The recent Chicago coyote attacks led me to start thinking about an encounter I had with one a few years ago when my daughter was about six months old. She was strapped to my chest in a Baby Bjorn and we were walking in Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, a brief escape from home on a crisp fall day. In those early days as a parent, it was a joy simply to get outside, but it was especially nice to introduce Sonja to our closest natural area.
There was a coyote ahead of us on a path near the central meadow on the point, about 50 yards from us. I suppose my tendency could have been to turn around right away when we saw it, but I stood for a while so we could both get a look at it. This passed for a type of adventure amid a lot of sleepless nights, diaper changes and bottle feedings. The coyote eventually turned away and walked in the opposite direction. Maybe I’m naive, but I never felt in danger - it’s also been a fun story to tell as Sonja gets older. The coyote attacks have led to perhaps sensationalistic media coverage - a producer or editor’s delight. This preys on our fears, though, and leads to an even deeper disconnect between people and nature, just as there is a wonderful re–wilding taking place in our cities.
Of course, my heart goes out to the child who was attacked - I have been in the woods enough to know that there are genuine concerns. But this shouldn’t lead us to lock ourselves in our homes and further withdraw from the outdoors. If anything, we need to head back out into nature with all of our senses attuned and a deeper awareness of the world around us. And indeed, that is what being in nature is all about.