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Coyote Hill: the haunting, 1

These snowbound Connecticut woods are alive.

You can’t tell me it isn’t so. The criss-crossing tracks of animals small and large lie right at my feet, and over there. And look, there.

All manner of creatures have been here. Not long ago, after the snow stopped falling, they were here. They are still here, they are close. They are hidden. Perhaps with animal timidity or with feral wisdom, they are watching as I walk this trail, move off into those woods. Rhea runs happy, wide circles around me, lost to me in these haunted woods for five minutes at a time, then ten. She comes bounding back, happy as a dog ever was, intensely alive in these woods along with me. Along with the rest of us.

There is a haunting here. I can see it, the tracks don’t lie. There a good-sized White Tail Deer has crossed my path, or I have crossed hers. No, there were two, there’s another set just to the right, following its leader.

Rabbits, lots of them, Rabbit Nuggets no doubt to the coyote that ran down here and then veered off to the left. This Bobcat was alone, moving slowly from the looks of it, track edges standing out as though impressed with care into their noiseless, snowy cushion.

Haunted. Not unsafe, just alive. So quiet. So beautiful. So very unalone.

As we come to the top of the hill before the firebreak, just short of where we stood with Johnny, Lauren, and Jude and pondered whether to cross the muddy stream or call it a day and head back, just there I see across the little stream’s valley a movement. Clear as day now, a lone coyote navigates the woods at a respectable clip. I see him before Rhea and get her on a leash, then immediately her eyes pick up his course and zealously watch her canine cousin who is more free and more imperiled than she in her safe life with the big stinky bed and the food dish that is hardly ever empty.

He is beautiful, or she. A dog-sized creature, wild as a lion on the Serengeti, right here in this snowy New England forest where an old dude walks while his dog runs. Wild. And beautiful.

Coyote Hill. That’s what I’ll call this place. I’ll remember him, just there, across where the un-iced snow will make its exuberant, Springtime bubbles when I can point the place out to someone who walks with me into this forest.

A whole pack of them, maybe it included this one who traces diagonals crossed the wood-shadowed snow, devoured Morris, the big buck that died in the woods just behind our house. They left only a few meager, white bones, just enough to make us marvel at how full these woods are. How alive at night, when a man snores beside his wife. Or she beside him. How haunted.

I have been thinking about haunting lately. Those two big deer Rhea chased last week, deep into the woods on a ten-minute trajectory before her domesticated nature kicked in and she came back to her human. They were right there, those deer, unseen until they moved but no less alive for their stillness.

That coyote, up on Coyote Hill.

And those three that crossed behind the house during the snowfall as we were having our breakfast the other day, German-Shepherd like, wary, slow-moving, as though heading home sheepishly after a night’s drinking went on a little too long, preferring to remain unglimpsed, not knowing we were having them for breakfast, leaving their coyote highway in the snow for us to discover before lunch.

Haunted. Haunting.

I stand in the Connecticut woods, snowed under, quiet as a tomb, and I think about this haunting stillness. How alive it is.

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