IT WAS ALMOST DARK when I came upon the bobcat, walking alone on a steep overgrown trail far above the Green Gulch valley. She had been dead for weeks, her black-rimmed lips pulled back in a snarl of protest, tiny soot flies scouring her empty eye sockets. Her belly was slit open and she lay, disemboweled, in her own dry blood. The acrid stench of death rose off her matted fur. I considered carrying the bobcat down to bury her in the farm compost pile but decided against it. She was her own sovereign palace of decay, already well-consumed. I placed her, instead, off the trail, onto a soft mound of chain fern and lady’s bedstraw and hurried down the mountain while I could still see.

This was more than ten years ago, but I still think of that bobcat, especially in this autumn season as we build the last big compost piles of the year, arranging garbage in one giant heap sealed with moldy oat straw drenched in stale green pond water.

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