Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Photo by Erik Mclean, https://unsplash.com/photos/TNjdgCBRMeU

Welcome to the Neighborhood

Fox or coyote? The question appeared in the subject line of an email from my neighborhood watch group, along with a pixilated, blurry photo of a four-legged creature.

I frowned, not out of concern over what the animal might be, but because I’d previously witnessed the reactions of neighbors to anything resembling a coyote.

I squinted at the photo. The long legs, thin body, and nondescript coloring gave it the appearance of a coyote, but it could be the fox I’d seen running down my street, disappearing into the cemetery.

If it was the same fox, he resembled a coyote because of losing much of his hair and becoming skeletally thin. After a bit of research, I decided the fox had mange, which, if true, meant it would die of starvation or freeze to death when winter hit.

I read through more of my neighbors’ comments. They were worried about their dogs and cats. I understood this concern. When I lived on a hobby farm, one of my dogs had run after a lone coyote.  The coyote ambush I imagined was waiting in the woods must have shown in my voice because, for once in her life, my dog stopped in her tracks and returned to me. But where I live now, the loose dogs and cats are more likely to get hit by a car than picked off by a pack of coyotes.

Most of the neighborhood alerts I receive are reporting suspicious cars, kids ringing doorbells in the middle of the night, or people voicing their opinions on wearing a mask during the pandemic. Even someone’s question of where to get a haircut managed to digress into a political debate.

I approached the online discussion, as if it had claws, commenting that foxes live in the neighborhood and are fun to watch. I hoped an upbeat tone would draw people away from coyote fear. When I mentioned the fox with mange, I quickly added that the mange is not likely to pass onto humans or anyone’s pets. I even provided a link on fox mange for educational purposes.

Coyote Conspiracy Threat

Within an hour, three people were correcting me. It was DEFINITELY a coyote. Each person tried to outdo the next with their coyote versus fox knowledge. The coyote conspiracy stories pulsed and multiplied.

coyote Starr Pass

I was tempted to show them a photo I’d taken of a coyote I saw while visiting my brother in Tucson. The animal sauntered to within a few yards of me. He glanced my way for a second, then returned to sniffing at the ground before he ran into the desert. He was beautiful. The animal in the blurry photo was not.

I sighed. I loved my glimpses of wildlife. Seeing deer and wild turkeys has become commonplace in the city, along with eagles and hawks flying overhead or waiting in trees. Still, every time I see these creatures, I feel as if I’ve been handed a present.

I miss the coyote calls I used to hear when I lived on my farm. Perhaps I romanticize their community because I long for one for myself. Instead, what I have is this online bickering amongst neighbors.

Escaping the Noise

I closed my laptop, put on my shoes, and went for a walk.

A few blocks from my house, there’s a park with bike and walking paths along the Mississippi River. One early morning, I saw two young bucks, crossing the shallow channel on their way to a small island. I was glad I hadn’t brought my dogs with me that day.

Bucks crossing Rum River

Steam rose from the water’s surface, creating a scene worthy of a fantasy book cover. I watched one buck climb up the riverbank and walk towards the trees. He stopped and looked over his shoulder, waiting for his fellow traveler to reach him. He raised his eyes further and saw me, before the two of them ran together into what remained of their home.

Just five years ago, there wasn’t a way for humans to get to the island, but the addition of a footbridge changed all that. The deer herd now has one less place to be free of us.

Where the Neighborhood Coyote Conspiracy Led

Of course, through all of this observation of the neighborhood watch group and how they reacted to an unfamiliar animal appearing in the neighborhood, I couldn’t help but think about our political environment and how we view people who look and think differently than we do.

I know I need to work on my own challenges in accepting people who differ politically from me. I don’t want to feel hate for even the worst of mankind. But there are actions, behaviors and speech I consider destructive to human rights and the welfare of the earth and the beings that live here. Do we really want Tuesday’s Presidential Debate to represent who we are as a nation?

I don’t.

Historical Podcast Recommendations

Rather than binge on current political news, I’m listening to podcasts and watching programs about our country’s history. History can teach us a great deal if we look deeply and truthfully and not rely on an idealized, white image of our past.

I’ve listened to two podcasts on the fight for Women’s Rights, which are listed below.

  • I learned that the Suffragette movement was intertwined (and sometimes at odds) with abolitionists and rights for blacks.
  • I learned about the poll tax (removed by the 24th amendment), and how it was used to prevent people who couldn’t afford to pay the tax from voting. Now our government has other means for interfering with people’s right to vote. That needs to change.
  • I learned about what works and what can go wrong when citizens seek change in this country.

Two Podcasts:

  • And Nothing Less: Podcast commemorating 100 years of the 19th Amendment and women’s constitutional right to vote. Hosts Rosario Dawson and Retta present this seven-part series from the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission, the National Park Service, and PRX.
  • Amended: Podcast taking you from 1800’s through to the present day quest for women’s full equality. The fight broadened to include fighting injustice based on race, citizenship status, and class.

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  1. Good read and good information here. It is a constant chore to keep from wading into the political and neighborhood skirmishes, always a perfect plan to back up and go for a walk.
    I really love your photos of the coyote and the deer.

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