Monday, August 15, 2011

Bones and Shells

It was a day for finding bones and shells. We walked along the broken fence line, heading towards the tumble of rocks to the north. The long streaky shadows of morning lay across the humps of thick grass, a deep orange sun beginning to tip the treetops in yellow. I called to Ike, who was lagging, and he ran up to me, lifting his head with the weight of his prize – proudly carrying a turtle’s shell he’d unearthed from its resting place. A box turtle. The occupant was long gone. Small, pure white bones rattled around the inside of the shell. Pieces of the thin, translucent veneer of the shell – shiny and fragile as mica – were peeling off. Ike left his prize behind with the strain of climbing the rocks.  

Later, up in the western pasture along the edge of the woods, we found the bones of a small coyote, the tail still thick with soft fur, everything else clean and white. The bones lay as if the pup had rolled over onto its back in a posture of complete abandon, of feeling safe.

We continued across the western pasture and along the road, down past the derelict horsehead pump and then towards the pond that is slowly drying up and disappearing in the drought. A green heron took flight as we approached. We walked gingerly onto the cracking mud, the shoreline wider now and gooey in spots, like fudge. Walking on earth recently covered in water, walking on a small scale natural disaster. A cow’s skull, hip bones and leg bones, dyed a deep orange from their time submerged, lay stuck in the mud. With rain the relics will disappear again under water, away from our dispassionate scrutiny and rest again. Ike and I looked more closely at the mud. Tiny shells, swirls of white and pink, freckled the deep brown clay.

Back up along the line of trees, this time along the eastern edge, another coyote tragedy. The bones small as those of a cat, lying in a sad heap, picked over, tossed about. Another restless coyote soul trotting over the prairie. 

Nature holds no secrets. She is blunt and honest and harsh and sweet. The living and the dead, side by side, bones unburied and shells abandoned – all to be reclaimed by the earth, nurturing the next generations. As for Ike and me, we can only hope to fulfill such a noble destiny. In the meantime, we will explore and run, sniff, play and wonder and pay our respects to the white bones and the empty shells.  


  1. I just love this line: "Nature holds no secrets. She is blunt and honest and harsh and sweet." You will surely use it in a novel sometime.

  2. Amazing post - I loved the descriptions of your ramble. That turtle shell would have been a treat to bring home.


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