Grace Notes – Coyotes on the upper prairie

The wind is shuddering across the spine of every rooftop. The hollow sound of it gets stuck in air vents, like bass-voiced ghosts trying to get in until, bored, they unhook, free themselves, fly on.

It’s the kind of wind that arrives in waves and swells, in increments large and small, rising then falling, then rising again. Pipe wind chimes all over the city dance in rhythms far past music and just shy of noise and clatter. The lips of every child chap pink and raw; they lick them anyway, trying to soothe up the dryness momentarily, and then they’re gone again, outside to play.

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It is not yet ice-cold, not yet frigid and not too dangerous to be out for long. The sun still fires close enough so that if any child stands still, out of the wind and facing into the heat, he will feel warmed for a moment. Soon enough, as we enter December, even that won’t be enough. We will have to watch more carefully; we will need more protection, more cover, more vigilance.

For now, I make tea.

All the sugar cubes I’ve hidden in my cabinet are gone, stolen by my son, one at a time, over months — he pops them in his mouth and holds them until they melt. I did not know this until I looked for lemon tea bags, and in so doing, moved the sugar cube box aside. The three he’d left slid, lonely and rattling, inside the cardboard box and so I asked him “Where are all the sugar cubes?” A sly smile tugged at his face before he ducked away from me. He is 17 suddenly, suddenly.

And tonight the house fills with his friends for a birthday party; four girls come early to decorate, rendering me unneeded except to supply tape. My husband and I stand off and watch, aware and bemused by our slight intrusion of presence. Finally, the rest of them come in the front door, polite, ducking their heads like shy turtles, then rumble down the stairs – heavy train cars propelled toward the basement – where they fire to life, loud, laughing, tribal.

When I move down the stairs to keep track, to try to attend to my amorphous duties (check them) I announce my descent with some benign excuse and, as I round the corner toward the bunch, silence falls, then slow polite pittery-pat conversation. They are patient with their silence, especially the ones who know me. The newer ones are slightly unsure of how to react, until I move back up the stairs and they all begin again to be their left-alone selves.

Later, the girls will go home and the boys will sleep dead hard and long; they will wake right before noon then move, slow as slugs, all their energy turned inward, growing them faster than vines. Morning glories, grapes, hops even, don’t rush up strings and grow nearly as fast as 17-year-olds.

At some hour after midnight, I go to bed, leaving my husband attentive and awake until the girls are gone. I lift the bedroom window many inches wide, and hear what, at first, I think is the teenagers downstairs, but I listen more carefully and come to hear many coyotes on the upper prairie. Their sound is dispersed, joyful, unrestrained. It carries on the wind in a sharp, high-note keening yip-yipe, yip yip-yipe. The yelps are not threatening. If anything the sound is celebratory, playful and, as I fall asleep, I hear it move farther and farther away from me.

In the morning, the wind is gone. Before I wake I can feel the silence it leaves. I know we are heading full-on into winter, into the season of watchful waiting, of introspection and amends. I hope the days move gently over and into you, especially this year. I hope you raise your face to what is left of the sun’s heat and hold hope tightly during the cold months.

1 Comment

  1. To Natalie Costanza:
    Oh, I found you! In my artist’s studio on Santa Fe Drive I have several of your articles taped to a closet door and everytime I reread, I am filled with an aha, a yes. That Grace Notes is no longer in the Denver Post was a disappointment to me and I am glad that you have moved on and your wonderful writing continues. . . Thank you for your continuing inspiration. Please know that the shrieking of headlines and mindless babble lasts but for a moment, while your thoughts live on. Ginny Abblett

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