These days, alongside the cultural twilight zone we are living in, I am finding “thin places” on my early morning walks in the neighborhood. Surprising spaces where the Divine punches through my reverie and brings me to my knees in gratitude.
On this day it was sister coyote. 7:30am. I was deep in my own world of thought. Suddenly, there she was, the petite female coyote that has both mesmerized and terrified our neighborhood since she moved into our zip code. She was leisurely. Standing in a shaggy yard—more estate than backyard—with a low brick wall corralling mature pines. At times her nose rotated upward, sniffing. At other times, her long elegant nose was glued to the ground.
My walk came to a stunning halt. Coyote was small, clearly not much older than the yearling she was when first spotted last summer. She had been the sole source of debate and furious conversation for our social platform, Next-door Neighbor, this past year. Some people wanted her gone. Others tried to entice her to be friendly and domestic, leaving food for her. All came to a screeching halt when the State Biologist came and posted signs that this was a very bad idea. Leave. Her. Alone. She is a wild animal.
She was grown up now, acclimated to human presence. She no longer ambled over to say hello. She startled easily at the sound of a twig snapping.
I became very still. There was a connection between she and I . A knowing. A trust. In my daily walks, it is my habit to bless the creatures I encounter, to offer prayers of gratitude. Somehow she sensed that I was not a danger.
This day, I was ready to offer a blessing to my little sister Coyote. As though she understood my intent, she jumped up on the low wall and almost nose to nose, we stood there. She was beautiful. It was a respectful exchange. Boundaries were observed. I offered her a blessing…for safety, protection, sustaining kindness and her daily bread for each day.
She jumped down after about 5-7 minutes.
I was breathless with joy.
At home, I cracked open my Animal Speak book….Coyote is known to be a totem for folly and wisdom. For the Plains Indians, she was creator, teacher, keeper of magic. She is playful, trickster, skillful, cooperative, keen intelligence and adaptive ability. She reminds us that true teachers of wisdom have a wonderful sense of humor…are like children who reawaken creativity and joy.
I remember a poem I wrote many years ago, in a different season, Autumn. It was another fleeting coyote encounter.
Creator God, I thank you for brother coyote this evening. His haunting cry down by the river where I passed.
Stopped me in my tracks.
From the other side I hear his clan send up a chorus of howls as coyote, carefully attentive, rushes across the field to find his own.
Suddenly all the problems in my perseverating head, grinding away in their usual mental pathways, disappear into thin air. And something as ancient and deep as your longing Spirit stir within me.
I sit and watch coyote til he disappears. Then I begin to hear, really hear in the clarion call of the Sandhill Crane and the burble of the river, There is a divine Presence that only now I can see with freshly washed eyes, in the fluttering of golden leaves, on the majestic cottonwood tree.
O Beloved One. How often I miss you, as you walk in the garden of my daily life. as you show up in the faces of my dear ones. or ruffle my hair with your wind.
Slow me down. Stop me in my tracks. Pull me out of the busy traffic of my life. Deepen your Love within me, Above me, below me, all around me.
Beauty, beauty, beauty.
amen (Anita Amstutz, 2011)
There are many lessons from COVID 19. For myself, a big one is that we all must move deeper into our own shadow work. I am left with days of unscheduled bliss, which can quickly turn ugly as my fears, unhealed stuff and anxieties surface. I ask myself…
What from my pre-COVID 19 lives drives me, distracts me, destroys my peace, keeps me from honoring and respecting boundaries—whether of the natural world or the human world?
As we experience pathogen spillover from wild animals and their places of habitation that humans have pushed into, exploited, deforested, and destroyed, the need to respect wild boundaries and perimeters are more imperative than ever.
I’m not surprised that coyote has come again, showing up, not only from a distance, but this time, mere inches from my nose, on a wall at my height—our eyes directly meeting. She is my teacher. There is no hierarchy.