I was walking a trail in one of the wooded areas in my community when I saw him perhaps 35-40 feet ahead of me.
I figured he’d disappear into the woods as soon as soon as he saw me, but he did not. He just stood there in the middle of the trail looking at me.
I stopped walking, drew myself up, pointed at him and said, rather authoritatively, I thought, “You go home.” (OK, maybe that wasn’t bright, but what else might I have said? Scat? Shoo?)
He walked a bit farther up the trail, then turned and stood looking at me again.
I again pointed and told him to go home.
He turned and walked on out of sight.
At that point on the trail, there were homes atop a bit of a bank to the left, and a gulley to the right. I could have turned back, but somehow that didn’t seem necessary, so I continued walking slowly up the trail around a curve—and then saw him again, looking at me, but still about the same distance away.
I was now behind a house with a gate in its back fence, so I walked through its yard and out onto the street. I passed the place where the trail I’d been on emerges, then walked another couple of blocks to where the back leg of the loop I generally take enters a stand of trees at the edge of a golf course.
As I emerged from the trees into an open area through which the trail led back to the street, I saw him again, just standing there. Looking at me….
I decided to cut across the golf course and enter the street farther down.
By the time I was nearing my house, I was no longer sure if he was really a coyote. He may have looked like a coyote, but he was bigger and fatter than most I’ve seen, and he was behaving like a stray dog who needed a person.
I stopped at the home of a neighbor who’s active on the community’s trails and forest committee.
Oh, yes, he said, that was a coyote. Perhaps the one he’d encountered a year ago while working on a different trail. That one had been big, too, like a German Shepherd, and it also wasn’t afraid of people, letting them come to within 20 feet before ducking into the woods.
We agreed that coyotes, leastwise solo coyotes, don’t attack people, or at least not people who aren’t running or riding a bicycle or otherwise acting like dinner trying to get away.
Indeed, I wasn’t particularly afraid when I saw the coyote, although I certainly respected him and had no thought of trying to pet him.
I’d always known there were wild animals in the wooded areas of my community, although there are 1,500 homes on 1,000 acres, so it’s hardly wilderness. I’d seen many deer, and every summer, when my windows were open at night, I’d heard coyotes howling. I’d seen metal poles bent to the ground by bears going after the birdfeeders hanging from them, and once, from my car, I’d looked into the face of a bobcat sitting in the middle of a broad gravel trail that ran briefly alongside the road. His eyes were golden coals, his ears were tufted and he was too big to be somebody’s kitty cat.
But this was my closest encounter with anything larger than a rabbit in almost eight years of walking the streets and the trails of my community.
So what does the encounter mean?
Well, it could just mean that if you walk the streets and the trails in a community where there are wild animals for that many years, sooner or later you will encounter one.
Sort of like the way that just last week, I met my next-door neighbor in the community mailroom for the first time in all the years we’ve both been picking up our mail there.
However, I know that my friends in the qigong community would say that nothing is without meaning because all things are connected, and that I should try to figure out what my meeting the coyote might mean.
I figured my friend Karl would say that I should consult the Yi Jing (I Ching), so I turned to a page at random in my Martin Palmer/Jay Ramsay translation and got #27, which is titled “Nourishment.”
The very first words are that “the oracle is auspicious,” but in my reading of the six lines that follow, hexagram #27 is more cautionary than encouraging, with mentions of “smacks in the mouth” plus a variety of contradictory and confusing statements of advice. (Hmmm….. In Native American mythology, coyote is a trickster, isn’t he?)
Then in the “Modern Commentary” at the back of the book, the authors point out that “the two trigrams, mountain above and thunder below, give a hexagram which resembles a mouth filled with teeth. This seems to be the source of the association of this hexagram with nourishment, with what the jaws grind up.”
Mouth, teeth, coyote…. My neighbor did say that the coyote was probably evaluating whether I would make a good meal.
But is there a larger meaning, related to more than my walks in the wood? I have no idea.
At this moment my only conclusion is that I am going to start carrying my walking stick when I walk in the woods.
It’s quite a nice one, 4 feet tall, handmade from a real tree limb with a birdhouse, a butterfly, a spider on a web, and ivy and a picket fence carved and painted on its polished surface.
Hopefully, if I meet coyote again, he will think it makes me look larger and more formidable—and not like an hors d’oeuvre carrying its own toothpick.