Wild thing

Coyote yips drift through the open bedroom window sometime before dawn. It’s May’s most consistent night song. Chester’s hackles rise and he growls low. I pull the sheet over my ears.

Regal ChesterChester’s been chased by a coyote three times. These aren’t the lean, mangy, skulking wild dogs of past years. This crop of fat boys trot across the trail. They sit. Cross their legs. Light a cigarette, pinky ring glinting in the morning glare before they chase.

First time it happened, J was walking Chester. He stood his ground, raised his arms and yelled “Stop!” When it was my turn at the wrong end of a coyote chase I did the same. The coyote cocked his head, tightened his silk cravat, emulated the Don Draper eyebrow lift and then slowed his pursuit to a model-like prowl.

Chester bolted, leaving me to walk backwards until I couldn’t see the whites of coyote’s eyes any more. A chilling sweep of goose bumps rose on my neck.

It’s not an option to stay indoors when this is steps from my backyard.

trail vista

But where there is prey, there are predators.

oh deer

Last night, I dream there’s a lion with full mane in my house, barreling down the hallway toward my bedroom.  I slam and lock the door, lean against the wood which cracks and creaks and splinters against my hand. I call out to J in his office. There’s a lion in the hallway! Shut your door!  He’s working on his computer and not paying attention and the lion pounces. I wrestle the lion, wrangle his scruffy neck and heave him out the office window which somehow overlooks a high stony cliff to the sea even though we’re nowhere near the ocean.

I’m sure it’s a dream inspired by recent sightings that frighten me more than coyotes. Yesterday when Chester and I walked, we heard a rustling in the oak grove at the bottom of the hill.

cool oak tree

The noise spooked us both, much louder than the familiar rabbit scurry or quail scuttle through dry leaves.  It sounded human-size, but stopped as we neared, the instinct of an animal.  Chester’s fur ruffled; he hush-growled and we turned heel, Chester wildly scanning the scrub oak lining the trail.  To one side stands a solitary oak  and within it we heard another great flurry of leaves overhead. I expected a hawk, a peregrine falcon, maybe even the screech owls that have taken up in the neighborhood but the shadow didn’t fly. It scampered down the branches, down the trunk, a shadow bigger than my dog.

It’s been about a month since J and I spotted a mountain lion off the trail about a five minute walk from this grove and a neighborhood association warning came last week.

A mountain lion has been seen in the Dove Canyon area.

The animal was picked up on cameras operated at Starr Ranch Sanctuary.

Additionally, this past week Dr. Don Earl of Lido Animal Hospital treated a greyhound that survived a serious attack from a mountain lion that climbed into the backyard of a home in Dove Canyon. The Department of Fish and Game is aware of the dog attack and has tips on its website should you encounter a mountain lion.

I read the “Keep Me Wild” tips.

  • If you encounter a mountain lion, do not run; instead, face the animal, make noise and try to look bigger by waving your arms; throw rocks or other objects. Pick up small children.
  • If attacked, fight back.

I don’t have a great track record with looking big. And I’m an awful thrower.  But I sing when I’m nervous and there’s one song that’s on rerun this spring.

This morning, I hurl lyrics, loudly, and yes, maybe dance and air guitar a bit on the trail. Chester didn’t seem to mind, but I might have some explaining to do to the woman who caught me coming around a blind curve. Last I saw, she was backing away, waving her arms to the sky.

With a song on my lips,

Gary Snyder wrote a spot-on poem about sensing the presence of a wild thing.
One granite ridge
A tree, would be enough
Or even a rock, a small creek,
A bark shred in a pool.
Hill beyond hill, folded and twisted
Tough trees crammed
In thin stone fractures
A huge moon on it all, is too much.
The mind wanders. A million
Summers, night air still and the rocks
Warm.   Sky over endless mountains.
All the junk that goes with being human
Drops away, hard rock wavers
Even the heavy present seems to fail
This bubble of a heart.
Words and books
Like a small creek off a high ledge
Gone in the dry air.
A clear, attentive mind
Has no meaning but that
Which sees is truly seen.
No one loves rock, yet we are here.
Night chills. A flick
In the moonlight
Slips into Juniper shadow:
Back there unseen
Cold proud eyes
Of Cougar or Coyote
Watch me rise and go.

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