I wrote this not long after losing my mother, and it’s about a day that I will never forget. I have had several (harmless) encounters with coyotes, but never one quite like this. I promise my next post will have fewer f-bombs and even less gore. You’re welcome.
P.S. I did a VoiceOver again - in which I do, in fact, say the f-bomb - so not for little ears, fyi!
I was alone, again, on the trails by the lake. It was early January. The ground was hard and uneven, leaves blown into piles, snow just beginning to highlight the world. It looked like I felt: one life fighting the arrival of the next.
I followed the trail to the lake and hiked it with a ferocity that I could only attribute to fear. Without my mother, my first family was falling apart. Even as we all pretended it wasn’t happening, it was. We’d gotten through the firsts, the rearranging of our lives, and the restarts - only to find that we weren’t the family we’d been, nor would we ever be again. Not without my mother.
My mother, the one who was truly gone, was the one I felt closest to now. She would stay with me, our relationship intact, no matter what. The rest and what was next, I did not know.
I walked fast, at a clip almost unsafe. I was half running, half walking, stumbling over the roots and branches barely concealed in the snow. I didn’t look and I didn’t care. I was pushing against the world at every turn anyway. I stormed through the woods, raging, for a mile, before finally giving in to an all-out run.
I hated running, but I welcomed it now. A pleasing punishment to my body. My lungs shrieking, my legs cramping, my heart thudding hollow inside my chest. My body knew what I was still trying to deny: The family that I once had, was gone.
When the dirt trail met the dirt road, I cut right and followed its curve. The road would take me back to the trailhead, not saving me time or distance, but instead freeing me from the unseen roots - a faster, smoother path on which to beat out my sorrow.
I picked up my pace. The road was starting to freeze, the dirt hard like pavement. It pushed pain through my heels, up my legs, into my back. And I took it.
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I was in a tunnel now. I could only see the road a few feet in front of me, everything else gone, no gray sky, no leaves and the wind silent. I was just movement, one foot in front of the other. I started to gasp out the words that circled in my head. I was not relieved of my sorrow in doing so, but saying it, letting it out, acknowledging the truth. It had to be done. It was everywhere, except spoken. Until now. I finally said it: it’s over, it’s over, it’s f*cking over, I chanted it again and again. I ran like that, a blue streak in the brown and white world, for another half mile.
When I approached the last hill, I pushed harder still. I hit the base furious, spent, devastated. Everything hurt and nothing could be fixed, no matter how hard I tried. Finally, halfway up, I slowed to a walk. I had to; I was exhausted.
Then, something broke my trance - a movement, in the woods, just off the dirt road.
Hunched over a deer carcass, his snout covered in blood.
It shook me. The brutality of the scene, the deer hide pulled open, the dark dripping down his front legs. I was in a tunnel again. The trees and the wind and the leaves, gone. It was just us. I stood and he stood, silent.
We held a full endless moment like that, looking at each other. I expected him to run. He expected me to run. Neither of us moved.
Finally, he swung his tail once and leaned over the carcass - toward me. A message.
I reacted then.
I backed up slowly, then turned and ran.
I took in cold January air on the inhale and roared out fear on the exhale. I looked back once to make sure he wasn’t coming, and then I didn’t look back again. My breath came in white billows; my legs felt nothing at all.
I ran like a wild animal in wild fear. I forgot my sorrow, my anger, my pain. I ran and ran and ran. I put it all into my legs, everything I had. This fear, that fear, all of it.
And in a few moments it was behind me.
I was back to the dirt lot at the trailhead. Back to civilization. Back to safety. I leaned over, wheezing for air, my heart trying to catch up, pumping my body like a drum. I was scared and upset and shocked.
And then - out of nowhere - something else.
I stood in the dirt and snow, and filled with joy and relief. I started laughing. I threw a fist in the air and shouted at the coyote: You f*cker! I didn’t wait for his response, nor did I look around to see who might have heard me. My sadness, I realized, had been upended in the scramble.
It was a release, a full-stop, a grounding. I was rooted in the now, present again, anchored to the day, the trees, the sky. I saw that I was a part of it all, a part of something bigger, a part of this wild, unpredictable world still. A reminder that I could navigate this life, could make decisions, could move forward.
Not only that I could, but that I had to - no matter what crossed my path.
I’ve had somewhat similar experience, but no coyote. My brother died in a car accident and somehow I wound up outside on a sunny, snowy March day looking at a huge pile of cut oak he had not finished. I started hand splitting that oak and hours later exhausted, sweaty and breathing hard I was finished. Anger gone! Accomplished! His legacy to me is splitting firewood!
Wow! Incredibly moving piece! You’re killing it! I love your work!