Pan’s Flute

Photo Art by Alexandra Parks-Perry





I found the tonette (plastic flute) in the top of an old trunk in the storage locker. I was putting away journals after looking up snake dreams. My son Jesse was there, wanting a small clip for a book light that I also had stored in the top of the trunk, and the goats were nearby, waiting to take the walk up the mountain.

I remember raising the tonette to my lips and then hearing the most beautiful melody emerge— a Goat Song. The minute Natalie heard it she stopped browsing, walked closer, and stood, listening intently. The song was of the soul, melodic, a little sad, but strong. I had never heard it before, yet it was not unfamiliar. It was as if it had been growing in that tonette all those years and was just now emerging. I felt such relief to play it. Natalie, and now Boris, came closer. Neither could do anything but listen.

The song developed. I walked to the cemetery discovering which notes wanted to be played, and how. The goats followed, eating sweet peas, and listening, eating minor’s lettuce, and listening, eating tender shoots of new grass and listening to these enigmatic notes.

My husband Donald came home. I played the song for him. The goats listened. He said it must be in their collective memory, that song, that sound of the flute that shepherds played as they watched their flocks. We walked to the top of the ridge. I played the song on the mountain top in case Hornsby and Tarquin, our dear goats who had disappeared the year before, might hear. After I put the goats in their barn and loaded their feeder with alfalfa hay, I played the song again. Natalie stopped ravishing the hay to watch and listen, straw hanging from her head.

Then at 3:30 am I awoke to the sound of the tonette in the yard and the vicious barking of our dog Elsie. I sat up confused and alarmed. Was someone mocking The Goat Song? And who was playing the tonette? Donald was already up. He let Elsie outside. I listened through the open door.

The tonette was a coyote. She was quite near, perhaps by some sheep a neighbor had recently acquired. She howled over and over, her voice warbling.

Had I also been playing a Coyote Song? Or do shepherds play their flutes not so much to ward off boredom as predators? In so playing the tonette, had I alerted the coyotes to the presence of the goats while also warning them that the goats were under my protection, and this was Coyote’s answer?

There are no coincidences. I had not heard coyotes sing so near our home until that night. It is as if those notes vibrated the web of the wyrd, informing the world, and we were all energized.