Coyote Jones

Thoughts on Coyote

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I was reluctant to identify as a coyote-like creature for a very long time. Coyotes, after all, are scrawny, a poor imitation of wolves, yipping instead of haunting howling, bone in place of muscle, a habit of attacking livestock, and the weight of thousands of years of oral stories placing them as the ambiguous trickster at best, and an evil coward at worst. Not an animal that many people would be proud to identify with.

But it's not really like that for me. For one, I choose to disregard the myths that were likely based on the frustrations of an Indigenous community who experienced coyotes as pests, rather than as magnificent teachers, like wolves. Those stories were real for their people at one time, but they don't translate well into my lived experience in 2016. They don't translate well to my knowledge of coyotes and their behaviour.

Coyotes are vital to their ecosystems, an apex predator. They aren't inferior to wolves, only different. There is a tribe who refers to wolves as "big coyotes". Coyotes are brave. Coyotes are tough as nails. Coyotes are true survivors.

Anyone who says otherwise is someone who I suspect would also dislike boringly common city wildlife like squirrels and pigeons and sparrows. They're too common, and therefore (somehow) less worthy of respect. I don't understand it. Every animal has its own story and its own role to play, no matter how common or how adaptable.

I respect mice and voles and sparrows and salamanders and the snow leopard.

The deeper you go into science, the more you come to appreciate the role and beauty of even a common insect. I've heard from hundreds of science grads who've chosen to study a small shrimp in the Arctic or a tick or another nondescript creature, falling in love with it, after their initial goals of studying charismatic large predators.

Hell, I'd study trees if I could be paid for it. Or the role in ecosystems of decaying trees.

Or the salamander.

Common does not equal uninteresting. To paraphrase from a crow book, how can someone know so little about the species that occupy their own backyards?

And yet want to know more about tigers or timber wolves.

Start with your own backyard.

Coyotes are only Coyote in a human sense. Coyote stories run orthogonal to the actual lived experiences of coyotes, the animals. Coyote is a human construction who matters to coyote people, human coyotes, but it's not like studying an orthodox text and memorizing the rules. Coyote breaks the rules. Coyote teaches survival and critical thinking. Young Coyote is violent and selfish and spiritually immature, but Old Coyote is the wise fool. Coyote provides a blueprint for coyote-folk to grow up, psychologically and spiritually, to become survivors and peripheral leaders, to share the sacred stories and devise their own in the old traditions.

Coyote was formerly the twin of Lynx, and I think Lynx is worth studying and understanding for coyote-people. Old Coyote understands it better. The need for ethics, the knowledge of when rules can and should be changed, the deep respect and appreciation for nature. The sacredness of a desert. How to live in the wilderness or partial wilderness and how to live in the city as a human animal. The need to confront the harder questions in life with an open heart. The need to learn about physical and psychological survival with a cunning mind. The eventual understanding of the paradoxes in life.

Coyote isn't bad. To echo what a good friend once said, Coyote teaches the value of altruism.

Coyote grows up and learns to get over his own selfish nature. He demonstrates acts of selfishness still to teach his community a lesson in the value of altruism.

He (or she) teaches the need for joy, and the need for the ability to laugh at oneself occasionally. To laugh at others: schadenfreude, not necessarily in a mean sense, but because mistakes are something that everybody is prone to making.

He or she can be male or female in this age, or both, or neither.

She teaches the healing power of narrative and the healing power of music.

She teaches the need to understand the communications of the other species who surround us.

She teaches when to keep your head down to avoid a major conflict, while sipping a green-brown psychedelic brew from a soup bowl.

She teaches how to move with a unique geometry to avoid harm from unethical businesses or work places, while still staying true to yourself, speaking in half-truths, hiding your heart in your tail.

She teaches women how to skillfully navigate the patriarchy without compromising herself.

Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run.

Coyote is a complicated animal. The meanness and immaturity in some of those stories is a felt truth, but the overall story is that petty qualities can be overcome. If Coyote can do it, so can you. It's a story of redemption and survival and the need to work with your own darker qualities.

To other human coyotes:

You are fire and dust. Love many but trust few. Hold your heart in your tail. You are nobody and you are everything. Know that, above all, you can survive, and laugh the type of laugh that echoes from long-dry river-winnowed canyon walls that smell of baked dust, welcoming the freezing night.
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  1. Kisota's Avatar
    I remember on the first therian board I joined, a wolf person, old enough to know better, said something about how he'd always thought of coyotes as sort of "wannabe wolves." At the time there was part of me that felt similar, though I was at the beginnings of my little back-and-forth crisis about it.

    Someone thankfully spoke up to say how silly it was to think of wild animals in terms like that. But still, his words affected me and I realized how ingrained that thinking was me. I didn't really want to be a coyote-like animal either. On most human metrics, wolves just seem BETTER - they're bigger, stronger, more social, and to many people, more aesthetically pleasing.

    Nowadays I think back to that and cringe. How common it is for people to, in one way or another, think of wolves as this superior, amazing, pinnacle of wildness and intelligence and beauty that others cannot hope to match. GAG. Obviously that is a silly way to think of wild animals in general, since they're all just adapted to their own niches. Besides, who's to say that wolves aren't wannabe coyotes, envious of the coyotes' adaptability and skills at feeding themselves without a group's help? I'm being a bit facetious, but still. Sigh.

    I like to think of the myths and stories surrounding animals as sort of being colorful pearls built around a little sand grain of truth about the real animal. Maybe some of the pearls were built around something that isn't sand at all, but there's oftentimes SOMETHING in a tale that links it, however distantly, to the "real deal."

    My experience as a coyote person is a lot more sand than pearls. But over time, now that I think about it, our individual grains of "sand" can certainly grow their own pearls. A coyote person can take an experience as a coyote and that lived experience can grow into something occasionally more reminiscent of Coyote.

    And we can dissect the stories to find truths either about coyotes or ourselves... sometimes both.

    I need to write my own experience of the more capital-C aspects of being a coyote person. I still haven't gotten around to it. :/ But there's a lot here I can relate to!

    I'm having trouble articulating the rest of my thoughts, and I'm not quite well yet, so I'll leave it at that for now.
    Updated April 6th, 2016 at 05:44 PM by Kisota