Last week when I took Minnie for our early morning walk on the wooded walking trails I got more than I bargained for: we came nose to nose with grey coyotes. Well, maybe it wasn’t quite nose to nose, but it was enough to pump up my adrenaline and make me run faster than I have in twenty years. For the first time ever, I managed to keep up with the dog!
I had known something was up. Minnie was strangely interested in following a scent, with her tail down and no regard for me tugging on the leash. When we crested the hill, we heard a dog, but I was confused because the sound was coming from deep in the woods, not along the trail. Then I spied one of the coyotes, just a stone’s throw from where we were standing. Gulp.
As I sat on a park bench in the nearest neighbourhood trying to catch my breath, I read that panic had been unnecessary and my instinct to turn and run had been the wrong one. Apparently, coyotes are usually scared off by shouting, throwing sticks, or even rattling your keys at them, and are less interested in big dogs than little ones. Now I know.
I have modified our walk since then, choosing the parts of the trail that stay close to the houses or the street. Even so, this morning we ran into the coyotes again, although I didn’t actually see them myself this time–two walkers alerted me to their presence and we decided to go in a different direction (at a nice steady walking pace this time!). Maybe I will start carrying my keys as well as my phone. I wonder if there’s an app for that?
The funny thing is, the wooded trails along the Sixteen Mile Creek are loaded with other, far tamer surprises that don’t trigger the fight-or-flight response. I was astounded this summer when I discovered this (clearly there is an amazing artist in my neighbourhood):
And then a little farther along, I laughed out loud when I saw this one:
But perhaps my favourite surprise came on a hot day while I was climbing the steep hill back up from the river. Sticky and a little out of breath, I came across this:
I have no idea who put it there, or why but it was such a beautiful and unexpected word of encouragement that it really did make me smile. It was wise advice mid-climb. It was also wise advice for mid-life, which is where I find myself these days.
I have yet to stumble upon a teddy bear’s picnic, but there have been surprises in the woods nonetheless. I am grateful for all them–even the coyotes–because they remind me that I am not alone. I am part of a vast web of people and animals, just one of God’s creatures great and small. I live in a world filled with beauty, wisdom, and artistry. Whether I am out for a walk with the dog, or walking through life’s inevitable hills and valleys, I have companions on the journey who share their gifts, invite reflection and keep me moving forward. And even an introvert can be glad of that.