All the Uncertainty

Sometime in the night – late, early, I don’t know anything but that it was dark and I’d been deeply asleep – I was awakened by a singular rise-and-fall wail of a coyote. I lay awake and still, ears straining for the responding chorus of yips and yowls, but none were forthcoming, and so I lay awake even longer, wondering at the circumstances. I’d never before heard just one coyote. Why was it alone? Why had none answered? I tried to place the animal in my mind; I’d thought perhaps the sound had come from the west, so maybe  it was over by the stream, lapping from that cold water. Or I was wrong: Maybe the wail had come from the north, and the coyote was in the yard of the old church. And then I wished I hadn’t imagined that, because it was a confounding image – a lone coyote in the night shadow of a church, howling at that silent steeple. It’s red and yellow, that steeple. I love it.

I was awake for a while longer, wanting a confirming wail, anything to put that damn coyote-in-the-church-yard image out of mind. Or better yet, the banter of a dozen coyotes, proof that the one I’d heard was not alone, not separated, not lonely. But the night remained quiet, and I understood the futility of my wakefulness even as I continued listening, suddenly fearful of sleep and all the uncertainty that awaited me there.



10 thoughts on “All the Uncertainty”

  1. Metaphorical….? If this were a dream I would say the tribalism reading is haunting you, but dang, it’s playing out in your backyard! This picture you’re telling is one that I project on the future of humans.

  2. Nice post Ben! I know the feeling of being awakened at night by an animal sound. Comforting, but a bit creepy too.

  3. It is wildness.we need. The primordial we long ago paved over with gas heat and white bread. The wildness of lone coyotes and four rows of yellow beans and walking on our own legs. The wildness of noticing the moon. The wildness that knows fall from spring, Moby Dick from Holiday Inn.. You wake in the night and hear 4 Barred owls bantering and you don’t even think about it. It’s your heart the same, the racing of your blood the same, and in the morning and you go there and smell them. the smell of wildness, the smell of you. it”s what we. need, more wildness, less careers, more blood worn thin in the field, less offices, no feet ever allowed in offices or in rooms with carpet. a good month-long bout of making ladder-back chairs in the deep woods, someone singing with banjo and hopping on one leg

  4. Here in Western Mass in open winters, the coyotes are hunted. We’d not had an open winter for many years, up until 4 -5 years ago. Before that we’d hear packs yipping their eerie wails frequently. Then after the open winter, we heard none until once or twice that summer. This last year was another open winter and we’ve heard none so far.

    The other downside is the rodent populations exploded and have not gone down. It’s been long enough I would have expected other predators to fill the void, but none has seemed to. so we are dealing with hordes of mice, chipmunks, and the neighbor’s rats.

    I also wished you’d heard a reply.

  5. We were hearing a lone howl frequently. Usually from a neighboring field but the last time was from right outside our window. Felt familiar but could never quite figure out what it meant to me. Something much bigger than myself, surely. It’s been about a year since that last cry and I sort of miss the pondering that accompanied it.

  6. Just want to do a shout-out to all the loners. I know you’re out there. Certainly tribalism and community have their place, as well as the solace of having a pack around you, particularly in times of tragedy. But the same anxiety that some may feel when they find themselves alone is similar to the angst a loner feels trapped in a group setting. In her book “Party of One” Ann Rufus humorously suggests …”After what others would call a fun day out together, we (loners) feel as if we have been at the Red Cross, donating blood….” (Yep). “But alone we feel most normal. Most ourselves. Most alive. We need what others dread. We dread what others need.”

    Hope the coyote finds their crew.

    1. While there are books and music, and trees, zooming swallows, and drifting cottonwood fuzz, sunsets and mushrooms, smooth rocks on the beaches and colored sands of the canyons, baby belly laughs and seagull laughs, wrinkled old ladies who light up as you help them read a sign, all the while, as this beautiful symphony unfolds, loneliness does not exist, it is perhaps just another invention of ours in our mind in attempt of classify and organize this or that.

      1. Best kind of company.. trees, books, sunsets, coyote howls in the night. Harmless companions. (Hard to break away from classifying.)

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