It was fast-walk time with Teak. Dawn illuminated a flock of ibis wading in the shallow waters of Willow Lake. The glassy water brimmed with newly-arrived dabbling ducks. Migration seemed early to me. A friend recently said he was filling his hummer feeders twice a day. The autumn gorge had begun, as they fattened up for their journey south... to the extent hummingbirds fatten. It's two weeks early, he added.
Teak and I traced the shoreline as a family of coyotes split the soft silence. A wild orchestra of yips, yaps and yowls. They den on a near-by curve of the lake. Blessed neighbors. Their calls aroused the coyotes in a little nearby zoo. I stood still, caught my breath, and listened. The caged ones answered with lonely monotone howls, lacking the range and delicious variety of the wild ones.
Domesticity. If it doesn't take away the howl completely, it rips away the instinctual drama born of breathing free.
But then I arrived work, and departed for the vast and varied landscapes of the northern Prescott National Forest called Chino. Some sections stark and lonely; others forested. My truck and I were most always on slow-moving, rocky 4WD two-tracks, keeping an eye to the monsoon-filled sky; sudden downpours that could strand me in slick mud or behind rushing washes.
Yesterday I arrived a ravine rim and departed on foot down a steep rocky trail into a canyon called Hell. As required, I radioed dispatch that I was on foot, as I checked the trail for use, trash and signs of resource damage. Once down, I made my sweaty way across hot dirt, eventually to a spring -- oasis pools of water surrounded by emerald grasses and cattails. Birdsong permeated the air. I was chomping into my apple when an unfamiliar bird call arose from a willow; a bright patch of red hopped from limb to limb, teasing me to get a peek. When I did, I recognized a Summer Tanager. My first sighting in years. Spirit howled (yipped and yapped) with delight. I almost skipped my way up the rough canyon wall.
More than happy to have given that shirt a shove and cinched the belt.
Visit Christina at www.christinanealson.com for more photos and a glimpse of her writing life.
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