Clear skies and cold. The moon 75 percent waxing gibbous. Her zenith around 8:00 p.m. Tonight he will be back, down in the bottom field, just 100 yards below the house.
The song begins with a few sharp barks, then a crescendo into a long, mournful soprano. It will be answered from down in the swamp bottom first, then from another pack two ridges over, a double-chorus of Banshees, each with no individually distinguishable voice. They could be 50 or even a 100, a ruckus that almost make a man feel surrounded in some Jack London tale. Stoke-up the fire as the circle tightens.
My pit will lift his head, awakened from whatever canine dreams be on a winter night. His growl low and deep, as if it originates somewhere around his back haunches. Each lasts about ten seconds, followed by a single syllable “umph.” A ridge of hair stands like a white belt from skull to tail, a sign that he is approaching the red line, where some other creature has produced in him a rage that will lead to fury.
I say “hush, now,” but he will not be quieted until the lone singer and his cacophony of answering choirs have ceased. I need only open the door and he will charge off into the night.
I wonder, not being well-versed in coyote song. Is he calling out of loneliness, or simply trying to locate the others, to gauge their distance? A measuring of reasonable trot should he be so inclined to rejoin the evening rituals of the pack.
I like to think that it is a voluntary solitude. Chosen, not forced. Still a path back. But I don’t know the ways of coyotes.
Sunday past I found a single arrowhead on a low, flat ridge above the creek bottom. The first in twenty-five years of walking this land. The parent rock just beside, cleft clearly visible where two pieces once fit together. I looked again, for where there is one there are usually more, indicating a camp, even a temporary village. But there were no more. A single piece of flint shaped by a solitary man.
This lack of relics is curious. I stand five miles as the crow flies from the last stand of the Creek Nation, fought to the last man, woman and child in the shallow bend of a river. Stone points and wooden shafts no match for Andrew Jackson’s band of muskets.
Again I wonder. Was the point-maker in voluntary solitude? Still close enough to coyote-call over the low ridges. Far enough to escape the evening banter.
Perhaps kindred spirits, man and coyote. Seeking solitude, but always curious if others are still within range.
Maybe only on this patch of sacred land. Solitude calls to solitude.
The sun is setting. I have cornbread in the oven, Hoppin’ John in the pot. I build my evening fire against the chill.
Bully and I await the moon. The evening performance will begin soon.
Tonight we howl.