Woke Last Night to the Sound of Thunder

coyotesI borrowed the title of this post from Bob Seger’s song, Night Moves – an iconic song from the 70s. For me, this opening line is striking and passionate. Nocturnal humans often find affirmation when an artist captures the emotion of a lonely night’s introspection. Whether sitting on a moonlit mountain, or walking through a quiet cityscape, the sights and sounds of the night are powerful.

Last night – this morning really – I woke to the sound of coyotes playing outside my door. It’s difficult to estimate the distance of playful coyote chatter. There is something about their vocals that make them seem close, when often they are far. When I poked my head out the door, like naughty children, they immediately when silent. We Dads have that kind of presence. But within seconds, they began their playful yapping – but now almost 200 yards away.

As I listened to them scatter across the pasture, I imagined playful, mischievous  and sarcastic little boys – a dangerous band of four-year old boys leaping, rolling, and playing in the tall grass.

The first time I heard coyotes like this, I was 12 years old and sleeping on the back porch of my great aunt’s mobile home in San Bernardino. Terrified and paralyzed, I lay in my sleeping bag fearing for my life. I knew they would eat me alive and I was unable to do anything about it. Later I learned they killed a neighbor’s dog and this merely solidified my understanding of these bloodthirsty creatures of the night.

Six years later, older, wiser, and bigger, I once again encountered coyotes in the wild. While hiking alone in Oregon’s Blue Mountains one snowing Saturday afternoon, I looked across a meadow to see a dozen or more coyotes playing in the snow. They seemed unaware of my presence as I steeled my nerve. I repeated to myself the popular mantras: “They are more afraid of me than I am of them;” They don’t attack humans;” and my favorite, “They’ll leave you alone if you don’t corner or surprise them.

More than once I turned to leave, then convinced myself I had nothing to fear – but soon I turned around and retreated to the safety of my Dad’s car. The victory is that I did not succumb to paralyzing fear – the loss is that I retreated. But the even bigger story is  I lived to tell the tale.

Now, after many more encounters with “harmless” coyotes – and the memory of meeting wolves, face to face, in the Alaska wilderness, I’ve outgrown my fear of the pesky coyote. I won’t take them for granted – but I no longer fear them. In fact, this morning after getting up, I am struck by my need to play like a pack of wild coyotes.

They laughed and played under the full moon, just a few short hours till dawn. What a great place to be – on the open range, no agenda, just hanging out and terrorizing the neighborhood, like a roving band of naughty four year-old boys!

Freedom, laughter, playfulness – what a great set of qualities to possess and pass on to one’s family.

What wakes you up? Emotionally? Spiritually? Mentally?

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