In cold grey Michigan’s early February it was definitely winter, but my British nature sites were all tweeting away about snowdrops and crocuses and busy little robins. In England, after all, it is the time of year when all that is expected.
It all began the first time I heard them calling back and forth to each other in the northern Michigan night: first a yip, then another slightly away from the first, then a third to the rear, until I realized that it was a whole pack, signalling their positions as they stalked wild turkey.
They seemed exotic when they howled from a hillock, though more menacing when they padded down our gravel road on the scent of a Yorkshire Terrier.
Then they turned up downstate. One frosty morning I was carrying a mouse in a bucket to set loose for a better life, when I realized I was not alone. There was a coyote padding along behind me, intent upon my bucket. I knew that coyotes don’t attack human adults but I decided he might make an exception to this little old lady so tantalizingly redolent of mouse; I took the coward’s way out, dumping my mouse to suffer nature’s less beneficent aspect before hastening guiltily away.
Coyote, nonetheless, seemed pleasant suburban neighbors, like the rabbits and squirrels and chipmunks and possums that lighten my days. Then, one morning, a distinctly non-cute coyote trotted up my driveway on the trail of my neighbor’s indiscreetly yelping Chihuahuas.
It was taller and longer than any coyote I had ever seen, with a fluffy grey tail and healthy coat of fur. I realized it was a Coywolf, a new species created by the mating of wolves and coyotes in Canada that had recently arrived in Northern Michigan and now, it seemed, were taking their place among us in the Detroit suburbs.
In “The Ever Wily Coyote” naturalist Cathy Wesley describes the Eastern Coyote, larger than its western cousin, as a Coywolf. When I queried her about this identification she replied that
“the Eastern Coyote is actually a type of Coywolf, because it is the Western Coyote mixed with the grey wolf. . . Some people actually want to separate the Eastern Coyotes into its own species and call it Coywolf.” Heron Tracks Volume 9 Number 4 Feb 2017.
I admire the way that nature morphs and varies. In this sad time of diminishing species, the coyote/coywolf story is a heartening display of adaption for evolutionary advantage.
On the front page of my web site I described Bethany leaping off a cliff into a gale. With the publication of the third volume in my Infinite Games Series, The Road to Beaver Mill, you can find out what happens next.
While eleven year old Bethany is excited and enthusiastic about soaring through the wind on a winged pony, her mother is purely terrified. Nonetheless, Clare must ride into the storm while the rest of the Marshlanders leave their refuge on Cedar Haven to climb the perilous Cliffs of Doom. It is time to call their allies to battle lest their enemies succeed in entirely draining their marshlands.
The problem is that everyone knows about these plans but Bethany, who is too stubborn and self-willed to trust with such important secrets. She visits her friend Ben’s Western Fisher folk, who want nothing to do with her; her own Eastern Fisher folk cousins welcome her warmly but she runs away from them too, stowing away on a ship heading for the dangerous merchant city of Brent.
My new novel is a Kindle Select Book, available here from Amazon.com .
Last week we left Frodo walking fearfully toward the dread Land of Mordor. This week we find ourselves on a perilous journey, every bit as daunting. We who have longed for a green and pleasant country of fellowship and amity suddenly face the possibility that everything we have spent our whole lives working for could be overshadowed and destroyed.
These days I spend half of my week writing eco-fiction and half on environmental activism. The Infinite Games Series alternates utopia and dystopia, the world of my self-sustaining Marshlanders against male domination fueled by economic greed. In plotting evil I look the worst possibilities of human behavior straight in the eye, but in seeking The Worlds We Long For I tell stories about how good folk fight back.
There are four volumes in the series, two of which I have self-published. In October, I received the immensely happy news from Mary Woodbury at Moon River Press that she will publish the last volume about The Battle for the Black Fen this year. In in the meantime, I am bringing out the third volume, The Road to Beaver Mill, as a Kindle Ebook.
I keep a map of on the wall of my study to trace the perilous quests my characters undertake. This autumn, I realized how amateurish it looks, so I got in touch with a marvelous cartographer, D.N. Frost, to produce a more professional-looking map for my series. Here it is!.
Are my novels escapes from the dystopian conditions of our present world? Not at all: I intend them as stories that model how we can carry our little rings of power – the will for the good which is our most precious possession – through the dangerous times in which we are called to live.
The Eye of the Dark Lord is turning in our direction.
Frodo’s ring could destroy the world, so he had to throw it over the cliffs of doom. The power of our rings is our small individual wills and our ability to combine with each other to create the world we long for.
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s wonderful series, The Lord of the Rings, a little hobbit named Frodo carries the ring of power through all of the perils of the world in order to destroy it, while enemies try to enhance their own agendas by threatening him at every turn.
That’s where we will be tomorrow.
We can take heart at the good wizard Galdalf’s reply when Frodo wishes his fate were otherwise:
The Prairie Fellowship, a beloved Unitarian community that provided me in anchor in my peripatetic years, used to spend a weekend every October in the Wisconsin Dells. One year I was asked to read autumn poems out of doors and so, on a warm-enough sunny morning, I sat under the forest canopy all ablaze in gold and crimson to await any participants who might come.