I can feel Fall slowly pushing its way into the late summer air. This is quite a feat here in Tucson – where it’s considered cool at under 100 degrees this time of year. It brings me to my early morning walks for which, while I have a hard time rising at 5am, pull me out the front door and into a beautiful world of dappled sunrises and dank monsoon landscapes as I stride 3 miles a day through urban secret paths to the largest green park in the city. It is a new habit I have worked hard to muster, for I secretly would chose not to be a morning person by way of natural lazy habits and late nights. But since my partner doesn’t have the ability to walk fast or far since his leg broke in June, rising early to walk our dog has been given to me as what appears to be rather a gift, than a chore. While I still struggle to get out of bed at the first sign of sunrise, once I’m out the door with my dog on the leash, I’m so glad to be.
It’s this magic time which has introduced me to a coyote, who I frequently run into as my large 90lb half blind Landseer dog and I stride along desert paths. My first time was a few months ago, and I exclaimed aloud “why hello Mr. Coyote”. OK, I know this isn’t a Disney movie, but it was my most immediate response – and he paused to take a look – long enough for me to snap a picture. My dog doesn’t see him, but I do – every day now for the last month. He seems to live alone, which is unusual for a coyote, and appears to be a yearling at most. He is quite beautiful and at first it was hard to see him hiding in amongst the prickly pear and bos-que, but yesterday I found him running from a house in the alley with a chicken coop in it’s backyard – I heard the hens cackling and there he stood – 5 feet in front of us, staring me down. I stopped and looked him in the eye but he didn’t move an inch, so I took a step forward – keeping my very large dog close by my side, and the coyote swiftly turned around and trotted down the pathway in front of us taking a right turn under a large shade tree and through a crack in a wall.
Today, as we entered the sweeping lawns of the city park, there he was shuffling through the picnic tables searching for snacks. He was running from table to table, at one point drinking from a can of soda. Being cautious I set my course for a different direction than his, I didn’t want to send him close to the main road that runs alongside the park, where traffic was thundering as commuters headed to work. I sloped toward the baseball fields and went beyond a hill, and turned again, there in front of me – 100 yards away – he sat. Looking at us, wearing his coyote grin, I stood to watch him. He lay down in the cool wet grass and watched us right back, then sat up again – and after a good 10 minutes slowly stood up and took off toward the way we had come – heading hopefully to his desert hideaway amongst the sprawling fancy houses of the neighborhood that border to the park. “Quickly Mr. Coyote” I whispered out loud, before any unsuspecting owners with small edible dogs became too much a temptation. I found myself curiously concerned about the coyote.
I’ve walked many deserts of the southwest, but I’ve never seen a coyote such as this one. Tamed perhaps by his environment – we are in the middle of a big town, where rabbits and lizards are plentiful and the wash runs parallel, offering hidden chances to mingle wild with domesticated. Many cats who are allowed the outdoors don’t last long around here, and you can often see tufts of leftovers along the side of the wash, or watch Javalina roaming the neighborhood looking for scraps, or gamble quail racing through the cactus in the front gardens. But I remain always surprised at the magic of our encounters. Luckily my dog has only half sight only in one eye, which makes him miss many of the run-ins and encounters with the wild, and he just lumbers along head down, sniffing his way and enjoying the morning air. Rabbits can run right in front of him and he won’t notice until they’ve turned a corner and are well out of sight – too late to take chase.
I promise, I won’t be getting too close, but I will be on the lookout. It really is such a pleasure to watch him, and my husband now asks me on my return, “did you see him today?”. The early morning walks have changed my entire day, allowing me time alone before I rush around readying my son for school, or run straight to the office to sit down all day without letting my mind to kick start without a large cup of coffee. Time to think, to plan my day, to contemplate all the things to do, to clear my head and most importantly, a chance to breathe and move and run into some ‘wild’ – I recommend it entirely and I hope that you may have a chance encounter with some wildness while you’re at it.