Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Coyote at evening

Sunday, at twilight, as I was moving hoses to water critically dry plants in this summer of the endless drought,  the cry of coyotes came to me from deep in the woods. This is unusual and, at first, it occurred to me I might be hearing humans imitating the sounds of coyotes; that was deeply disturbing, setting off a train of thought I didn't want to pursue in the deepening darkness, while alone at my home in the middle of the woods.

Later, from safely within the house, I heard the cries again, and I was rather sure this was the real thing.

Three weeks ago, after a week in the city, I discovered a skeleton on the pathway at the back of the garden. It was clearly a dog like creature, with long fangs, probably a fox, judging from its size. In one week, it had died and been eaten clean, leaving only bone and bits of fur. I can only guess that it was shot, and found its way into my garden to die.

Apart from a slight fear of the unknown, I find comfort in knowing something of the life of a once wild land continues, to some extent, in this small corner of New Jersey. A fit setting for my 21st century garden, in a world teetering on the edge of chaos.

Garden ... a refuge or a battleground?


  1. Dear James, Such happenings, or discoveries, do indeed permit all manner of thoughts to go through one's mind. But there is, as you remark, something slightly reassuring in knowing that the environment in which one lives has not entirely been taken over and tamed by man. Sadly, I cannot in all truth say that of London's Maida Vale although the occasional urban fox has been sighted.

  2. Chaos has great order to it. Unfortunately. Shocked you had a coyote, but it's wonderful, too. If we vanished, it wouldn't take long for us to be replaced, would it?

  3. Vulnerability, wilderness all around our cultivated spaces, even so close to civilization, especially at night. We're so disconnected from the natural world that thinking an authentic coyote's call is a man-made imitation of it is both funny and disarming (I'm sure I would have thought exactly the same thing!).

    I am acutely aware that there are forces at work that have nothing to do with me in the garden and beyond. Even though death is a large part of it, I have never been able to feel that a natural fatality is any less tragic than one caused by a bullet or a car. So I'm always mourning some death; even the so-called scourge of the city garden -- the squirrel -- which I see dead on almost every roadway.

    Last winter I was taking my dog to a place that had been recently developed for our morning walks. Before the houses came, it used to be teeming with wildlife so imagine my surprise when we got out of the car and saw the most beautiful red fox. Rather than disappearing, this creature seemed mesmerized by us and for no less than 10 minutes, sat and watched us play frisbee from a respectful distance. We saw him regularly after that, once with a full meal in his mouth (poor rabbit). I love seeing these creatures but also am frightened for them and worried about their long-term survival.

    You must have had a lot of animal visitors to your garden of which you're not yet aware. I'm sure it is both a refuge and a battleground. Depends who you are and what time it is.

  4. Edith,

    I love the name Maida Vale but I don't know the actual place at all. Strangely, coyotes have been found, though rarely, in Manhattan's Central Park. I have even seen a family of raccoons in Central Park's Conservatory Garden. But I fear I may be moving toward a rather apocalyptic vision.

  5. Benjamin, the earth probably has enormous powers to repair itself once we are gone and can do no more harm.

  6. Ailsa,
    Your comment has so much to say I've taken a while to understand. I practice a version of the new perennial style so the garden, each year, goes through the full cycle of birth, growth, senescence, and death. I not only watch this, see it changing before my eyes, I enjoy the show. I've found this to be a constant reminder of that cycle of life and death. By late winter, when I cut and burn all remaining herbaceous growth, I'm left with a relatively flat field that could be compared to a battle ground after the war is over. Perhaps I exaggerate, but this cycle has become a constant in my life and it affects me. I think it has given me a greater understanding of "the human condition," or at least intimations of that--even of the conditions of life on earth. You are right. It is both refuge and battleground, depending on who you are and the time of year, the time of day, or night. The garden now, at this time of fullest growth, appears a miracle to me when I look at photos of the flat empty expanse in early spring. How can so much "stuff" come to be in such a relatively short time? That I have visitors, non-human visitors, when I don't see the garden, at night or at other times, is both disturbing and comforting, an irritation and a comfort, like a particle of sand in an oyster stimulating the process of accretion that results in a pearl.

  7. Beautifully said James. Thanks for the very thoughtful response. It is a real pleasure to both read your posts and witness your garden through the pictures you take. It is rare that blog owners converse in such a dedicated way. (I loved your oyster, sand and pearl analogy.) It is such a treat when you "meet" someone who responds the same way to plants and gardens as you; that you find its late season exhuberance a miracle and how it affects you in a way that reflects your experiences in our "civilized" world. I still remember the first time I visited two of my favourite gardens in the world: Wavehill in NY and Great Dixter. Both visits took my breath away and almost brought me to my knees. Love, love, love that feeling. Wish my garden did that to me...

  8. I have read that coyotes are advancing out of their traditional ranges and are now occupying places like New Jersy, southeastern Virginia and elsewhere. I guess what they say about nature abhoring a vacuum goes for animals as well as plants.

  9. Let's hope they develop a predilection for deer. We need a deer predator here for sure.



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