I’m a pre-dawn rambler, often rising before the sun. I roam through the house, trailed by my nocturnal buddy, Buckwheat, a domestic shorthair cat. She crows noisily until I complete the ritual of feeding and speaking to her with fawning sincerity. Then and only then, she allows me to brew coffee and sit at my computer.
My writing engine starts slowly, like a diesel on frosty mornings. I warm it up by reading my favorite political and cancer blogs. I know; I know, quite a depressing mix, isn’t it? Recently, however, much of the absurdity and calamity of those subjects took a decidedly hopeful turn.
As soon as my motor idles smoothly, I answer emails, add to my journal, and, if the mood strikes, try to make sense of my life wandering farther into the unmapped region of multiple myeloma.
By this time of the morning, the sun lightens the eastern horizon. I welcome its arrival by raising the blinds of our picture window. More than occasionally, that’s when I spot my friend, Lobo, a solitary coyote that has adopted our property as her own. She, too, rambles before dawn.
We live in the boonies. West and south of our land there is nothing but National Forest and the Bull Run Watershed for many, many miles. I’m not sure why Lobo chose our little corner of domesticity when she has such a vast wilderness behind her. That she claims this territory, though, is evident in the stool deposited on our driveway each morning.
She looks robust for a coyote. Rodents must be plentiful. And, she is large for the species. That’s what prompted me to give her a wolf’s name. Sign of her abounds. When the snow is fresh, I notice tracks where she crosses the road. There’s also evidence where she slips through the fence. Straggles of fur flutter, like prayer flags, on the barbed wire.
A few days ago, when I returned from a long walk, I startled her. She trotted to a safe distance. She’d been resting less than 50 yards from my front porch. Her retreat was a grove of young fir trees.
We tolerate each other. I don’t think she poses a threat to Buckwheat. First of all, my 19-year-old cat rarely ventures outside in the winter, especially not at night when coyotes prowl. She didn’t get to be elderly without street smarts. Plus, Buckwheat has a bodyguard: me.
December was tough. I groused about the snowfall and electrical outages. But my struggle with shoveling can’t compare to the drifts that Lobo plowed through to find food and shelter. Also, her power goes out every night. What I consider hardship, Lobo sees as just another day. She, unlike Buckwheat, has no one to open a can of food for her. Instead, her morning ritual is a complex cacophony of cries, yips, and squeals exchanged with her demented sounding boyfriends.
Peering into Lobo’s untamed world, I see we share a dispassionate affinity for survival. Lobo is one of the “little things” that matters as I ponder life with cancer. Her cunning and savvy remind me that one can persevere in harsh environments. Though my home may be safe and warm, perils find their way inside. The quarantined lifestyle foisted upon me by myeloma limits interaction with people. But I’m far from alone.