Friday, August 25, 2023

HOWLIN’ HARMONY – Sylvia Sings With Coyotes

So Sally and I are just down the block, sitting on our favorite bench along East River Parkway. Our mini-schnauzer, Sylvia, is sitting in Sally’s lap, her keen senses piqued by every movement, sound and smell within a hundred yards. Walkers, bikers, squirrels, a few cars.

Then the relative quiet is pierced by the wail of sirens, and Sylvia’s ears perk up. The emergency vehicles are headed our way, and sure enough we spot a couple of fire trucks tearing down the street right toward us.

Sylvie’s getting agitated now, and when they’re about a block away, she points her nose toward the sky, purses her lips and starts belting out her demure version of a full-throated, primal wolf howl.  

I cover my ears as the trucks scream past and Sylvie keeps howling for another
ten seconds.

As the sirens fade into the distance, Silvia catches her breath, and a new sound emerges from the din. Right across the parkway, somewhere on the steep, wooded slope down to the Mississippi—and no more than 50 yards away—a pack of coyotes is still performing their unique, siren-provoked medley of howls and high-pitched barking. And it’s not just one or two; it sounds like the whole, extended family.

       It is a profound reminder of the timeless
       connection between all creatures.

Coyotes may be the most populous, yet reclusive, wild animal in the U.S. It’s hard to believe how many there are, even right here in the city.* And when you run into one face to face—as I have occasionally—blocking your way on the foot path, or hear them sounding off en masse as we just did, it touches a nerve.

That’s because few people, especially those of us who live in the city, ever come face to face with a wild, free carnivore. The rare privilege of doing so is essential to our understanding that the natural world does not—or at least should not—revolve entirely around homo sapiens.

Our arresting encounter today is a profound reminder of the timeless connection between all creatures— in fact, the oneness of…everything.

One is seldom moved to contemplate the scope of such awareness. But this communing between our little dog and those coyotes, the stirring consonance of their common ancestry, brings it home for me as few experiences have.

* There are significant populations of coyotes (canis latrans) in every U.S. state except Hawaii. The U.S. total has been estimated at between 3,000,000 and 5,000,000.


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