Coyote Mother. Trickster Mother.

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The fog was low and thick as I rounded the bend toward Potamus’s daycare. It was early, traffic hadn’t taken us as long as I thought, and I wasn’t quite driving the 40mph speed limit, to try and savor the yellowing leaves that looked so pretty in the swirling fog. And then, up ahead, I see a lone coyote trotting across the road. He seemed casual about his journey, even stopping on the other side to stand still, looking around curiously. If I had slammed on my brakes I could have snapped a gorgeous profile shot of his steely eyes staring ahead. I wondered, did the woman standing at the bus stop notice him? She was quite close, less than a hundred yards, from this wild creature, but neither one seemed bothered by each other. And rather than risk an accident, I kept driving along, but that image has been playing about in my mind for over a week now.

Coyotes have played a role in my life since I was a little girl. Perhaps they are my spirit animal, though when I was really young they frightened me. Our backyard bordered undeveloped cemetary land, and I could hear ‘howls’ late into the night. Being young, I classified them as wolves, and nobody believed me that they existed, until one day my dad was jogging through the cemetary and came across one. The haunting howls frightened me, and I wove stories about coyotes (once I learned what they were) living under my bed and trying to snatch me away for their dinner. I remember sneaking out into the woods with my brother, when we were probably 12 and 10, and coming across a clearing that was filled with fur. Maybe it was the springtime shedding, but I felt that we had come across something magical, a coyote resting spot? A coyote barbershop? I never did see them, but they were there, just outside the campfire.

Historically, coyotes are used as trickster characters in stories. According to Wikipedia:

The coyote mythos can be categorized in many ways. In creation myths, Coyote appears as the Creator himself; but he may at the same time be the messenger, the culture hero, the trickster, the fool, the clown. He also has the ability of the transformer: in some stories he is a handsome young man; in others he is an animal; yet others present him as just a power, a sacred one.

Did you know that coyotes are the only animal that has adapted to life in all 48 continental US states? That they stretch all the way down to panama and up to Alaska. Did you know that it lives in urban areas like New York City, as well as rural areas like Big Sky Country? Where wolves have ‘failed to adapt’ to the encroachment of human territory, coyotes have thrived, survived, natural selection at its finest. With the culture surrounding mother-animal archetypes, like the famous Tiger Mother, it is surprising to me that nobody has talked about the Coyote Trickster Mother.

I have created something, and yet the creation has a mind of its own. I take many shapes depending on the situation: bedtime wrestling champion, ultimate sandwhich preparer, no-more-chocolate-chips-today enforcer. I can go from laughing, or ‘playing the fool,’ to the disciplinarian, and back again in the course of a few moments. I can adapt, to staying at home during the summer and working full time during the rest of the year. I am restless. I feel cagey and panicked when confined, and sometimes motherhood feels like smotherhood and I want to chew off my own leg, but I’m glad I don’t have 19 pups like a real coyote mother. I hold a sacred power inside, part human, part animal, that instinctual I-would-kill-for-my-offspring feelings. I can wear lipstick with my hair done and relate to fancy-pants business types. I can sport yoga pants and a sports bra with my sweaty yoginis. I drink wine or Miller lite. I laugh and joke and play the fool, and I could cut you if you get too close. I may blend into the crowd, unassuming, or stand out, on the side of a foggy road early in the morning. I am a coyote mother. A trickster mother.

How Yoga and Breastfeeding Prepared Me for My First Tattoo

I’ve wanted a tattoo forever, and as you know, from this post, foxes hold a special place in our family. I think of them as a spirit animal of sorts, (which maybe means I should change the title from Coyote Mother, to Fox Mother? Haha). So what better inspiration for my first tattoo, than a fox?

I trolled around on pinterest for aproximately 100 years to find the right inspiration (there are a lot of ugly ass foxes out there on people’s bodies), and settle on this beautiful illustration to serve as the basis for my tattoo!


A rib tattoo for my first tattoo? Heck yeah baby! I headed on up to Two Birds Tattoo, a lovely all-female shop in Seattle. My lovely tattoo artist, Tarah, was initially hesitant to tattoo me on my ribs, since it was my first tattoo, but my confidence in my ability to manage the pain convinced her. As I laid there on my side, with my arm over my head for two hours, I told her that my experience breastfeeding my son prepared me for those moments. Because truthfully, the pain of my arm being wrenched into a strange position was more painful than the actual tattooing. I really enjoyed the process of the outlining, and only found myself flinching in the shading on more tender areas (which, surprisingly, were around my stretch marks and not so much on my actual ribs). I’ve spent so much time lying in uncomfortable positions over the past two years that a few hours on a tattoo table was nothing!

I took little sips of air, breathing through my nose. Tarah said that she has noticed a trend with people who practice yoga, that they tolerate the pain better, especially in the ribs area. I told her that if her other clients ever needed to know why, it’s because nose breathing actually calms the nervous system and helps override the fight/flight panic of adrenaline. I told her that I was basically tricking my body into thinking I was ‘okay’ even though my brain was probably like ‘ouch, pain, run away, you’re being attacked!’ She thought that was such great advice, and would pass it on to clients who needed something to focus on.

I think I’m hooked. I had such a great experience, and love the tattoo so much, that I am already planning on another…

Perspective After a Good Night’s Sleep

The night of sleep, long but fitful, did not serve to reset my heart and mind. Potamus’s sweet voice, saying “let’s get up mama,” roused me from my already-awake-but-not-wanting-to-face-the-day musings. Bowl of cheerios. Dog trying to steal cheerios. A few games of Candyland. Another glass of orange juice. All normal morning routine. Except for the slumbering husband still peaceful in bed. And my bad attitude.

I did self care. Coloring in my new National Parks coloring book. Yoga class at my local gym. Boof took Potamus to the store and to watch the Blue Angels land at Boeing field while I got a chance to write. There was downtime for me. And yet, my nerves were shot. The brushing teeth struggle particularly highlighted it, while he, yet again would not brush his teeth without a rabid coyote battle, I cussed and imagined myself smashing every dish in the house.

I bowed out of bedtime routine and watched trashy TLC TV while self-loathing on York peppermint patties.

My Queen Mother rage inside me is frightening. My unpredictable emotions scare me, and I look into the face of my sweetness and think about how I must be breaking his spirit, or creating a fear of pissing me off in him, like I’ve somehow managed to do in every other person who knows me. The flashbacks to the time in high school when I was so out of control with rage that I was throwing glasses on the ground in a giant 15 year old tantrum of depression and not being understood plays in my mind. Knowing that exists inside me is scary as fuck.

I woke up this morning in a different place. Potamus snuggled into me and said, “I want to be big like mommy and daddy.” Some of my softness had returned, and so I explored, “what do you mean buddy.” “Just, I want to do things like mommy and daddy. Like play ball. And be big.”

“Is it hard that you’re little, and mommy and daddy make you do things you don’t want to do, like brush your teeth.”

“Yeah,” he said, burrowing his head into my neck.

“Yeah, it’s hard for mommy and daddy, too. We tell you to do those things because we want you to grow up to be big like mommy and daddy. It would be more fun if we didn’t have to make you do those things.”

My heart is tender today. I feel so bad for this sensitive kid I’m raising. I feel bad for myself as a sensitive parents, who gets so overstimulated that I shut down and act like an insane person. I’m glad for re-connection and perspective. Maybe I’ll be able to take it going forward, when I forget my compassion and empathy.