Friday, November 28, 2008

The fleeting image

We're in Northern California, at my in-laws' place, for Thanksgiving, and sharing the house with Kingsley (the in-laws' dog, a gigantic malamute) and Quilted (brother-in-law's minuscule corgi). Kingsley is massive, slow-moving, and dopey, which is a bit surprising in a sled dog; Quilted has the businesslike manner of a herding dog, and does not suffer fools gladly.

After dinner last night we took Quilted for a walk around the block to work off the worst of the tryptophan coma in the crisp night air. Behind the house is a long, narrow public park which runs beneath a high-tension transmission line, connecting to an area of public wetlands along the riverbank. As we entered the park, we saw a pair of slender, fleet-footed coyotes, ghostly gray in the faint light of streetlamps, trotting silently back toward the river. They moved so quickly and easily that they seemed insubstantial. In Norse mythology, the god Odin was attended by the two ravens Huginn and Muninn, or Thought and Memory, who flew out every day to gather knowledge and return it to Odin. Although the raven has its place in North American mythology as well, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, I wonder if the All-Father of Northern California might not send out these ghostly messengers instead.

When the coyotes go running through the park at night, Kingsley howls impotently through the reinforced back fence; but Quilted stands utterly still, all her trembling attention focused on the fleeting footfalls and the trace of wildness scented on the cold night air.

1 comment:

Uncle Tom said...

I actually saw two coyote pass by my backyard late one night as I was standing on the back deck. One was just at the back of our property, the other thirty feet beyond that, moving in parallel.
Another time one passed casually through the Jailhouse Inn parking lot one evening.
The curious thing is that, while in pictures they look like any number of dogs I've seen, but in person, so to speak, they are unmistakably coyote.