wildness comes

June 29th, 2020

Helicopters were buzzing the hills around our town again this morning. That usually means a bear sighting. Or maybe a mountain lion. Last month our neighbors called to tell us they’d seen a baby bear tottering along the fence leading into our backyard. We just missed seeing it but they’d taken a photo as proof. At dawn one morning I walked into the kitchen and saw a coyote just outside the picture window. It was so well-fed that I couldn’t identify it at first. I’d never seen such a powerful thing at home and unafraid. Then it turned my way and I saw the furry prey in its jaws, a cat, maybe even the gray stray that had been lounging in the yard not long ago, the one we loved.

The goats have taken back Wales, the deer are stalking Pennsylvania, the ducks are parading in Paris, but the coyote snatching breakfast on my patio was what did me in. What made us think we were in charge of this Eden, huddling in our collapsible boxes, barricaded by rose bushes, fortified by wobbly fences and broken gates?

The wildness stalks at night and takes its revenge. No, not anymore. The wildness comes by day and shows us our place in a living world: not apart, not above, and not immune. A kingdom untaxed by forethought of grief, in balance and at peace: this is our forgotten domain.

It is a kind of justice, a restoration, that comforts me in the falling days.


Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash


  1. Beautiful. The coyotes yip at night in the hills near me, as they always have. Just a reminder that they are close by. Bear scat occupies the meadow between the mole mountains outside my garden fence. Mama deer looks after her young as they munch on the low hanging apple boughs. Tracks on the muddy trails don’t look like dogs. The owls hoot, the doves coo. My grey cat stays indoors. We are here, we are here.

    Comment by Gretchen Staebler — June 29, 2020 @ 6:26 pm

  2. So beautiful, thank you.

    Comment by Lucy — June 29, 2020 @ 7:09 pm

  3. That Wendell Berry poem might be my favorite ever. Also, the cat becoming the coyote reminds me of the fish becoming a heron. The world spins madly on … balance and peace.


    Comment by Bonnie R Nygren — June 29, 2020 @ 7:46 pm

  4. Thank you once again Karen for a wonderful post that both touched me and brought me conflicting emotions and thoughts. We live in rural Maine. At the moment I am watching a lobster boat on the bay setting traps. We take our harvest. We also have 2 barn cats who roam and may meet with someone larger (bear, coyote, fox, fisher, bobcat, lynx, or eagle) wanting to take their harvest. That would grieve me immensely. But as you say it is also part of the kingdom of balance and peace.

    Comment by tom — June 30, 2020 @ 3:44 am

  5. This reminds me of the documentary The Biggest Little Farm. They had issues with coyote’s that killed and ate their chickens -that they solved by hunting them- but when the land found it’s balance back there was room for the coyotes to be part of the farms eco-system.
    I’m sure that cats are probably not a normal part of their daily diet.

    Comment by Sim — June 30, 2020 @ 4:29 am

  6. On my walk home from Trader Joe’s the other day a young coyote followed me, passed me by and went on his merry way. He did keep 6 feet away at my side but he definitely was not interested in me. I live next to San Francisco State. Coyotes are quite common here as well as raccoons. A peaceful animal kingdom in my little part of the world.

    Comment by Jennie — June 30, 2020 @ 7:00 am

  7. I’m in the UK and I don’t have any natural wildlife experiences half as impressive as those in the other comments. However, I do have a lizard and a frog living quite happily in my semi-urban greenhouse. And I love it!

    Comment by Debbie — June 30, 2020 @ 11:02 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

archives by month