If you encounter a coyote, it will most likely be a surprise encounter for both of you on a path. Or, it could be that you will see a coyote off in the distance hunting, or you might see it watching the world go by before it moves on. These glimpses of a coyote can be thrilling and exciting for us city dwellers: finding wildness in our own back yard becomes the highlight of an entire week! The feeling we get from seeing such a wild animal is that the world belongs to all of us.
But another feeling you can get from coyotes is that of stealth, shadows and ghosts! In these cases, usually when it is dark, you might get the feeling that you have seen something move somewhere, but you are not sure where. Your eye actually saw it but only registered it in part — our own senses have not been honed for living in the wild. Next to a coyote’s, our senses are rather dull. A coyote may very well follow or watch you as you move about — it is its nature to be aware of its surroundings. When a coyote knows it was not seen, it may prefer try to remain that way, so it will travel at a distance and in a line where it would be hard to detect. Also, because of a coyote’s lightness and litheness, it can move about in almost total silence. I have sensed these “ghosts” on some of my walks when the light was very dim.
But today in the late morning I sensed something new. I sensed being wild. I had decided to visit an overgrown area where I previously had seen fabulous moss on damp stones. I ducked into this area off the beaten track — you had to duck, you could not stand up. The moss was green and damp and the ground was soft. Yes, this is where I would take some moss photos. While I was there I spotted a banana slug — that was something new for me to get an image of. The light was not good, so I had to fiddle around with my settings. I made soft clicking sounds, which no one could have possibly heard — maybe. I made myself comfortable so as to enjoy the coolness of the place and I became pensive. It was wonderfully peaceful. Then, did I imagine I saw something move? I couldn’t really tell. I became very still. All of my senses became finely acute — there was an intensity of awareness in me which I was not used to. It was emphasized by the total quiet around me.
Something was happening. Overgrowth surrounded me so I could not see beyond just a few feet. Then, from outside of the canopy of leaves in front of me, the sun revealed a silhouette. I saw the head and ears and knew what it was. I then saw its coat as it sat down for only an instant before it was gone. The silhouette never faced me, so it probably didn’t actually see me — it just sensed me with its keen smell and hearing. This experience was the closest to “the wild” that I have ever sensed being: Not only did it involve a tremendous sharpening of my own senses, but I could see that the coyote, with all of its very acute senses, was gathering the information it needed for its own survival. I had the opportunity to touch the wild today: watching a coyote’s stealthy and acutely sensitive behavior, and having my own senses intensify the way they might have had to if I had to survive in the wild.