On our head.

If there is a bird
Even flying aimless
In the next 
It will not only 
Where we are
But sing.

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.


Kathryn Grace said...

That beautiful goldenrod! Gorgeous capture. Thank you for sharing it with us. Your animals speak to me at a deep level, because of the shamanic journeying I have done, and because of the Medicine Cards book that has, at times, so inspired and informed my life.

I am very fond of coyote, that trickster, for many reasons, but partly because he always reminds me of my dad. Absolutely everybody in the family--Mom, sibs, spouses, kids, grandkids, great grandkids--saw the coyote the morning Dad died. Except me! He showed me something else. Wanted me to know it wasn't a trick, I guess. He wasn't kidding around that time.

I once did a standing meditation in a meadow, just at the edge of the treeline, hoping deer would show herself. After half an extraordinarily peaceful hour, I turned and there, right in the center of the meadow, was a Great Blue Heron, every bit as still as I, reflecting back my stillness.

We stood together like that, neither moving for another twenty minutes or so. Then she effortlessly opened her wings and lifted to the trees, soaring above them and away, with one great "Cg-r-a-a-awwwwck!"

I am not too familiar with the portents of plants, but it seems those you describe are nourishing and/or medicinal as well as magical in some spheres.

The Earth is showing herself to you in such bountiful, intriguing ways, and you--you are blessed with the skill to show her to us so that we can almost smell and taste her.

Kathryn Magendie said...

So much of my writing is nature-oriented, even when not "apparent" --

One day I saw a bobcat run across the road and up behind my little log house - it was unexpected, as they are shy animals. So beautiful - I felt special.

People have bears come to their yards for the bird feeders, and I am always fearful for the bears - people do dumb things and then the bears are put down....we've not had any come but we take in the feeders at night, and probably our dogs keep them from coming here.

This is a beautiful post - as always ....

(our goldenrod is glorious this year! it's everywhere!)

Barb said...

When you truly practice seeing, wild things seem to appear spontaneously. I, too, have coyotes roaming nearby. I believe they're warning foxes from their territory because suddenly a well-used fox trail across my property seems to be ignored.

Patti Lacy said...

What a gorgeous reflection on the wild things. We used to have coyotes slink through the neighborhood but recent developments have sent them...???

I miss them...and the owls.


Wanda..... said...

Sometimes we look, but don't actually 'see' what's always there.
Nature is always there with something to see!

Carrie Link said...

Super cool! It would be interesting to read about the different ideas of what coyotes symbolize.

Wanda said...

Always expect the unexpected. So glad your path is being rewarded.

Carol............. said...

How fortunate that you can appreciate so much in life that some would consider such trivial things.

I can get lost for hours in my garden watching all that goes on and no matter how many times I see the same things they are never really quite the same and I marvel all over again!

I like the way you wrote about the coyotes (one of my favorite "totem" animals LOL). We have 3 separate coyote packs living close by and I love to listen to them talk to each other.

I checked out Alice's site and all I can say is WOW! I will go back and do more reading.

Amber said...

I read this last night before bed, but was too sleepy to write. But then I thought about it some more... I really think God uses animals to talk to us. This made me think about what I have noticed around me, lately. But you with the Coyote-- I like that medicine, if you read the story of coyote. Do you have Medicine Cards?
I like this-- "Coyote teaches us the beauty of our trust and innocence until we become to
serious, then Coyote backtracks to trick us out of the pompousness that masks our fears
and seriousness."

ox Amber

kario said...

I love it when you write about nature and I am so pleased that you are continuing to receive her gifts.

Terri Tiffany said...

I sit on my back patio every day and watch the blue jays in my trees. One day, I too saw a coyote slip along the back hedge.I felt that same fear but then stayed still and marveled in the opportunity. I know for me, the nature around me give me such a peaceful feeling.

M said...

Your writing continues to be beautiful....and thought-provoking. I think you're right though - you are beginning to see more because you are seeing through a "writer's eye"...not simply the eye of a busy woman. I'm thankful that you share your images to all of us through your words.


Jerri said...

You have the eyes to see and the gift to tell. It's such a joy to see you use both.

Laura said...

Once awakening begins, it continues to begin again anew each day. It's a matter of being more present to what was near by all along...you didn't see it because your mind was in other places...now you are observing, awakening...writing is your meditation practice that allows you to be more engaged in your own life and surroundings.

I've been aware of the same phenomena of late. I saw a fox and her cub recently in our yard, right next to our house...a new experience for me...and an owl in the mornings...I've lived here 10 years and never noticed them before...I don't think they are such new neighbors in our wooded lot...I have become a more attentive neighbor. Isn't it wonderful to be awake in this way???

gentle steps

deborahjbarker said...

What a beautiful post to find on my first visit here.

I don't see coyotes here in my garden in Hampshire, England. I see squirrels and foxes and families of deer who once ate all the tops of my geraniums just before a garden 'do'.
I love the way you write and the path you have chosen.

I found you on Katie Gates' blog and will keep you on my radar from now on. Do come on over to my place sometime.

Jessica Nelson said...

Yes! I love that last line! God knows what little beautiful things to surprise us with, I think. He's a wooer, for sure. :-)
Enjoy your wildness, girl!

Gammary said...

lovely...your writing and the walk in the park. There is so much to see...it only gets "thicker", ya know?

Midlife Jobhunter said...

"A case could be made that I'm seeing more because I'm home more."

No, that's not it. This incredible journey you're taking - that has opened your eyes. More attuned as you travel.

I'd like to dine on blueberries in your yard.