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.