A moment of silence, please. Another character from the stories of Love Earth Now has passed.
A neighborhood coyote stared at me as I got out of my car one morning three years ago. I’d dropped the kids at school, returned home, and was walking toward the front door when I saw him. Coyote stood at the bottom of the steep driveway across from mine, one that led up to his den somewhere on the hill above us. His piercing gaze seemed to dare me. To do what? I had no idea, but I couldn’t dally. The final chapter of Love Earth Now was overdue, and I needed to get busy writing. I snapped a photo, and then we went our separate ways.
That evening, I went outside to get something from my car. Coyote stood again in the same spot and gave me another hard look. I froze, heart thumping and covered in goosebumps. Though coyote sightings are common in my neighborhood, the pair of rendezvouses, on the very last day of writing my first book, seemed momentous. I had no idea the significance, but I hoped it boded well for the book I was birthing. I went inside to put the finishing touches on the “Acknowledgements” chapter and sent it off to the publisher.
I’ve seen this particular coyote several times over the past three years, but never again did I sense that singular connection. We moved past each other as drivers in separate cars in separate lanes. In recent months, Coyote had grown bedraggled with mange. Each time, I’d marvel that he’d survived this long as feeble as he was. And went about my business.
I spotted Coyote one last time on a recent, scorching hot afternoon. I was striding down the street, several blocks from home, intent on getting in my steps for the day. Until I stopped in my tracks. Coyote was laid out on the blacktop before me, motionless, tongue lolling and bodily fluids oozing from his orifices. I froze, once again, heart thumping and covered in goosebumps.
I slumped to the curb, and meditated on those earlier, meaningful moments we’d shared.
I was given the coyote as my spirit animal when I completed my training through the Modern Day Priestess program a decade ago. I confess that I was disappointed. I was certain it would be the mighty eagle, the symbol of my community and a demonstration that I was meant to soar. The ragtag coyotes that I knew seemed far too common. Surely this was not the venerable spirit animal guiding me to my noble calling.
But maybe there was more to this coyote critter than I knew. So I studied up on coyote in Medicine Cards,* a resource full of Native American wisdom and lore. I learned that in many native traditions, the coyote is known as the great trickster. Coyote lays traps that, much like the cartoon Wile E. Coyote, often backfire on himself—and he usually forgets to learn from his mistakes. “As coyote moves from one disaster to the next,” they write, “he refines the art of self-sabotage to sheer perfection.”
Click. It all fell into place. I excel at laying out the best plan for persuading someone else to take on a task . . . only to find I’ve convinced myself to do it. On a tight schedule and with no budget. If only I could learn to laugh at myself, as I did the cartoons.
I considered all of this as I sat there on the curb, the white-hot concrete searing my backside.
What does it mean when the trickster dies? Maybe I’m to let go of self-sabotage. Learn from my mistakes and stop repeating them.
As I began to tumble down into the spiral of self-flagellation, inner cynic urged me to not get carried away. The blistering temps and dearth of rain have finished off a lot of local flora and fauna, and this guy was already ailing. His transition now seems a blessing. No more scrounging for life-saving sustenance.
So I put in a dead animal pickup request through the City services app, and I rose to begin the trek home. But first, I said a prayer of blessing for easy transition and gratitude for all the visitations.
My heart heavy, I trudged on. Until I reached the bottom of that steep driveway, and I felt that piercing gaze on me once again. A single tear rolled down my cheek for my fallen comrade-in-chicanery.
That’ll do, Coyote. That’ll do.
Excerpt from the Acknowledgements in Love Earth Now:
“Last but never least, thank you to the coots, ducks, squirrels, pigeons, Canadian geese, larvae, moths, jellyfish, songbirds, cod, gravity, microbes, Red the Irish Setter, sage bush, SCOBY, almond trees, jacarandas, Atlas Cedar, and the coyote who checked in on me this morning…and again this evening.
*Jamie Sams & David Carson, Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power through the Ways of Animals (St. Martin’s Press, 1999)