Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Visitation

It was about 7:30 in the evening. I was relaxing in camp at the foot of Thunder Mountain. It had been a hard few days wrapping things up at home, packing for a week away in the tall pines, where Silver Lake overflows to create the North Fork of the American River. It was quiet. I was enjoying the beauty of a view men have sought like gold, and even sacrificed their lives to own. I’d been looking forward to this for weeks. It had been an hectic and unexpected year. Many family gatherings around the wedding of my youngest son. That was good, but followed by the quick deterioration, and eventual death, of my older brother from brain cancer. A year I’d not yet had the time to absorb, let alone sort out.

I was resting now, at home in the great outdoors. Feet propped up comfortably on a perfect rock. Mind at ease, feeling free to think about things, unencumbered, for the first time in a long time. I was thinking about my sons, the paths they’ve chosen, the lives they’ve made for themselves, their music, the family, letting go of worries and concerns that I’ve worn like an old coat for so long. Good thoughts. And I was casually mulling over how I arrived at the persona of ‘The Old Coyote’ as a moniker for my own music.

Then I stood up, abruptly, and for no apparent reason. As I did, my head rose above the top of a large flat rock that was planted in the ground just a few feet away from where I was now standing. My eyes locked on to the eyes of the most beautiful coyote imaginable. Like an apparition, but one I could have reached out to touch. Thick grey coat, like a wolf. Eyes like wet marbles in the sand. Glistening, gleaming, deep and alive. And his eyes were locked on to mine. He was not nervous, or afraid, just relaxed. We watched each other for a perfect minute. He delivered an unambiguous message in that moment. Unspoken, but strong, deliberate and profound. His eyes said softly, but unmistakably “you did not become ‘The Old Coyote’. It is who you have always been." Then he ambled quietly away, stopping for a moment to look back. I pointed him out to my wife, who confirmed for me that ‘if he was an apparition he was a physical one’. A final connection for a brief moment, and he was gone.

That old guy came by my camp specifically to pay a visit. He knew I was there. He knew I'd recognize him. And I knew we’d known each other since I was a child.

I thought I heard him singing.