Coyote

We surprise a small, skinny coyote

as the dogs and I appear from the wash

not far from where she’s also rising from a small ravine.

She sees us first

and tries to make a slow, low retreat

into the scrub oak and pine,

when I see her

and stop.

Holding tight to the leashes

I quietly greet the startled creature

who, instead of fleeing, pauses as well.

The dogs, now aware, wrench my arms,

but I hold on,

smiling silently at the brazen thing almost within reach,

yet standing so still.

And there, we all stare.

Hoping to suggest it best we all part,

I turn from our convergence

and the coyote agrees,

moving away, but in a similar direction.

She pauses for a final look between a gap in the growth,

as if to remember our constrained and quiet trio,

before her shabby, honey-colored hide

slinks over the next ridge

and disappears.

And the dogs and I,

ignoring my instinct to go home,

turn left instead.

Winged Chatter

I try to find a new way to wander across the rolling hills of scrub and pine and stretches of grass, each time the dogs and I go walking; and so every day, I get to see familiar things in a different sort of way.

Sometimes this leads to new treasures like old, sun-bleached bones for my growing bone collection, a newly dug den with earth so freshly excavated it’s still moist and brown; or an ancient juniper at the top of a ridge, rounded like a giant, perfect mushroom cap, where generations of cattle resting and rubbing in its shade, helped give it its flat-bottomed, fairyland shape.

But mostly, it’s not knowing where the dogs and I are going, except out.

To explore this small patch of hilly land near our home where Mingus Mountain rises behind Chino Valley to the east, Table Top Mesa and Granite Mountain command the views to the south and scattered homes along long, dirt roads in the near distance remind us we’re never alone.

As does the jackrabbit springing from shrub to shrub, with its skyscraper ears that quickly disappear; or a flock of quails lifting noisily from an impenetrable cluster of apache plume in near perpetual bloom at the side of the wash.

Which, like my path, is always changing.

Crumbling.

Reshaping.

Exposing many tunnels dug feet below the surface (which look like sunken eyes, sunk deep in deep, dark sockets); and hardened roots of Pinyon pines clutch eroding walls, refusing to fall, to succumb to the changes.

Clinging green on so few of its branches.

Yet clinging.

And fruiting and feeding the creatures who live here.

Here in the washes and brushes and hollowed out trees. In the boulders and burrows and fields, where me and the dogs keep wandering, because every day it keeps changing.

Each bloom, each moon, each orbital click.

While the dogs keep on sniffing and sniffing and sniffing, and finding their own unique way, which these days is through a grassy stretch of fleeting monsoon green that tickles my knees and their noses.