On sunny winter mornings I come outside with my tea to let the chickens out. I sit in a chair on the south side of the hen house to sun, if even for only a few minutes. I sip the tea and watch the hens peck and scratch around. The dogs wander over to lay at my feet. I gaze around, across the meadow to the edge of the forest that borders the creek. Years ago, when the dogs were younger, less experienced, or off on a dog adventure, I watched a coyote walk into the field and select a fat hen for breakfast.
I chased it across the field and was in awe of being so close to that magnificent, opportunistic beast - maybe twenty feet or so. He or she did not drop the hen, but loped silently away with the squawking hen. The coyote took her just inside the tree-line and ate her. I found the feathers later. These days, with the two big german shepherds, we rarely see a coyote in the meadow; They will stay in the shadows and laugh at us with a yelp and chuckle. The dogs howl to let the coyotes know they are on watch. It’s a game, I think, between wild and tame.
If the chickens venture too close to the meadow/forest transition, the are taking chances. They do get eaten, but rarely. Natural selection is at work and each year the flock gets stronger and wilder. Almost every year a hen disappears, and after we put up a good search, we count our losses. After we’ve forgotten her, she emerges with eight or ten new chicks. We rarely find the nest and a new batch of wilderness savvy Buff Orpingtons enters out lives.
The wild and the domestic coexist here.
AND speaking of coyotes... my favorite read all year: The Daily Coyote by Shreve Stockton
Today I went for a sunny run through my beloved mountains after a morning of studying. The dogs trotted along, dodging in and out of bushes and trees. I run in the mountains with only my dogs. It is a solitary and deeply fulfilling experience. Running through forests without trails, over boulders and through creeks reminds me of the path I have chosen with horses. The path is in my heart; it is not clear; it is not paved or well traveled. I have to go with the feel, stay strong.
I found the work of Alexander Nevzorov a couple years ago while searching for a deeper way to be with my horses. Everything I found in the school’s teaching was already in my heart. I had stopped using bits, bridles and saddles years ago, even stopped riding. Becoming a student of the school was like finding a long lost friend. I could finally breathe and be myself.
Now, I spend time just hanging with my horses; I let them come to me instead of going to get them. They are no longer tools or objects for my recreation. We stretch together, lay in the sun together, go on walks together, and play games. We work on simple cordeo (loose neck cord) turns and stops from the ground, pedestal exercises, tail (back) to hand, lift and hold the leg up. I trim their feet (no shoes), study Equine Anatomy and Physiology, and do a lot of reflecting on why I have horses in my life. I love the strength and beauty in them. I love the relationship. I no longer want to control them, and they know this. Now, they will do almost anything I ask of them. The difference is that now I ask. They, as individual beings, have a right to refuse. We have developed something that is rare and beautiful (and odd, I might add, to traditional horse people.) But that is the beauty of individuality and finding your own path.
Most of my life has been lived outside the mainstream. I am used to doing things differently and because of this I am always on the outskirts (literally and figuratively.) I live in a cabin in a secluded national forest valley nestled between two mountain ranges and wilderness areas. My family, my animal friends and this land are my best friends.