On a distant hill, through the blackened night forest of the new moon, the cries of a pack of coyotes can be heard. Part yip, part bark, mixed with mournful howls the coyotes are likely celebrating a kill. In the past, I have set off in anticipation of locating these creatures, but they always seem to be one hill away through the darkness of the night. Like a laughing ghost, the coyotes are visible to your soul but never your eyes.
It is with mixed feelings that I listen to them bellow, scream, and yip. They celebrate life over the death of another. It is the way of the wild. Life and death are intertwined. The end of one life means the continued life of another. It has been that way since life was formed on this planet.
I, like other observers of the nature, am reticent to interfere with such events. I think I understand my position in the universe of the natural world. Sometimes I observe, sometimes I record, and sometimes I participate in the natural order of the living things on earth. Understanding your position in this universe is not the same as understanding the why’s and why not’s of the natural world. As a human I am limited to my views of three dimensions. I know not what other plants and animals can experience, but I suspect it is far more than we realize or are capable of experiencing ourselves.
Humans are remarkable at emotional survival. We remember the pleasant events, and choose not to pay attention to those events that are unpleasant. Consequently when something really bad happens we are shocked. We celebrate life, as we should, but most of us really don’t think too much about death. We don’t have to. We are insulated from death most of the time. When we consume another animal it often has been killed by another. Interestingly, we don’t consider the consumption of a plant as death to another living being at all.
Recently I learned my mother has cancer. My thoughts are consumed by her situation day and night. She has had surgery, and we are hopeful that this is the end of it. But we really don’t know. When you really love someone, you really want to know. But like the call of the coyote, that knowledge is always one hill away.
My mother is nearly 80 years old. She has lived a rugged, but valuable life. At the age of 78 she joined a group that provides direct support to women who have been sexually assaulted. In the last year she has worked as a volunteer for over 1000 hours. She was designated as volunteer of the year by the Women’s Crisis Center in Horry County South Carolina. In this way she is celebrating life.
On this dark night, I hear the coyotes call. With mixed emotion I share the celebration of the coyote. I think of life and I think of death and I am mindful that they are absolutely intertwined and that we cannot celebrate one without celebrating the other.
With each mournful howl I remember that coyotes at night are like laughing ghosts. They are visible to your soul, but never your eyes.
And with this I pray for my mother.
Originally written in May of 2005