April 26, 2006
EDIT -- Several people mentioned to me that they were unsure if I wrote the following story, since I posted it with no introductory statement. So here ya go: I did write the story, about 2 years ago. I held delusions of authorship at the time, thought I might pursue publishing it as a children's book, but ya know? I have no time for that now. So I'm giving the story to you, the masses, the reading public. And it will probably be read more on my blog than it ever would have been if it had gotten published. :) Beth
Once there was a coyote who loved to howl at the moon. He loved the way his voice sounded, and he thought the moon shone a little more brightly when he howled at it.
Mother Coyote tried to get him to do more useful things. “Stop howling at the moon!” she said. “It may be fun, but it will get you nowhere. You need to spend your time hunting for food, getting a mate, and teaching your young coyotes how to hunt. That's what coyotes should do!”
Mother Coyote was usually right about all things, so Coyote stopped howling at the moon as much. He got food, he found a mate, and he taught his young coyotes to hunt. Soon he never howled at the moon anymore, and eventually he forgot all about it.
One night, Coyote couldn't sleep. The moon was shining so brightly that it kept him awake. A strange feeling stirred within him, and he decided to go look more closely at the moon. To get a better view, he climbed to the top of a high hill, and settled down on the rocks where there were no trees or bushes to get in the way. He lifted his eyes higher and higher, until the moon was all he could see. He tilted his head to the side a bit, and gazed as hard as he could. It seemed there was something he wanted to do very badly, but he couldn't remember what. There was a very puzzled expression on his face.
“Hello. Have you come to howl at the moon with me?” a voice said, from the shadows.
Coyote whirled and bared his teeth, but it was only an aged female coyote sitting not far from him, in the shadow of some pines.
“Why aren't you howling?” Old Coyote asked.
“I….used to howl. I haven't done it for a long time. I can't remember how!” Coyote replied. “It seems like a silly, pointless thing to do. It doesn't help me to hunt or to teach the young coyotes,” he added.
Old Coyote just smiled at him. Then she pointed her nose upward, opened her mouth, and howled a long, beautiful howl. She did it again and again. Before he knew it, Coyote had joined in. He remembered his beautiful voice, and he remembered how good it felt to make a lovely noise and send it to the moon. He felt that with every howl he howled, a little of himself flew up to the moon and made it shine a bit more brightly. It felt so good to howl at the moon!
“Will you come and howl with me again?” Old Coyote asked, and Coyote promised that he would.
Night after night, whenever the skies were clear and the moon rose high in the sky, spilling its silvery light, Coyote raced to the top of the hill, and Old Coyote met him there. Old Coyote lived in a small den in the rocks near the hill top, so she could always be near the howling place. Often Coyote brought food to Old Coyote, and she was very grateful. Together the two of them howled at the moon, and the sound of their voices was very beautiful.
“Why do we love to howl at the moon?” Coyote once asked, as they waited for the moon to rise.
“The moon needs us to howl,” Old Coyote responded.
“The moon needs our howls?” Coyote asked. “Why?”
“Haven't you noticed,” she patiently replied, “that the moon shines more brightly when we howl? We make it shine like that. It needs us.”
Coyote thought for a while. It seemed like a great responsibility for just two coyotes, to keep the moon shining for the whole world.
“The moon needs just us two?” he asked. “What would happen if we stopped howling?”
Old Coyote smiled. “Don't worry. The moon needs more than our howls alone, although coyote howls are very important. What do you think the moon is made of, Coyote? Just imagine: the moon is made of all the beautiful sounds in the world. Every lovely sound in the whole world flies right up to the moon, and becomes a part of it. All the sounds join together there and shine with a beautiful, silvery light. So, the moon is made of bird songs, and the tinkling of a pretty little waterfall; it is made of the sound of frog croaks and bees buzzing and rabbit ears twitching; and it is even made of the songs of Man.”
Coyote looked up at the newly-risen moon with a new sense of wonder. He tilted his head and howled as he had never howled before. It was the most beautiful noise he had ever made. He wanted the best part of him to fly through the air and join with the moon.
One night Coyote raced to the top of the hill, and waited for the moon to rise, but Old Coyote never came to join him. He waited a long time, and he howled and howled, but Old Coyote never came. For four nights in a row, Old Coyote did not join him, and he knew she would not join him anymore.
This made Coyote very sad, but he kept coming to the hilltop to howl on moonlit nights. When he looked up at the moon, he knew that its silvery light contained all of Old Coyote's howls. He knew he had a job to do. Coyote howled and howled, to keep the moon shining brightly, and to send a little of himself to the moon to join his old friend.
Many moons went by, and Coyote kept his nightly routine. He grew older, and as time passed Coyote found it harder to run to the top of the hill. His pace slowed to a trot, and then a walk, and finally it was just too difficult to climb up the hill every night. He remembered how, long ago, Old Coyote had always been waiting for him there at the top of the hill when he was young. That night he did not leave the hill, but searched out the den in the rocks where Old Coyote had lived. He stayed on the hilltop for many, many moons, hunting what food he could by day, and howling at the moon by night.
One evening Coyote came late to the howling spot. The moon had been up, spilling a very bright, silvery light for a long time before Coyote woke. He padded softly, slowly toward his place, but suddenly he stopped, in the shadow of some pines. In his favorite howling spot sat a young female coyote, staring up at the moon with a very puzzled expression on her face.
Coyote smiled to himself. He remembered the night long ago, when the moon had kept him awake. Now he had become the old coyote. He cast back into his memory and remembered what Old Coyote had said….
“Hello. Have you come to howl at the moon with me?”