Coyote walks from mountain

I didn't understand it then, cuddled in boulders, smothered in wool, curled with a .357 beneath the pillow of my backpack. There was no ethic, as defined by moral construct, except the sun rising, and whether or not I could put a round of snake load into the rat that taunted me with its turds and the marks of its teeth. I could dream the places I would walk to, the deer I would hunt, the crops I would grow and the water to sustain us. I could dream my own grace of movement through coulees and up sheer rock faces. I was the place that is spirit in these crumbling slopes, these ponderosa, this air that drew me each morning into cool dew with the circumspect eye of an owl. I didn't understand it then, but the freedom of survival is unknowable as thought, only action or non-action. To move with fatal precision, or to sit like stone.

I build a shelter in late summer by piling rocks and anchoring jack pine to surround a deep grotto, scraping out a floor and digging a fire pit. In spring, I hike my supplies from the confluence of Touts Coulee Creek and the Similkameen to the south slope of Coral Butte, 5,000 feet of ascent, 12 miles through the foothills, over hard scrabble, sage scrub and the last snow drifts clinging to shadow. The first day, I pack the remnants of my winter stores - dried apples and jerky - along with clothing, blankets, cookware, seed, short axe, knives, boxes of disposable lighters and two canteens. The second day, I carry guns and ammunition. That evening, at the beginning of my emptiness, I drink rosehip tea by the ember dance of a small fire, listen to a spring percolating in the crags not far below me, and think of nothing.

Each day after that I walk a garden strewn in pockets many miles through the hills, locating by landmark and contour, existing in relation to sustenance and protection. I know creatures and ghosts by their marks and scat, and by our mutual need for the offerings of high desert. To walk like freedom is a pure sensuality of breath and muscle, guided by hunger, absorbed in scent and sound playing on the breasts of wind. To hunt is the taste of anticipation translocated in movement. There is no compass to survival, though it is not aimless. It can lose its way only if umbilical earth is disconnected from the belly. Then, the feet must follow lines comprised not of power, but direction imposed, as in the city, where survival is transfixed to grid.

For now, I walk seeking freedom in alleys, becoming a notation of wild, clandestine enclaves persisting in hardpan and asphalt, determined by a geography of interiors. This walking is question and debate and recrimination for my weakness, not a function of destination. Here in the city, walking is a realm for the busily distracted, comfortably bored, the poor and the elderly. Soon, when I fulfill the promises I've made in my foolish and desperate attempt to be human, I will walk from this place and return to the animal that I am. I wake at first faint light to the scurry of intrusion. My aim is intuitive. I breakfast on roasted rodent and the relish of being forgotten.

 

- Phil Ceretto