Coyotes roam the Northern California landscape as naturally as the curving arms of oak trees and shimmering light of golden grasses. Animals are the environment, the land is our home, and no matter where I rest my head, I dream of this homeland. Its skin, scattered with abandoned Quonset huts, fading into fields with salted, rusting abandoned relics of farm equipment baring aquamarine, metallic undersides from fog long come and gone. Pines and redwoods sighing through picnics and lovers’ quarrels, soaring bi-planes overhead, rising and falling like the Cooper’s hawks who cross the valley floor, searching among the mustard meadows as the earthy smells of pastures carry the work of day into dusk, and the awakening of streetlights flicker among the song of the crickets. Night falls and a coyote cries.
It is the intersection of the nonhuman and human world where that dream is disturbed. My colleague argues that the primary right, the inherent right to be free of society—to unshackle oneself from the company and governance of others—codifies a moral duty for humans to preserve wild places. Without these spaces, consent is manufactured, not given. Simply put, freedom is the ability to be free from people. But with the human population exploding, where can wild animals go to be free?
What a relief to unburden oneself from human society. To wake up, alone but in a new place. To figure it out, alone. To survive by yourself. To thrive by yourself. Creativity must be alone, because of alone. Traveling on one’s own far surpasses traveling with human companions, most of the time. Those spiritual journeys, when our senses are most alive, when the silences of solitude allow our hearts to feel what we hide in dialogue, those adventures are the most memorable and the most wild within. And yet we are not alone. The nonhuman world is always there, and that is why freedom means coexisting.
Solitude quiets everything else, a reminder to feel only this thing, live only in this story. In my story, I have a good dog who shares my life and heals my heart. She accompanies me everywhere—in travels, walks, work days, and wanderings. And when a coyote runs by, she stays by my side. She is shy, loyal, smart, goofy, gentle, and athletic. We share a preference of being alone, napping in the sun by an old oak tree. She chose me and I chose her—kindred spirits, or so I choose to believe.
Posy in the creek, Santa Rosa laguna (photo: Ian Elwood)
Her work friend is a big, loafing red-haired Burmese Mountain/Lab mix who obeys the laws of nothing. He Continue reading
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