The other day I saw a coyote in the street in the middle of the night, and ever since I’ve been trying to figure out what it meant.
As regular readers know, I sometimes try to force things a bit, but it’s also true that everything is a metaphor in some way for something else, a particular expression of some larger or universal force. Whether it really happened, an apple falling on your head is a good metaphor, a small example that illustrates the big thing. We may not be able to explain exactly why or how gravity works in our theories, but we’re pretty sure the same thing tugging the apple off a limb keeps us spinning ‘round the sun (Isaac Newton was the greatest of the metaphysical poets).
I’m not sure why the coyote was there, although I know it was. The coyote was running from a vacant lot near my apartment toward some occupied homes with lawns so green and lush, one might wonder just how many days they’re irrigating.
On a different day, I saw one of those homeowners trying to hand-water between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., which I don’t think is a violation, but at the very least is highly frowned upon. It didn’t do much good. The day was 110 degrees — 212 degrees with the wind — and the water turned to steam and blew away before it hit the grass. (This drought has to end sometime.)
Maybe it was the drought that brought the coyote in out of the wilderness, the drought in the crunching-yellow, charred-black desert wilderness, where there’s nothing left to drink and little to eat. The prairie dogs can dig their own wells and irrigate whenever they please, but they’re too saturated with chromium to be safe to eat. And the coyotes know this.
I once saw a picture of a coyote eating a presumably city-watered Chihuahua. Someone was walking their pet at UTPB and, I suppose, didn’t realize the native zoo there is still hungry. Poor thing got snatched up and flung up in the air, eyes wild. We never used that photo for the newspaper, of course.
I didn’t see any Chihuahuas that night, as the coyote darted back and forth into the great brightness in the street’s middle, taking cover back in the shadowed vacant lot at every approaching car — even a police cruiser, which was not, sadly, a K-9 unit.
It was after the cruiser, I think, that the coyote turned and left for good, apparently, one figures, up to no good.
The outlaw coyote melted away into the darkness, and I saw no more of it, although I went into the lot to try to investigate a little. And I began trying to decipher the riddle of the coyote metaphor, a small, rangy careful piece of wild that managed, somehow, to never look afraid in this place so hostile to it.
You can see why the Indians figured it was Coyote that got fire for them. The American jackal is awful clever. I could see it in its eyes.
Just before the police cruiser, or maybe three cars before that, the coyote darted into the light of the street, right at the center stripe, and stopped, it seemed, to look at me. It had heard or smelled me all along, I’m sure, but now it decided I was worth paying attention to, and from 30 yards away, it stood and looked right at me for maybe seven seconds. Then it sneezed.
And I can’t figure out what it means.