Close to our home is the Turquoise Forest, or so Wes and I have named this hideaway that from an aerial view is the shape of a giant piglet trotting into the lava flows of Newberry National Volcanic Monument. The Turquoise Forest is a coyote haven. This is their place, where they frolic and hunt on sandy ash soils below ponderosas.

They also race ’round and ’round one certain manzanita bush the size of a VW Bug. I don’t know this for sure, but there’s a definite track filled with paw prints. I like to envision three or four on a moonlit night chasing each other nose to tail until they are dizzy.

A few days ago in the late afternoon, a coyote flowed from behind a smaller manzanita bearing pink coral blooms — a whisking by of alert ears, sharp face, furry body, and luxuriant tail. We spotted each other in one taut moment of knowing. Then, the coyote loped from the forest floor up onto the tumble of lava to a high point. When the ruler of the rocks turned to look down at me and spotted our black labrador Pepper, all silence fell away to a bark quickening to emphatic yip yip yippings. The message was clear.

We left. But not for long. I’ve grown fond of this mostly secret forest adjacent to lava that is home to the tallest, most grand of ponderosas in the neighborhood; to a standing dead pine where Lewis’s Woodpeckers will soon return to nest in a safe hollow; to canyon wrens trickling songs like tears; to pikas finding refuge in tunnels, caves, and cubbyholes; and to mysteries–like the coyote race track.

I realize not everyone is as enthralled with coyotes as I am. They are maligned by many–shot, trapped, poisoned, and spurned for simply being smart, savvy, and resilient in this world humans try so hard to dominate. I’d much prefer to yield to them and take precautions, too. I leash our dog and if we had chickens we’d keep them safe in their coop at night.

Dwelling close to coyotes is a privilege. In my book, Halcyon Journey: In Search of the Belted Kingfisher (coming out this May!) I share indigenous stories, including the Salish tale of Coyote attempting to catch a fish like a kingfisher with a headfirst dive aiming for a hole in the river ice. The outcome? Ah, you’ll have to read the book. I’ll just say this. Coyote can be the trickster, bumbler, and creator. Powerful.

Returning to musings about the coyote race track, I have considered putting up a trail camera to spy on their activities. I’m not sure. Maybe I prefer to imagine all the cavorting and kicking-up-heels partying. Not all mysteries need to be solved, yet to be curious? To wonder? To dream?

When a coyote chorus howls in the moonlight and I stir from sleep, I feel a reverberating rhythm mingling with my heartbeats….wild…wild..wild….ready to romp?


Note: Please comment if you have any thoughts about coyote race tracks, or similar experiences.

And… because April is National Poetry Month–two poems:

Snowfall in spring an all night crochet
Full moon a flickering ethereal sleigh
Slipping between clouds as if to convey
summons to the wild coyote cabaret
yipping howling circling manzanita way
nose to tail a flourishing furry bouquet
offering solace to all who shiver– a safe chalet
while we nestle under covers, keeping storm at bay
yet deep down within our cosseted way
we know the rhythm like tendrils of mycorrhizae
the few strands remaining seeking communique
as coyotes prance and prowl to form a circular puree
while the moon rounds the night into softened day
and snowflakes star the gentled air in sweet naivete.


Track track round round coyotes surround.
Why why this dizzying dance?
Trot trot encircling the magic manzanita

Ring ring chase chase a blur of nose to tail.
Spin spin faster faster forming a ring of Saturn.
Hum hum higher higher into the Milky Way.

Coyotes are tilting the earth. Wobble wobble on her axis.
Shake. Shake. Fling fling away like fleas,
Iphones flipping through space. Last car vanishing.

Slow slow coyotes tiring. Panting. Panting. Tongues lolling.
Now the whirlwind comes cleansing cleansing.
Now the trees are sighing sighing.
Listen. The yip yip yipping chorus

Coyote Race Track (difficult to convey the entire circle and how well defined the track is!)
Coyote photo, courtesy of Ken Miracle
Lewis’s Woodpeckers on a nest tree in the Turquoise Forest (Marina Richie photo)
Coyote photo, courtesy of Ken Miracle