A cackling cry broke out in the distance. The sound echoed through the moonlit valley and went straight to my core, sending a prickle up my spine. At that moment a light breeze brought the trees to life and their whispers only intensified the suspense mingling in the night air.
It seemed a pack of coyotes were paying tribute to the full moon; at times they set off in a wave of yips and chatter, followed by long minutes of pure silence. The stillness was deafening. Suddenly a ruckus of barks let out and the wild honk of a Canada goose joined the choir, reminding me that those abundant birds still have an enemy or two hanging around.
Then a lone whine broke the spell and several others joined the chorus of high pitched howls.
In my world of Grimms’ Fairy Tales I imagined a band of witches dancing wildly around a fire.
And so I spent the second night of our pre-quest journey in rural southern Ohio, wondering why the wind always seemed to start blowing when the coyotes began howling. The sounds of the Earth are in sync with each other, there is no randomness in the symphony of our natural world.
After six days outside we miss the owls, peepers and crackling branches. It was a taste of our lives to come in two weeks when our National Park Quest begins on April 16th. We spent the days testing out our routines and workflow, preparing for the many months ahead. The mini-adventure took us through Hocking Hills State Park, Wayne National Forest, and Strouds Run State Park. It was off-season so we enjoyed cheap rates in the state parks.
From my journal entry following the night of coyotes:
In front of me is my laptop, ready to work on without the distractions of media and news. We check our email in a town once a day, work on business matters for some time, and touch base with our community. If was have no internet elsewhere, we work on our art. Andres and I realized this will help us become more productive than ever. My sketchbook requires no power and the digital part of our work can run off a solar powered battery or inverter from the car.
I hear the first bird of the day, a welcoming sound after a night of howls. When I woke up I asked Andres if he too heard the howling. He replied half joking, I hope it wasn’t werewolves. I was glad the same thought hadn’t occurred to me in the middle of the night. And then I cursed Hollywood for making the masses feel so afraid of the very Earth that sustains us. We don’t survive because of movies and laptops and cell phones and shopping malls. We survive because of the simple trees and coyotes that make up this cycle of life.
It occurred to me that I didn’t miss a thing from our apartment, that all we needed to survive was in our car and in our minds. This is a life of living simply with just a pot and a pan, not sweating small stuff, feeling uncomfortable at times, improvising when a thunderstorm arises, and savoring every moment of sunshine when the nights are still freezing. It’s a life of gratitude for the little things, like dry socks or the friendly greeting of a Red-winged blackbird.
The funny thing is – in just six days being out – I have worried much less about the trivial things I tended to worry about in my apartment life. With less stuff around, there’s more time to focus on the remaining things that matter most: our art and community of park advocates.
Life won’t always work out the way we imagined, that’s inevitable. We foresee a number of challenges ahead, but this preface proved what I already perceived to be true:
I am ready for the challenges and absolutely need them.
The howls of the coyotes confirmed my belief that it’s vital to leave your comfort zone and feel a little scared sometimes.
Tough moments allow us to learn and grow, they help us realize we’re stronger than we actually give ourselves credit for. And that can only lead to good things.