Late last night, I rose from my damnable tossing and turning, came out to my living room and slumped into my favorite easy chair. Like harpies with PMS sniping at one another, my thoughts droned on incessantly. I decided to shut them up by going outside for a smoke. At least they might quiet down, who could tell? After lighting up, peering into the starry sky, I stopped to take in the thunderous silence of this place, the Eastern Sierra.
Our home is in Bishop, California, at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains; stunning, rolling giants, We are a small town of around 4,500 souls. Bishop is the largest populated town you will find here in the Owens Valley, nestled comfortably between the Sierra Nevada range to the west and the White Mountains to the east. This valley view is as spectacular as anyone can possibly imagine, although the Whites have little on the Sierra’s majesty. They do have their own muted beauty that impresses on a much smaller scale. Only a bit further toward the Pacific-2 1/2 hours by car during the warm seasons-lies Yosemite National Park, one of the places God has surely rested His hand. I live in a wondrous place.
And then, so late into the night, my internal harpies were silenced by the quiet of the natural world. Ribbons of smoke paused in the air and I put out the cigarette, ready to try again-to try and seduce that elusive sandman. But as I began to move toward the door, I heard the coyotes. I sat to listen to their songs. I have seen only one of these animals in my 20 years living in this area; I watched, breathless as it furtively and fearfully darted through alfalfa fields that cover the south side of town. They are notoriously private creatures, these dogs, distrustful of man and his ambitions. Oh, but their harmonies are incalculably beautiful, coyote choruses to be heard throughout the night. Their music is somehow ethereal and unreal, unlike their domesticated cousins’ frustrated and fenced-in barks and yaps.
Mountain coyotes or desert, I heard them last night, then retired to my own silence-which finally, blessedly was mine. They had sung me the sweetest lullaby I have ever heard.