October 2007

Monthly Archive

Coyotes and tigers and bears at the full of the moon

Posted by on 25 Oct 2007 | Tagged as: Nature


Coyotes and tigers and bears…

It seemed perfectly safe. It was a brilliant October mid-morning and I needed a walk in the woods. My allergies had been haywire. I felt a walk would clear my head. I trundled through suburbia toward the woods and ridgeline above Highland Pond in Greenfield. The sun shimmered off yellowing maples and still-green oaks–a perfect fall day in New England. And then, it screamed at me. WARNING: Coyotes in Area. The sign, in bold red-orange, must’ve gone up over night.

Stunned, I halted in my tracks. Coyotes—in the AREA! My gosh… What to do?? Life had suddenly become scary. I collected myself. My racing heart slowed. I looked around quickly. Everything seemed, NORMAL. There were no people around, but then this was The Woods. But MAYBE that’s just what the coyotes want you to think, then…WHAM! Modern life is a full of danger signs, thrown up by who knows who. And choices.

I was upset, confused. I reviewed my options. I could turn back, find safety in the bosom of civilization. I could sit down where I was and look over into the scary woods—a warped version of reality TV. I could call the police and hope for an escort through the treacherous area. Or, if I waited, someone might come along and we could brave the wild canine gauntlet together. At the very least I’d make sure they were warned.

And then, a certain hero-scenario came to me. It was a simple dream: that I would someday collect enough coyote-defense skills, weaponry, and wild dog security equipment to start the Franklin Coyote Escort Service. I’d bring people for tours through the area—in hum-vees with stereos and side-slits for coyote sniping. Make this place a haven for civilization, like Iraq. But no, it was a crazy notion—few people ever attain that level wilderness courage and business savvy.

I stood before that sign, my life’s journey teetering in the balance. My impulse was to sprint back to the civil-safety of traffic, cell phones and shopping. But something stopped me. I’ll never know what. Suddenly I’m walking past the warning sign like some Stepford sacrifice, into the very heart of Greenfield coyote country. Each step brings me further from coffee and buy-one, get-one free–further toward the gaping maw of the woods and blood-thirsty hounds. There is no other human in sight. I’m alone—an Incan offering, thousands of miles and centuries off the mark.

In my auto-pilot state everything SEEMS normal. Squirrels chatter, chipmunks squeak, migrating robins scuff for worms in the leaves. I begin climbing upward, unaware of how many wild eyes may be devouring me from close-in. I reach Sachem’s Head and the old wood platform that once served as a dance floor for mountain visitors, before these howling woods became lousy with wild dogs. Oh for those peaceful days once more!

Me, I’m a babe in the woods—a shadow propelled by forces unknown. In my madness I sit down IN THE MIDDLE OF COYOTE COUNTRY, and read the newspaper—with that craven hoard likely so near I could’ve heard them breathing. Blithely I scan the horizon south to the beautiful ancestral bottomlands of the Pocumtuck, now “old” Deerfield, tracing the arc where that river leaves the Berkshires and pushes to its meeting with the Connecticut. In my altered state it all seems beautiful.

And then this: bizarrely, I lay down in the open and close my eyes for a nap—focused only on sinuses and the aches I’m nursing from the five games of volleyball I engaged in two nights before. I play exactly three times a decade–to stay ready for those instances where a man’s preparedness might be tested in some life-or-death Jack London setting as this one. Instead, insane, I doze for a full ten minutes, Pocumtuck princesses dancing in my head. That I do not awaken to a flash of canines at my throat remains a miracle.

A raven calls in the distance, another shadowy creature bent on destruction. Two crows sail by on the October wind—feathers glinting mockery at the fall sun. This is a set-up, I’m sure: the coyotes will rake my throat; crows will peck my eyes; the ravens will gorge on my liver. Dazed, I rise up–some final ounce of courage sustaining me, and finish my walk. Yet to this day I remain under the coyotes’ spell. It grips me as I sit here, thinking: WARNING–you have more to fear for yourself, your pet, or the suburban deer herd from the neighbor’s dog or the Rottweiller down the street, than you do from coyotes! The records bear this out. So, you see, I’m hopeless. I know that only my blood, at the full of the moon, will satisfy what the coyotes want of me. I am ready.

Wailing on Freedom

Posted by on 24 Oct 2007 | Tagged as: Politics

Wailing on Freedom

(note: this posting was written earlier this summer–then removed, and updated. It ran as an op-ed piece locally)

I went to the driving range one morning this summer. I’m not a golfer. The first and last time I was on a real golf course was decades ago. I don’t find it to be a real sport. On this morning, however, I was compelled to pick up a stick and swat little balls. I was driven to the driving range that day by Congress, Dick Cheney, and Monsieurs Bush and Gonzales. We all hopped in a little cart and went driving together.

You see, that morning the radio was blaring how Congress had just past the Protect America Act of 2007. What it basically did was take telephone and internet surveillance powers away from the courts (via the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act), and hand those powers directly over to the executive branch and a perjurious Attorney General.

This cowardly Congress gave the cookie jar to the Cookie Monster, then packed up and left for vacation.

Any number of analogies came to mind: evil flourishes when good men stand by and do nothing; or, to paraphrase the Speaker of the House, “The Constitution is off the table.” These people not only don’t have the courage of their own convictions—they don’t have the courage of anyone else’s. There is little dignity left in being a member of Congress as part of the Democratic Party. Better to resign, than to capitulate to a dictator’s bullying. Yet here they were abetting the enshrinement of an Imperial Presidency—something that will not be returned to the people by any ensuing incumbent. They were guilty of ripping freedom away from the future.

So, on a muggy, rain-threatening mid-morning, I teed up at the range. I was the only one at it. I grabbed a driver, tried to remember a serviceable stance, and addressed the ball—as Mr. Bush. Big, creaky back-swing, and WHOOSH—the ball dribbled a few feet past the tee. Fine! I’d get it on the next one. I was remembering our new stance on torture now. I ambled over to the tin basket and plucked out another little white dome. I placed it on the narrow neck and addressed it: this one’s for you Mr. Cheney. I straightened up, balanced my stance, pulled back, and… bluummp. The ball trickled lamely away for about twenty yards.

And then it came to me: I was over-thinking this—caring about them each in a personal way, when they hardly think of me at all. They were garnering a bit too much individual attention. I grabbed another ball, put it on the tee. I wiggled my hips, measured my spread, wound back, and WHAMMM!—there went the whole damned Congress, a pretty sweet line drive hooking right, but finding its way up beyond the 150 yard marker for its first bounce. Oh did that feel good. “Thus, Congress doth make cowards of us all.”

Well, it was mostly improvement from there. Sure there were slices, and unintentional chip shots. But I wailed on the Attorney General’s little pocked sphere, and Condi Rice went for a blistering 175 yards, before bounding left. I still swung so hard and passionately for the president and vice president that I got under the ball. They both tipped into the air rather unconvincingly a few times. But, there were those other times when I connected, and there went that spying, lying, cowardly executive branch—bending in searing arcs toward their inevitable halts, way out by the 200 yard marker. There is nothing like connecting with a solid drive when it comes to wailing on freedom.

So, for a few satisfying minutes I stood bashing the bashers of freedom at there own game. I was quite dripping with sweat when I was done. But it was an honest sweat, something I think these people are unfamiliar with. And though I think golf may quite rightly be called the stupidest thing parading as a sport since auto racing, there was something organic about whacking that little sphere. You always think things can’t get any worse. But just in case I’ve already reserved several spots in the demolition derbies at next year’s county fairs. And teeing-off again is definitely NOT off the table: I’m worried we’ve yet to see the full cowardice of Congress.