Coyote crossed 20 feet ahead from left to right, ears forward, intent on something ahead of him and to my right. He never looked at me. I shouted at him, he ignored me. I lowered my mountain bike to the ground, the clatter got his attention and he loped away looking over his shoulder. I followed to the top of the knob and spotted him already 50 yards down the slope making his sinuous way to the top of another, lower rock outcrop. He stood atop his outcrop and I atop mine. He looked at me and tossed his head. I tossed mine. We exchanged head nods three or four times before he tired of my obtuseness and trotted away, over the top and down the backside gulch. What’s your message, Trickster?
Coyote stole Fire from the Fire Beings and gave it to The People. He showed The People how to retrieve it from Wood, where he had it hidden. The Fire Beings protected Fire and kept it from humans lest we become more powerful than they. Coyote said he gave us Fire to keep the old ones warm and the young ones alive in the winter. But really the Trickster gave us enough rope to hang ourselves. We took stolen Fire, learned its ways and so knew we were gods.
There be gods fifty miles off the coast of Louisiana. I was on my sailboat one night, threading thru hundreds of offshore oil rigs. As I neared them, they issued a weird chirp-chirp by way of initial warning. If I sailed closer, they sounded a booming blat of imperious warning. These were robot rigs and the automatic noise-making utilized sophisticated motion sensing technology. But approaching an uncharted pumping platform, I was threatened by flesh and blood private security. Spotted on night vision goggles, they hailed me on the radio and shadowed me with a lights-out, invisible gunboat. Satisfied I was no threat to the nation’s oil supply, they let me pass. Gas flares and rig lights glowed ghastly yellow in the hazy, warm night over the sulfurous ocean like a scene from Apocalypse Now.
Some gods, Coyote laughs; some paradise, nice work.
Dont listen to him…..and do not dismay, there is a way out, an escape if we are wise enough to take it.
Yesterday, in Sycamore Canyon, at the top of the hill, after pedaling my bicycle up a long hard climb, I sat on a large rock, winded and happy. Above, I heard the caw of ravens and the cree of a hawk. I looked up, expecting to see a battle royale; ravens diving on hawks but instead saw 10, 14, 18 big birds riding a developing thermal over my knob of rock. Seven ravens, two hawks and nine buzzards made up the gaggle. I watched them circle and call to each other; riding the invisible column – no combat, no competition, just a calm Sunday morning soar amongst fellow aviators. At the top, where the air condensed into cloud, they tucked wings and jetted off joyously in all directions intent on bird business. Laughing, I climbed on my bike and did the same – rocketing and bouncing, joyous and fierce – downhill to home.
We can choose to re-unite with Nature, fall in love with it, to see it as our sacred source. We can reverse the tide, undo the damage. We can choose not to be gods. We aren’t very good at it anyway.
Hiway 225 in Houston runs east-west about 2 miles away and parallel to Buffalo Bayou, the primary marine thoroughfare into the port of Houston from Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The hiway is lined with refineries between it and the Bayou. 15 miles of industrial refinement; 25 percent of the petroleum product consumed by the US is refined here. It is ground zero of our oil-based society. Sometimes, the fumes are so bad, you dare not breathe as you drive 70 mph between the stacks and tanks and pipes and flares. Every couple of years there is an explosion and good men die. This is us, this is the cost when we get in our cars, heat our homes, light our nights, fly our airplanes. A few years ago some intrepid souls canoed from downtown Houston the length of the bayou, past the refineries and tankers and old wrecked wharves to the Bay. It was an epic adventure published by the Houston Press (read about it here).
We can choose to end our illusion of mastery. We can choose to worship the beauty of nature and our part in it. Nature will welcome us back.
I used to hike to a secret bald outcrop 600 feet above the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Washington State. From there, I could see down the Strait to the Pacific – the San Juan’s and Vancouver Island to the right, the Olympic peninsula and its spectacular blue-green snow streaked mountains to the left. The outgoing tide created a tidal rip about 1/2 mile offshore. The moon lured the water out of the bays and inlets and sent it spinning seaward down the strait. The water swirled, lunatic. I saw a tall spout in the inter-tidal boundary between incoming and outgoing water. Then another – six quick breathy spouts blossomed from a pod of gray whales hunting the tide rip in a scene from eons ago – or tomorrow.
We act as though we are outside Nature, not part of it. Coyote’s gift of Fire made us boorish gods. The good news is – it cant last. Either we choose to return to Nature, or be consigned to its evolutionary trash bin.
Coyote barks below my window most evenings. He feeds his family in the dry wash outside and they exult in the largess. I hear them snarl and growl and yip as they gorge. They are free wild animals showing me how to live in an eight-lane landscape of sprawl, greed and ruin. After; if the moon is right, they sing and I rejoice with them. We are made of hope and love and wild stardust and so we sing. Flowers bloom where the irrigation from the lawns and gardens at the top of the park runs off and seeps into the parched canyon. The water irrigates grass, then flowers, then rabbits, then coyotes. A lost jack russell terrier is postered at the park entrance – I smile, shake my head. Coyotes.