Category Archives: Nature

The Coyotes Have It

The City

In the place where I live there are raccoons in the streets, skunks in the driveways and possums in just about any alleyway you dare to imagine. Pigeons abound during the daylight hours, coo-coo-cooing as they bob their pigeon heads and flap their pigeon wings. There are falcons and hawks in the crooks and crannies of the skyscrapers, who swoop down from nowhere to pick off a pigeon here and there.

Coyotes creep the margins, stealing food and eating the scraps given to them by imprudent humans. They have are often believed to be the killer of pets (small dogs, the occasional cat), and then hunted down for the transgression. This is done to keep the public calm – to keep people from freaking the fuck out about something probably overblown and which in any case they have very little control over.

The coyotes are not interlopers.

No. They are not.

 

The Not-City

In the place where I used to live there are also raccoons and skunks, possums and pigeons and hawks, but not as numerous and not nearly as brazen. Country creatures to the city ones, although of the suburbs (a close and yet infinitely distant second). Furtive creatures, mostly keeping out of the way, mostly keeping to themselves.

Mostly.

There are also coyotes. These are ghosts, seen in passing along the periphery of one’s vision. Pets go missing thanks to the coyotes, or so the story goes. Nothing new there.

But the coyotes here are not the solitary rogues of the city. These coyotes amass, forming family groups; forming packs. They amass and they scream. So much screaming sounding in the night from the patchwork of green spaces and tumble-down woodlots scattered about the suburbs. Bloodcurdling screams that go on and on into the night, laying territory over property, calling each other home again.

 

The Non-City

Once I found a coyote den, long abandoned, in the woods. Nearby was a scattering of bones and among those, one pristine coyote skull. Here it is, I thought. Proof.

At last.

 

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Birds, City Life, Dogs, Family, Nature, Pets, Places

Car Trouble

1. Ontario is a province of periodic ice storms. Big ones, nasty ones, ones that come in big and powerful and loud and whose consequences linger for days on end.

Accidents are not meant to happen, but they happen anyway. From the outside looking in, watching the accident as it happens, it can sometimes seem less of an accident and more a twist of fate.

There was a terrible ice storm that hit Toronto years ago – not the one where the mayor called in the army, but one a few ice storms after that. Stephen and I had decided to drive back into the city after visiting my parents about hour or so away. The storm was gentle at first, just but a touch – a whisper really – of inclement weather that seemed innocent enough, weak enough, fleeting enough.

But then. Well.

But then it was too late.

Slowly, imperceptibly and then all at fucking once, the highway became slick with snow and ice; the highway was a waterslide, a slough of cold, wet malice. We inched along, pumping the brakes as we skidded here & there, to & fro, as side became front became side became back & front again, as we lost track of the lanes, as we lost all sense of direction and any semblance of hope.

All around us, cars, vans and trucks crashing into each other, skidding at wicked angles down wrong lanes, striking the median with their bumpers and hoods, plunging into ditches.

And yet somehow we made it. Whole, without one scratch, through the melee traffic. Not one scratch, despite the calamity, the sheer inevitably of it for everyone else, anyone else at all but us.

 

2. The bird darted out of the woods and smacked into the grill of the car so hard and so suddenly that it took a full moment to register what had happened, even as the windshield was showered by a burst of blue, white and black feathers. There was also some blood, but not as much as you might think. Just flecks. Nothing outwardly incriminating.

My field director was driving and all he could say at first was, “Huh.”

Pulling the car over to the side of the road allowed us to fully realize what had happened. It’s almost worse than I can tell: the bird had melded with the grill of the car. It was as if one had become the other. They had become inseparable, the car and, of all things, a Blue Jay. Rare enough to see one of those these days.

It could have hit any car, but it hit ours. It could have hit any car, so it hit ours.

Feathers of blue, white and black against chrome. Any car, really, there were so many out on the road that day. Or maybe even none at all. If only.

What kind of a luck is that? What events or factors or circumstances, like the planets above, had to align for that poor bird to so inelegantly thwack against a random/not so random car.

So many things.

Too many things to count, that are, finally, worth counting.

 

3. We had never had a flat tire before that flat tire, and never had one since (so far). It was summer and the drive was fine – smooth, uneventful – and then we started kind of thumping, tottering, hobbling Not exactly a pleasant sensation. Not one I’d recommend offhand.

We parked precariously on the side of a ditch. A cop stopped to ask us what we were up to (“Nothing going on here, is there folks?”), then piled back into his cruiser and drove away when it was clear the situation wasn’t any more nefarious than the changing of a flat tire. He honked, waved goodbye (“You got this.).

Neither of us had ever changed a tire before. It took us a long, long time but we managed to switch out the tire for its spare. Elated yet defeated (the plan had been to visit Stephen’s sister but we had spent too long changing the tire and it was too late), we got back on the road and turned off the next exit, homebound.

Days later my aunt told me she and my other aunt, their spouses and my cousins had passed us on the highway while we were stranded, in the ditch, attempting to change that tire.

“You looked like you needed help,” laughed her husband. They didn’t feel like stopping, it turns out, because then they would have had to take the exit and backtrack. No one wanted that. Who would want that?

Strange how a moment can bring you together or rip you apart. Funny how coincidence works itself out.

Years later, he lost all the money he and my aunt had, and they, in turn, lost their cars and their house and were forced to sell most of their things, including all their precious koi from the, frankly, undersized pond that held them.

They separated. A year later, he died.

Huh. Didn’t see that one coming, not by a long shot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Birds, Death, Family, Nature, Relationships, THE PAST, Transportation

Gros Michel & The Anaconda

Did you know? All bananas are clones.

Not all. But the ones we (you & me) buy at the supermarket are overwhelmingly clones, produced via cuttings of the most desirable progenitors; therefore (re)produced clonally.

Gros Micheal. That is the variety that dominates, that we consume, that we eat for breakfast. Which we have as snacks during our busy, hectic days.

But this is hardly new knowledge. These are just facts.

It’s just…the fact that the bananas we consume are genetically identical seems absurd, doesn’t it? Absolutely preposterous. That’s why a banana tastes like a banana tastes like a banana. It’s why a banana never not fits in a Banana GuardTM. Haven’t you noticed that?

It never not fits.

***

But not all copies are not always created equal. Lacking males (or perhaps it’s better to say “bereft of suitable males”) some reptiles, for example, have been known to spontaneously self-replicate, a process known as parthenogenesis (derived from the Greek meaning “virgin birth”).

However, genetic material can get shifted during parthenogenesis, shuffled like a deck of cards, thereby producing imperfect copies of the progenitor.

Not so for Anna the Anaconda, current denizen of Boston’s New England Aquarium and mother of 18 identical babies – identical to each other and to herself and born without Anna ever having contact with a male of her species.

Anna, in essence, gave birth to herself: 18 babies worth. Only two survived. Still, that seems so much better (i.e. simpler, easier) and frankly more impressive than, for instance, being your own grandfather; no paradoxes there. No needless complications. Just the question of creation itself. Only the mystery of it, going forward, as we hurtle through time.

The same cannot be said for our Gros Micheal.

But then, it’s hard to complicate a banana.

***

Anna is also a palindrome, derived from the Greek meaning “again” and “way or direction.”

“Running back again.”

Never odd or even.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Food, Nature, THE FUTURE, THE PAST, Time, Words

Soft Shark Swimming

There’s chatter going around right now about the Greenland shark – specifically, that these sharks are believed to live up to and possibly over 400 years. Maybe even over 500. Maybe even over more.

So many years. So much time.

What to do with all that time, I wonder?

But then, the answer seems obvious and clear:

1) Mind your business; &
2) Keep swimming.

Stay soft. Be good.

500+ years, of course, is the highest possible estimate. So far.

But then, that’s in human years. And what are those, after all, to the Greenland shark?

Laughable, possibly; precious almost certainly.

But never mind that.

Just keep swimming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Nature, Philosophy, THE FUTURE, THE PAST, Time