The woman yelled just as the dog’s mouth closed around me, but then something unexpected happened. The dog held me gently in his mouth and walked to the woman, who by then had quit yelling. The dog lowered me to the ground. I blinked at the dog and the woman, then squeaked so hard that I lifted off the ground slightly. The woman laughed, cradled her hands around me, and took me home.
I spent my early life inside the house with my people until my downy feathers turned into full-fledged feathers. Then they started putting me on the rail of the deck—to acclimate me. I lived in and liked both worlds, the wild one and the domesticated one.
Gradually I came into the house less and less often, although I did occasionally peer in the window to see what was happening. I became friends with other birds, learned their songs, and started a family of my own.
The woman walks to her mailbox daily. I swoop down and perch on the top of it, arriving just before she does. She calls me by name and I sing a song for her. Sometimes it’s a sparrow’s song, sometimes a wood thrush’s, sometimes a meadowlark’s. She listens appreciatively, says a few kind words, then walks back to the house, sifting through her mail. I watch her go, spread my wings, and fly.
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I walk the narrow path along the edge of the lake, through the whiskery sedge and muddy wetland into the beech forest. The indigo sky darkens toward black. Night creatures stir and an owl’s call echoes off the water. I walk on, each footfall sure and deliberate.
I know every hollow and swell of this land. I know how to read the wind. I know the sun and shadow on the water, the yellow greens of spring and dark greens of summer, the scent of a summer storm. I know the phases of the moon.
The humans that share this land with my tribe do not trust us. They call coyotes “tricksters,” but isn’t it they who are prone to taking more than they need, to spoiling the land and water that feeds them, to being far removed from the earth’s rhythms, to sidestepping inconvenient truths? Across the lake I see their house lights reflecting long streaks across the water. I keep my distance from them.
The path meanders upward through a grove of soft grasses, through a white pine forest, over the tumbledown rock walls. I walk on. At the edge of the woods I pause and watch my kin arrive from every direction and converge on the ridge of the hill. Their fur is silver and silhouetted against the rising moon. I join them, touching nose to nose in greeting.
In unison we lift our throats to the sky and begin singing, our voices weaving in and out of each other’s and rising to a crescendo. As the moon rises above the horizon, we sing of summer sun and winter snow, of ancient starlight, of brotherhood. We sing into the wind, our song carrying across the hills. I imagine the humans in the valleys hearing us and sensing something deep and familiar resonating within.
Photos courtesy of Hal Brindley and illustration courtesy of Nixxphotography, freedigitalphotos.net