The clouds well up over the foothills casting a gray pall, bearing the angry spirits of the chindi who dance amid the scrub juniper. Brother Serra, was this what you found, wandering along the coast, tending the odd sheep, Indian and whatever else crossed your path?
The blue bird hopping across the dried grasses puffing its grey breastplate and cape sitting back, its long tail feathers a perfect counterbalance. It stares at the oppressing clouds and senses the impending rain. The horses wandering the hill pausing to graze on the sparse green grasses. The roan mare stares at the colt dashing among the trees then returns to her meal, awaiting the onset of evening.
The chindi await the fall of night when they are free to roam and steal other souls. Was your water rite more powerful than the blessing chants? Did you ward off their evil and purify the breeze of the mountains?
The coyotes come down from the Sandia Hills onto the mesa. They are not spirits. They are not totems. They are not tricksters. They are hungry: for a jackrabbit, for a bird, for a small dog wandering too far from a half-lit earthship. They smell the sage, its faint odor carried on the night breeze. Taos, its weak glow on the horizon, is a spirit. It is a chindi to be avoided. It is the home of the skinwalkers. Out here walk only fools and shaman. There is no moon this night. The coyotes have no need for a moon. The stars are not mythic creatures cast into the heavens. They are points of light, collectively painting the black dome. They bathe the sage and desert earth below in light. A cry in the distance, a brother has been fed. Coyote don’t mourn the jackrabbit. His purpose has been fulfilled. An elk bellows from across the asphalt ribbon or across the canyon carved by the river. They know the river as more than a rope of water flowing beneath the bridge, the bridge on which men stand and marvel. The coyotes have tasted the river. The river is a lifestream. A jackrabbit cries. A brother or sister howls. There is a chorus. There is silence. Later, as the sun first appears behind the mountains, the coyotes retreat into the hills.
On this mesa, and in its surrounding hills, are the bones of many jackrabbits and many men. There are the bones of the coyotes as well, all mingling in the dry, stony soil.