Where, and how, do you come face to face with wonder, with that which causes you to catch your breath in reverence, to bow your head in awe? Where is it that you feel connected to the mysteries of the universe?
Each of us most likely has a favorite place. One of mine is my own back yard. It isn’t a well-landscaped place, nor unusual, nor especially beautiful. It is one corner of our 2 acres of land bordered by scrubby box elder trees, a very busy road, a lilac hedge and open farmland. Some might call it boring. But perhaps it is the very limitations of the place which bring the vibrancy and mystery of life into sharper focus.
The boundaries of my yard frame the things that happen there in the same way that a beautiful picture frame isolates and enhances a picture. I love it because I never know exactly what might step into or move through that frame. Each thing that comes feels like a gift.
One morning a few weeks ago I paused at my office window, as I often do, surveying the treeline that rims my property. It’s one of my morning rituals, one that brings me great pleasure, checking out this small square of land to see who or what will show up this morning. It often feels like a conversation with wonder, this through-the-window intimate connection with that which is other than me.
Sometimes the wonder comes from the color of the sky or the formation of clouds. If I catch it at just the right time, I see the spreading light of the morning sun illuminate first the tips of the branches, then, gradually, as I watch, the trunks of the trees turn from brown to pink to various shades of yellow and then back again to colors of the earth.
Often I’ll see a squirrel flicking it’s tail as it leaps from limb to limb in the big maple, or maybe a couple of rabbits stretching out their legs as they playfully race through the asparagus bed. Sometimes it will be a woodpecker knocking its head repeatedly against the dead Elm that still stands, though it leans its shoulder against a sturdier neighbor.
But this morning, nothing. Not a Chickadee, or Cardinal or Crow. Not a flock of sparrows. Not the upside down Nuthatch who creeps along the trunk of a tree. And most definitely not the timid deer which occasionally glide through the yard.
I resign myself to the fact that nothing is there this morning. I almost turn away to begin the task of putting order to my day, when I see a movement. Out from the shadows of the trees steps a very alert, very alive and very big Coyote. Now some of you may hear the name Coyote and think predator, nuisance, danger, warning. But to me, it is magnificent. Proud. Beautiful. Graceful. Tilting it’s ears to catch every sound as it sniffs the ground, following, I presume, the scent of the rabbits or the squirrels or some other 4-legged prey.
I watch until it disappears behind our garage, heading towards the rolling pasture that is just beyond our driveway. Then I stand still a moment in reflection. In what seems to me to be Sacred Space. Sacred because for a few moments I am in that very present state of mindfulness which takes me outside of myself and into the ever present now. A space that moments before felt mundane and a bit stressed, but now feels wide open. I am connected to the web of life, where anything is possible. I am part of it all.
You, perhaps, are used to seeing coyotes in the wild, perhaps you even hunt them. Which I do understand. I grew up on a farm and am familiar with the need to protect ones barnyard animals and beloved pets. But in the 40 years that I have lived on this corner of the world, it is the first time that I have glimpsed one here, up close and personal, alive and free.
It is this sense of being free, of this Coyote coming into my space on its own volition, through no cunning, or efforts of travel or enticement from me, that makes this moment so special. For just a brief snippet of time, a wild thing of nature has chosen to step into my personal space and share its life with me. Perhaps it is this sense of me being the recipient, not the mover of things, that so humbles and enlarges me at the same time.
I’ve marveled at seeing the giant Condors flying over the Grand Canyon. In the Colorado Rockies I rounded a corner and looked eye to eye with a reclining moose. In the Florida Everglades I counted the alligators and on the California coast it was bugle of the elephant seals that astounded me.
But for that daily sense of connection to all that is, nothing beats the unexpected gifts that step into the frame of my own backyard. It reminds me that even in my routine daily life, perhaps ESPECIALLY in my routine daily life, I am a part of all that is.
For this I am grateful.