June 23rd, 2009


The other day when I was out walking with my mom, we saw a coyote. I’ve never seen one before, except in pictures (and cartoons, but that’s not exactly relevant in context). Instantly, it was clear that what I was seeing was not a dog, no matter how dog-like the shape.

It’s hard to go back and analyze those instant perceptions, but I think one element of what made me sure it was a coyote was the animal’s singleness of purpose. It loped easily down into the culvert and up the other side, not hurrying, but not meandering either. Its line was straight and purposeful. A dog would have nosed around, seen people, become distracted. Dogs don’t have to have purposes, at least not in our culture.

In the midst of a place where even the palm trees are carefully shaved and tended by men who shinny up or men who rise serenely in cherry pickers, the coyote’s wildness was a reminder. This gated community, this meticulously groomed place with its meticulously groomed inhabitants is not the whole world. The coyote, like me, was out of place here, a piece that doesn’t fit, but here we are anyway.

Although that “we” doesn’t really exist, either. The coyote has no need of me. It is sufficient to itself. I wish I were, too.