Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Coyote Confrontations

It's been foggy for the past couple weeks. Foggy doesn't quite describe it; it's more like we've been living in a cloud bank, with the clouds billowing, rising and falling a few thousand feet at most. Last night I was preparing myself for the dense patch I'd driven into the night before as the road rose into thicker cloud, when I drove into starry blackness. It took a moment to get over the shock of such a long sight distance.

I wasn't alone in my delight. As I was feeding the sheep what sounded like a dozen coyotes started squabbling just beyond the fences. I straightened up to look that direction and a white blur flashed past me. A white blur with a very deep bark. Charlie pushed through the gate to the far pasture, and the coyotes silenced, but another group howled further away and to the south. I heard Ursa, my 11 year old Caucasian Ovtcharka, take up the verbal battle on that side of the farm.

The sheep ate peaceably, but my hackles were up. The closest coyotes yipped on and off, just to let us know they hadn't given up. I made a mental plan to drive back down there to see if I could frighten them off with the car lights - but by the time I finished my chores they had moved on. I could hear Charlie working his way up the hill.

The coyotes serenaded most of the night, but from a distance. Charlie and Ursa barked their boundary in reply: this far and no further. Jesse the Samoyed protected the back yard while Berna the Anatolian protected him. The herding dogs and I curled up in the warm house and slept, knowing the sheep, birds, and house were safe.

This morning the sky is clear and blue, the sun is bright, the ground white with frost. And the dogs are prancing delightedly, having spent a night hard at work.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Morning Drama

The clouds are a dark lid on the world. But it is an ill-fitting lid; to the south one mountain keeps it from sealing tightly. The open area glows gently white in a world of darkness, then turns a deep orange-red. Suddenly it turns gold, and it is obvious this is a living thing, trying to get inside. It reaches tentacles of light inside, refusing to be kept out. I can almost hear the lid rattling against the surrounding hills, although in reality the struggle takes place in silence.

The mountain is surrounded, almost eclipsed by the bright rays as they force their way in the wedge. And then they retreat, perhaps to find an easier lid to loosen. All that remains is a white glow through the slit, but it is enough to lighten the sky, revealing the circle of mountains that hold the cloud-lid tightly to the north and the west.

Only St. Helens stands tall, holding the edge of the lid up with her broken arms. But the light creature has retreated and she looses strength, lowers her arms, and allows the lid to settle around her waist. She will save her strength and try again tomorrow to keep the clouds from sealing out the sun. A bright orb floats into the crack sending a burst of orange rays across the land. It hovers there, peering inside, a bright promise. The lid may hold today, but the sun will persist. This is a silent and solemn promise, delivered before she pulls back the light and moves on.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Starry, Starry Night

The sky is crystal clear. The moon is full. Only the brightest stars are visible, but they shine and twinkle brightly. By 10PM there was frost on the ground; tonight will be our first freeze. The most wonderful thing is that the mountains - both St Helens and Rainier - stand out a glimmering white against the pale blue-black of the sky. I haven't seen either mountain in ages, and now they both appear at night. Fog has settled in some of the valleys, looking like a series of still lakes.

The coyotes are howling in the distance, my dogs bark in response. Some bird makes an eerie sound every 3-4 minutes, until I go out with a flashlight to discover the source, and silence greets my ears. Charlie the Pyr glides silently up beside me, his coat stiff with frost. I see Ursa's tail flagging and she again barks at the coyotes. My old girl is going to happily spend the cold night outside - cold means no rain, and it's the rain that drives her inside. I hear my new rescue dog whining softly in the background.

I wish I had a warm fur coat and could curl up under the stars with Ursa to enjoy a rain-free night, but the cold drives me back inside to my warm house and soft, warm bed.

A good way to start a week.