Wisdom and Folly

the savanna

The morning after I wrote about Coyote I found what was left of one of my clogs. It was half buried in leaves in the oak grove, discarded like an old dog bone. The leather of the shoe had been chewed off down to the staples. The leather on the foot bed was mostly gone as well. All that was left was the wooden sole. For a week after that, Coyote was quiet and less visible. I thought she had packed up her pack and moved on. I felt a little cocky believing that I had gotten the message right, shared it, and in so doing, Coyote had gone on her way. Coyote, like a message from the unconscious, had become quiet after she got my attention but when it was clear I had missed the point, she showed up again.

I see Coyote now almost every day. The pack walks around my property as if they own the place. I have never lived this closely with a wild animal larger than a rabbit before and it is fascinating. I find myself remembering every Coyote story I have every read. Coyote is such a dramatic presence that I am sure if I was living any closer to her I would be creating Coyote stories of my own. She is a canine but also a predator.She is familiar but also frightening. She has me cleaning up after her. Every morning my driveway is littered with the droppings of a pack of large “dogs”. Coyotes mark their territory by leaving their waste in the middle of the road or trail where it is clearly visible. I feel the humor of picking up after this intruder and understand Coyote’s trickster reputation. One morning the driveway was covered with the discarded bright red-orange spiny skins of tunas or prickly pears. If I had never eaten one before I might have been grateful to her for showing me a new food.

Cleaning up Coyote’s scat from my driveway one morning I begin to wonder what I am doing wrong that Coyote feels comfortable enough to move in and run wild on my property. Perhaps I am not fierce enough.  Perhaps my boundaries are not strong enough. I wonder what is going on on my land. First it was an infestation of rats and now I have Coyote. I wonder why so many pests have moved in. I wonder why they are pestering me. One night last week Coyote came close and stood in full view under a tree watching as I fed the horses.  My small dog was tied up and Coyote stared at her in the darkness as if we were in a Road Runner & Wile E. Coyote cartoon and she were seeing a juicy steak on four legs that was wearing a collar. I took the dogs back to the house and returned to finish the chores. Coyote stayed close the entire time. The dogs don’t come down with me after dark anymore. I am changing my behavior and routines in response to Coyote. I feel an irrational fear living so close to a predator. I know that I am not prey for Coyote yet feeling her watch me at night and hearing her howl is chilling. I find myself thinking that this wouldn’t be happening if my husband still lived here.

Last night as I got out of my car I heard Coyote begin to howl right below me in the ravine.  It was so loud and so close I finally silenced my self-annihilating voice and asked myself what Coyote is trying to tell me.  I made the shift from critical to quizzical. In the morning I took out and read through my collections of Coyote stories and pulled out my copies of Animal-Speak and Animal-Wise, by Ted Andrews.

In Animal-Wise, Ted Andrews writes that the first step to understanding why an animal is making an appearance in our lives is to accept that the animal has caught our attention for a reason and that “some force, some archetypal energy is expressing itself through the animal” (p18).  He writes that we need to approach the animal from the mindset that everything has significance.  I use this mindset in my work and have been know to look for meaning in the flow of traffic. I laugh that it has taken me weeks to be curious about Coyote.  A Great White Heron spent the afternoon by my pool a few weeks ago and I instantly thought about the significance of such a rare event.  A pack of Coyotes moves on to my property for the first time after more than 20 years of living in this area, and I wonder what I have done wrong.

In the chapter, Four Blessings of Every Creature, Andrews suggests that to understand the meaning in an encounter with an animal we need to examine and understand four aspects of that animal: 1) it’s life cycle including the times of birth death  & activity; 2) it’s physical or behavioral adaptive aspects; 3) it’s potentials, abilities, and characteristics; and 4) it’s relationships both within it’s environment and it’s life. According to Andrews, having Coyote in my yard is in effect being told to pursue things the way Coyote does and I will more likely succeed; to consider that the adaptive behaviors that she has are what will work best for me right now; and that I possesses similar potentials and abilities to Coyote and they are what I need to focus on at this time in my life. (Animal -Wise p.58)

In Animal-Speak, Andrews writes that Coyote represents the balance between wisdom and folly. The presence of Coyote in my life is a reminder not to be too serious about anything and also that anything is possible. Coyote teaches the importance of play and remind me not to take myself to seriously. Coyote teaches about being adaptable, cooperating with others, and doing things in the most efficient manner possible. I have just started to pay attention. I am considering the significance of everything. Shortly before Coyote moved in I was driving through my neighborhood early one morning and saw Coyote running across the street with a white cat hanging from its mouth. In all the years I have lived here I have heard about but never seen Coyote with domestic prey. This moment was the introduction to this time with Coyote. She has much to teach me but she is also a predator.  She is a trickster. I can learn from her, honor her and express gratitude to her, but not necessarily trust her. She is teaching me that in some relationships it is important to remember that the other will always be at their core who they are. Coyote may now be my teacher but she is not my friend. My small animals are food to her.  She has warned me by showing me this and I am grateful, aware and careful.

My experience with Coyote has connected me to the natural world in a profound way. I find myself paying attention now to the behavior of all the animals that share my land. I think often of the animal stories I have read and been told. I have an “of course” reaction now. Of course in earlier times when people lived closer to nature they would tell stories about the animals around them and look to them for wisdom. When I began this journey I knew that I had a lot to learn.  I never imagined that one of my most important teachers would be Coyote.

1 comment to Wisdom and Folly

  • Marlena,

    Loving your stories and your writing, I can especially relate with this as I find the cayotes to be so mysterious and often think at night that I would rather not hear their chilling screams. However, knowing that all animals have their unique personalities and spirit I will try to be more observant of the cayotes that seem to be more prevalent than ever, hmmmm what are they telling ME?

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