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Minus 10 degrees, a night walk on Whitemud Creek, the spruce trees outlined against a deep purple sky.
I stop, begin tai chi, mirroring the twisting branches. As I move through 'wave hands as clouds', Orion is framed in my arms. A gibbous moon casts long shadows on the snow, then drops below the bank.
I start toward home in the darkness, feel a compelling need to look back, the hair on my neck rising. There, near the other bank, a shadow form, wolf-shape, not moving.
I freeze. Wait.
Fingers of cold slip in.
Suddenly the shadow stirs, melts into the forest. A ‘yip’ tells me it’s a coyote.
I run through my memories for accounts of coyotes attacking humans, find none.
Still, I walk backwards for a short distance, then turn, hurry home, looking over my shoulder, again, and again.
owl’s call –
boots squeak on