Category Archives: Coyote

More Amazing Facts About Coyotes

Coyotes orbit the sun once a year along a roughly elliptical path.

Coyotes are related to Komodo dragons, though not particularly closely.

Two coyotes approaching each other at the same speed will always meet at the midpoint of the path between their original locations.

A 44-pound coyote would weigh less than eight pounds on the moon.

A coyote that falls off a slickrock precipice will accelerate toward the earth at approximately 32 feet per second per second. If the cliff is very tall, the coyote will eventually reach a velocity where the air pressure beneath it keeps it from accelerating further. But it would have to be a really, really tall cliff.

You can tell approximately how far away a coyote is, in miles, by noting when its mouth moves, counting the number of seconds that elapse until you hear its yip, and dividing by five.

Due to quantum mechanics, two coyotes cannot occupy precisely the same location at precisely the same time.

As humans age, we often secrete little bits of calcified stuff in our pineal glands and elsewhere in our brains. Scientists call these secretions corpora arenacea, or “brain sand.” They are composed of the  same constituents as coyote bones. Scientists aren’t sure what function, if any, corpora arenacea may have. The same, however, cannot be said of coyote skeletons.

If three coyotes are hunting in a meadow, they will almost always form a triangle.

A coyote at rest will tend to remain at rest, and a coyote in motion will tend to remain in motion, unless ether coyote is acted on by an outside force.

The force acting to hold up a swimming coyote is equal to the mass of water the coyote displaces.

Moon run

It’s always been easier for me to run at night. A quick little 12 minutes, most of a mile down a moonlit desert dirt road, and then the walk back.

Great horned owl atop a transmission pole, its call like a heart asking what hearts always ask. Who-who? Who-who?

And then answered by another great horned a half mile toward the mountains.

Moon was coy, now hiding a cloud, now showing half its full face peeking out from behind.An odd feeling, this being not-depressed. I could get used to it.The local coyotes broke a short song over the rocks, one soloist letting fly with a sustained and soulful tremolo.

And then back to the house, grab the leash and head back out again with company.

Day 999

Labor Day weekend ends, and soon the days will cool enough that people will consider coming out to the desert for their retreats and their fashion shoots and their self-finding. Selfie-finding.

For now, we still have the place mainly to ourselves, me and my neighbors and the dog and the quail and jackrabbits, the cactus wrens and ladderbacks and desert iguanas. Louise says the sheep are back again. She has seen them on the ridge outside her bedroom window, drawn out of the National Park by the attractive force exerted by a nearby swimming pool. May the chlorine protect them all against pneumonia.

Tomorrow it is 1,000 days since this dog has had me, and this evening she celebrated by eating a rawhide chew and then taking me for a walk. Every day is a celebration around here, what with all the walks and rawhides. She recovers quickly from her surgery three weeks ago; a mile of walking and I have to haul her back home unwilling.

Yesterday morning, an overcast cooling the Mojave for a few minutes, we stepped out to see a coyote gliding across the road, regarding us sidelong and a trifle annoyed.

The quail are many, last winter’s rains apparently abundant enough that few of last spring’s chicks starved. It was a bumper crop of wildflower seeds and insects both. I expect the gopher snakes are benefitting in turn, and the roadrunners.

This morning I got up early, startled by a dream that I had lost the dog. I awoke to find her staring at me. We went out just after sunrise, red light filtering through thick clouds left over from a tropical storm off Baja. The scent of creosote and ambrosia. The weft of big galleta grass in clumps, ridiculously succulent after all this year’s rain. The lazy parabolas of antisocial jackrabbits. The clatter of jake brakes on the highway a half mile north.

Wild Eyes at La Contenta

[I read this this weekend at Desert Stories X.]

At 8:15 pm on May 18, 2016, the sky was darkening over Joshua Tree. I was driving across La Contenta Road heading eastbound on Route 62, doing about five under the limit.

And then I died.

At least I think it was me. I do lose track of these things.

You need to understand this: in my entire life, spanning more than half a century spent in the company of a staggeringly diverse cast of people, I have, as far as I am aware, had precisely one nickname: Coyote. Except, pronounced the correct way, the Mexican way: “Coyóte.” The name was bestowed on me by my co-workers in the Berkeley café where I worked in 1983. I asked my boss Beto why he started calling me that. “Because, Coyóte, you shut up about them never.”

“Oh,” I said. “Never,” said Beto. “I see,” I said. “Jamas Nunca,” said Beto.

I couldn’t argue. Still can’t. I am not always happy with this human skin I wear. Coyóte has long seemed a salubrious alternative.

Where I live there are always at least three or four coyotes within a quarter mile, drifting though the creosote and yucca as silent as they wish to be. On occasion they allow me a moment or two of their time. They stand a ways off, eyeing me as though I am preposterous and likely to do something dangerous and stupid at any time, and then once they have had their fill of me they look sidelong at one another and vanish as if due to some prearranged signal.

This is precisely the relationship I have with my birth family, and so it makes me feel right at home.

Though it also makes me less certain of the precise boundary between Homo sapiens and Canis latrans. I hear coyote song and I strain to make out the words. Disoriented in the desert a decade ago I found a fresh set of coyote tracks and cursed, certain that they were mine and I had been walking in circles.

You get the picture. When my species dysphoria kicks in, when the manyfold flaws of the human race begin to rankle, there is a deep part of me that longs to run out into the desert, to chase down cottontails and sleep curled up beneath the cholla. I see one of my coyote neighbors and for a moment, a part of me becomes him. Or at least it wants to. I want to fit into the land as seamlessly as they do, to drift through the creosote and yucca with them as heedless of bank accounts or Twitter handles. There is a part of me that longs to be that grizzled fur coat camouflaged against the varnished rock and alluvium, that longs to be just a pair of wild eyes surveying the Mojave, the desert grown conscious of itself.

I long to be in the landscape, not on it.

And certainly not driving across it, dog and bags of groceries shifting in the back seat, the panel truck to my left seeming to have trouble deciding which lane it wants to occupy. I decide to slow and give him room. When we get to the east side of La Contenta he’s pulled about halfway past me, his front bumper about ten feet farther east than mine.

Coyóte

darts out from in front of the truck, avoiding it by a hair’s breadth. He is making for the Joshua tree forest across the way. His eyes are bright with glee. And then his expression changes. He didn’t expect me there in the right hand lane.


Sometimes I think that in order to really belong to a place you have to have your heart broken there, to have your smug certainty stripped away and your sentiments shattered, brought to that state where every detail of the moment in that place is seared into you, each roadside can and broken Joshua tree branded on your soul forever.

The look of surprise and terror in those wild eyes stakes your heart to the ground.

The knowing that you cannot stop in time.

The knowing that you cannot stop time.

I will grant you the kindness Fortune denied me, and spare you most of the details. But here is the worst of them: it was… subtle. Imagine the Roman soldiers’ nails sliding through Christ’s wrists as if He was made of seafoam.

Coyote dies all the time in the stories, I know, and his friends roll their eyes and set to reviving him. Or he jumps over his body three times to bring himself back from the dead. Death is a momentary inconvenience for a demigod.

I have tried to imagine this since as a comfort. It hasn’t worked.

Because in that endlessly extended second, Coyote’s eyes riveted on me in surprise and terror, I recognized that look wholeheartedly.

My eyes were the same on him.

Our hearts broke the same in that place, just ten feet from the Joshua trees and safety.

Our eyes.

Our hearts.

We are the same.

We are the same.

Listening to the coyote

There was something about the noise
he made tonight
that got to me.

Something about the curdled yowl,
what seemed insensate rage
that came choking out
a rising-toned flood of staccato yelps

Or something I imagined
about his eyes, gleaming cold
and furious,
pinning some imagined quarry.

It is his nature
to prey on weaker things:
I understand that.
It is wrong to ascribe to him
a moral sense,
a willing violation
of some imagined ethical code.
It asks too much of him.

But tonight it was too much.
His manic yelps, incomprehensible
and fervid, sneering sniffle snarls,
his coiled-spring choking throat
as if his claws scraped blackboard.

Tonight it was too much,
and I spent the evening
listening to the coyote instead,
a clear healthy song to wash away the debate.

Whistling in the dark

In the dark and the ancient creosote, something has pulled the dog taut at the far end of her leash.

A coyote then, affecting nonchalance. It lingers, then ventures out to the road, backlit, then stops.

It is warm, despite the dark. A smell of dust, of distant shredded brake lining.  A curious liberation.

It is a puzzle. The more the years-long bleakness lifts, the more I can admit my work is pointless. Sisyphus reaches the top. There’s a sign with a boulder and a red slashed circle over it.

Silhouetted coyote flicks a silhouetted ear.

Farther east? Perhaps. Perhaps. “Remind me of this when I complain about my life,” I said today, in momentary wonder over interesting plans.The pinacate beetle over there means more to me. It walks between the dog’s tensed paws. It pauses. it turns.

We four face each other for a long moment.

Coyote tires of our company. As she glides up the road a bright blue fireball meteor burns slowly above her head, and then is gone.

As portents go, not a bad one. Abandon all hope and the trickster has no power over you.

The Vortex

We will rebuild.

 

At just after 3:30 pm this afternoon my yard was hit by either a very large dust devil or a very small tornado. It lifted this heavy, glass and metal table and flipped it: when I drank my coffee out there this morning it was on the other side of the chairs. My smoker landed two lots down. The wind knocked over two cinderblocks. 

Given that this happened on the anniversary weekend of my beginning to live alone, I choose to interpret it as a good omen, Coyote-style. 

Regarding my difficult workplace environment

I’m not sure how I’m supposed to get anything done around here when just any old mythopoetic demiurge can saunter up and look at me through my office window whenever she feels like it.

Especially when she takes off before I can get my camera focused.

coyotebutt

 

Though she did kindly stop for a glimpse back at the property line.

coyotesilhouette

It’s just non-stop productivity losses around here, I tell you what.

They have the place surrounded

Just ended: 20 minutes of the best coyote hootenanny I have heard in my entire life. It would seem to be a big family. There are pups with their plaintive, piercing peep-yowls and elders with their complex, scat-singing syncopation. They are behind my house and in front of it, close enough that I imagine I can hear the static electricity crackle in their fur.

The local dogs are so well outnumbered that they stay quiet.

I set up the hummingbird feeder outside the office window two days ago. So far two Costa’s hummers have fought over it. A cactus wren tried to drink from it this morning, and late this afternoon a juvenile verdin just old enough to have a tinge of yellow on its face stopped by to see whether the sugar was to her liking. Apparently verdins like to eat the dried remnants of hummingbird food from feeders, which I only learned today. This being the Mojave Desert, the hummingbird feeders are constantly secreting dried sugar. Lucky verdins.

Concert night

Coyote hunting n the Marin Headlands. Creative Commons licensed photo by Franco Folini

Coyote hunting in the Marin Headlands. Creative Commons licensed photo by Franco Folini

We had a concert out in the back yard last night. Closest I’d heard them to the house since I moved in. Looks like someone other than the cat has noticed the presence of rabbit neighbors.

The cat was frankly curious at the singing, wearing his “my better instincts tell me to run for the closet but I’m trying to be brave” face.

Funny thing: looking at the photo above my eye is drawn to the amole, the weedy-looking agave family plant just behind the coyote. A constant companion in three decades of hiking in the Bay Area hills, and it never occurred to me just how much I miss it.