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.