For many Americans, the whole year seems to center around Christmas. In January we are recovering from it; in spring we say to each other, "Summer is almost here, Christmas will be here before you know it." In August we make our airplane reservations and shopping list. Thanksgiving is just a blip in the schedule becoming a day to get ready for "black" Friday. Many people use Thanksgiving as a day to put up their Christmas lights. We can't even talk about the week before Christmas without our voices gaining a higher pitch and rolling our eyes. For many people it is a lonely time spent observing the mania of others as they clamor for a "perfect" Christmas.
Most often, though, it is the rain. Warm rain or cold rain, it doesn't matter as long as it is the drizzily or wet stuff that builds up on my hat then drips intermittently into my eyes.
Gardening is great in the rain. Bugs are few and seldom bite, perspiration is not a problem to notice when you are already covered in water. Mud may be an issue but not enough to keep me inside. The best, though, is just walking around in the rain. In the rainy woods, I am usually alone. The birds don't mind a continuous drizziling rain but most people avoid the wet woods, not thrilled to have their faces slapped by branches drooping with the weight of leaves holding water until it becomes heavy enough to roll off, filling the woods with a dripping concerto.
This Christmas, for me was filled with family, both family in the house and family in my mind. The family in the house was great, filling each waking moment with bursts of activity (usually eating), games and conversation. But the family in my mind kept causing me to ramble, sometimes wandering to my first family celebrating in another town without me or to my daughter who was spending her first Christmas away from home. Constant human company also drove me outside to ramble through the yard searching for tracks in the snow or memories in the air.
Christmas morning brought the best ramble of all. My son and his new wife decided that we were no longer going to observe the tradition of waking up predawn to open presents followed by orange sweet rolls from a can along with lots of juice and tea. To convince us to abandon the custom, they promised cheese, and breads to munch on as we drank hot tea and opened presents followed by a brunch of lemon poppyseed waffles topped with whipped cream and berries. Okay. Fine. I can change. . . .really, I can. So as soon as I awakened I dressed warmly and left the house for the first annual Christmas morning walk.
A few feet from the large den entrance I found another opening. This one was much smaller, maybe dug for an emergancy exit or for air conditioning - yet another thing about which I know very little.
I do know a little bit about the eastern coyote's history. If any readers know more, please feel free to add it in the comments. Evidently, as the American west became more populated by humans, the western coyote drifted into Canada. The plains are not a very hospitable place for coyotes. In Canada the coyote inerbred with the wolf as it moved east. Somewhere in the northeast it crossed the border back into the United States and headed south through the eastern woods. The eastern coyote is different from its western cousins due to the influence of breeding with Canadian wolves, I believe making these a bit larger.
Coyotes have survived throughout the years because of their great adaptability. They have learned to live near human populations, and will eat a variety of foods from bugs and animals to fruits, depending upon availablilty and the season. While not actively encouraging the coyote to move in, I feel free to enjoy its presence and revel in its wildnesss when I spot one. A couple weeks ago, while I was feeding the crows, a coyote walked across the field down the hill from where I was. I couldn't help but make a small sound to get its attention. The coyote turned, looked at me, probably judging the distance and lack of threat, then turned away and confidently loped away as if I didn't exist. I did and my existence was made richer by the sight of that wild animal disappearing over the hill.