A hushed reverie blanketed the forest Saturday night. Overhead, the indigo continued to drain to black, and the warmth drifted away into the starlit heavens.
We crowded the campfire to fight the chill. Staring into the primordial depths of the flames, our faces shimmered in the wavering light. We didn't speak. We wandered in our own thoughts.
Then, suddenly, tearing across the expanse in the silence, a single cry. A coyote, the alpha animal, wailing into the night. A chill of my own feathered up my arms to the back of my neck.
As the voice trailed, another picked up, a companion of the first. Then another. Then another. Howls. Barks. Yips. A pack whipped into frenzy. I pictured them in some dark glade on the other mountainside. A chorus of pagan voices--when rivals to humans could speak without cages and fences, without alarm systems and streetlights, and without extermination.
Then, the pack silenced itself and probably padded on. Quiet returned, but the night was far less empty. They were out there--listening, playing, hunting.
Rationally, I knew that what I had heard was easily explained zoologically. It was probably a gathering time, perhaps time to mate. But part of me buried farther down, not rational, knew that something in those voices was meant for me.
I understood it, heeded it, and tipped my hat to my newly discovered rivals in the night.
P.S. I believe the pack may have been on the mountain on the left. The foreground is northeastern Pennsylvania (Wayne County) and the background is New York (Delaware County). In the valley in between lies the West Branch of the Delaware River. Eastern Coyotes are only recently retaking their place in the forests and fields of Pennsylvania.