Old Man Coyote decided that life would be a lot easier for him if all the easy marks in the world would announce themselves. He wouldn't have to work so hard at finding all the suckers that he could dupe. He thought long and hard about it and finally in a flash of sheer inspiration he came up with an answer. He invented the smiley face. Now all he had to do was look for the bumper stickers or lapel pins or that cute little face that people draw by their names, and he could easily go about his business.
I call the Sierra foothills above where I grew up Coyote’s landscape. In more primal times there were four main predators apart from man. They were grizzly bear, wolf, mountain lion, and coyote. Grizzly bear and wolf have been eliminated, although grizzly bear ironically still appears on our state flag.
Lion keeps to its secretive ways. I know that I am being watched, but I don’t quite know from where. Coyote just keeps on keeping on through guile and perseverance. We’re never quite able to put our finger on him. Coyote of course is the trickster of Native American myth, along with Crow. Ethnologists have always been trying to pin him down. He is this thing, but no, he’s that. Coyote is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of the mind, the quantum trickster.
In the past, I have had an uneasy relationship with Coyote. I found it difficult to maintain a close relationship with a God that can allow Coyote to exist in the infinite wisdom of things. Where in the realm of love is there justification for some scurrilous Coyote who would just as soon take your money and laugh and run as do anything else? How do you maintain a relationship with that? Where are love, compassion, and kindness when Coyote is always lurking around?
I’ll tell you what I now know of old Coyote. Coyote represents our own capacities for constant self-deception and also represents God’s attempt to shock us out of our stupor of predictability. As soon as I think that I know something fully, Coyote will quickly, unceremoniously let me know that I don’t. If I am unawake, Coyote will steal me blind, but it is only because I am blind and asleep. He will always bite me in the ass if I am not aware. Always.