Copyright 2023 by Giles Ryan
Image by Hans Toom from Pixabay
saw him before he saw me.
was about five in the morning and I was on my way back after an hour
or so walking the streets of Clyde Hill and Medina, some six or seven
miles to start the day. The wind was blowing quite strong from the
north – away from him and toward me – and the gusts were
enough to sway the branches of the tall cedars, creating more noise
than usual. If the wind had been blowing the other way he certainly
would have caught my scent, or if the air had been still he would
have heard the noise of my steps as I came down the street. But
standing upwind with the noise of the swaying boughs adding to his
own distraction, he was unaware of my approach. Seeing him first, I
stopped, stood quite still and took in the sight of him about twenty
was standing in the full circle of a streetlight, as if at center
stage, while I, his audience, happened to stop in the shadows. I
wanted very much to see how long I could watch him and remain unseen.
Very slowly I went into a crouch to make my presence smaller,
gradually went to my knees and bent my body low to the ground –
the bow-to-Mecca pose I had so often seen in another lifetime on the
far side of the world.
was a full-grown male coyote, a big fellow. He stood over two feet at
the shoulder, his muzzle thinner than any dog his size and his tail
full and bushy and hanging low to the ground. His coat was a soft
gray fading to white at his belly. His head was tilted up as if
sniffing the air and I thought, he doesn’t smell me but he
seems to be trying to catch the scent of something else –
perhaps a raccoon or a rabbit or an unwise neighborhood cat out and
about when he should be safe at home. But the coyote had no notion
that any other creature had detected him. For at least a full
minute I stayed motionless and watched him.
sightings are not rare even in this part of Bellevue. It’s a
long-established residential neighborhood in an urban setting, with
houses on small plots close together, with schools and the fire and
police stations nearby – a quiet, well-ordered place. But
everyone knew they were around, and that coyotes live by their own
rules, taking whatever they can. Some weeks before I had
chatted with a neighbor out walking his Shi-tzu and he had mentioned
that he would never let his little fellow off the leash. “No,”
he said, “my guy isn’t going anywhere without me –
some coyote would love to have him for a snack!”
I couldn’t help liking the coyote – he was a handsome
fellow and, after all, he was here first, wasn’t he? No, not
the one I was looking at, but I could certainly imagine his ancestors
walking these hills at night, long before people lived here, back in
a time when they held a better place in the food chain, before the
weak but nonetheless dangerous creatures came on their two legs and
cut down trees and scarred the land with streets, houses, fences,
gardens – to say nothing of the bright-eyed steel monsters
hurtling through the night at ferocious speed, crushing everything in
their path. Or so it must seem to a coyote.
stood up now and looked around, as if finally sensing that something
was not quite right. He looked my way, thrust his head forward, then
pulled back, hesitating, and then he started to walk slowly toward
me. I thought, he still doesn’t see me! Then
as he cautiously came closer I realized, he sees me
thinks I’m some small prey!
this could not go on any longer. I let him come to about ten feet
away and then I stood up. He instantly jumped back, gave a small
whimper-like sound, took a long last look and quickly ran away down
now, I thought, I’ll certainly keep my eye out for you.
And I do hope to see him again. I somehow take comfort in
knowing that I’m not the only nightwalker out there. I have
company. Yes, I’m certain I will see him again.
of course the wind must blow the right way, and I’ll have to
see him first.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
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