In our years among the red rock mesas in Abiquiu, NM, we had daily encounters with coyotes, ravens, lizards, jackrabbits, and the many others who flew, crawled, nested, rooted, and migrated in these lands. My curiosity, love, and sense-awareness were enlivened by living close-in with the wild ones. All the while, my four-legged friend, Jasmine, was teaching me about being part of a pack.
One morning on our walk in the mesas, I had to return home before Jasmine was ready. Come-when-you’re-called was not a dynamic built into our relationship, much to my chagrin at times. Yet truthfully, I admired and cheered on Jasmine’s uncompromising canine spirit which needed ample room to roam.
So on this beautiful morning in the mesas, I tried to quiet my worries as I headed back toward home. Was I leaving my dog in danger? Memories of our wild dog encounters drifted through my mind. Being tracked by coyotes as Jasmine and I wandered through the arroyos. A mama coyote guiding a river of pups to higher ground. Jasmine and the coyotes playing together. Raven intervening on Jasmine’s behalf when she put herself right in the middle of the coyotes’ rabbit hunt. And the many many times I wondered if I’d ever see Jasmine again as she exuberantly ran up and over a ridge, bounding toward a coyote pack.
Jasmine was intent on claiming the mesas as her territory, even though the wild dogs were here long before we showed up. And still, something magical was happening. There was mystery in the connections being woven among us, something I couldn’t quite yet see.
When I heard Jasmine’s urgent barking, I instantly turned back. She was sounding an alert with her communication. The time on the clock and my scheduled meeting suddenly became much less important. I needed to see what Jasmine was telling me about.
Around the bend in the path came Jasmine, running full out with long-legged strides, galloping toward the gate in the fence. Behind her, surrounding her, close at her heels, was a pack of coyotes. I was awestruck by the beauty of the dogs running together. The coyotes’ thick fur flowed with the grace of their light-footed dance upon the red earth. Jasmine lead the way.
With a jolt of awareness, I realized Jasmine was running for her life. I stood in the middle of the path, clapping my hands like a drumbeat and calling out in a sing-song voice, “Hey, hey, hey.” The coyotes abruptly stopped in their tracks, watching, sensing, sniffing the air. Then they silently stepped away, disappearing into the sagebrush. Jasmine rushed past me to get inside the gate.
There was a cut on the inside of one of her back legs. My Mama Bear instincts, an immense protective love, came all the more alive. Jasmine gave me a few moments to examine the wound, then she wandered off into the fenced area around our house. No matter how many times I walked the three acres of land, calling for her, setting out water and food, Jasmine could not be found. She’d retreated into a secret den, tending to her healing in her natural canine ways.
I was delighted when Jasmine appeared around sunset. She was resting beneath the branches of a juniper tree near the house. As I walked toward her, she raised up on all fours and stared intently at me with wildness in her eyes. She seemed to be assessing if I was friend or foe. I gently spoke and joined Jasmine beneath the juniper tree, breathing in the soothing evergreen fragrance. As I pet Jasmine’s velvety ears, I could feel the tension in her body melt away. Eventually she walked with me back indoors, her tail wagging. She was ravenous. I too enjoyed a feast in celebration of her homecoming.
Yet the question that had been gnawing on me all afternoon kept me awake much of the night. How could we co-exist on the land – Jasmine, the coyotes, and me?
What is the part that each of us had in this communal place we call home? As unique individuals? As members of diverse species? As co-creators of life?
The next morning, I gathered up my medicine bundles and walked out on the mesas by myself. I wanted to hold a ceremony with and for the Coyote Nation, to deepen our connection and communication, to explore this question I couldn’t answer on my own.
I needed Coyotes’ input on how to weave balance and harmony in our relationships. Because my Mama Bear protection didn’t only wrap itself around Jasmine. I loved the coyotes too. As well as the many others on the mesas. Ravens and Red Rocks. Sagebrush and Snakes. Butterflies and Monsoons. Elk, Praying Mantis, and Piñon Pines. They were my friends, teachers, companions and guides.
Sitting on a boulder with a horizon to horizon view, I gave offerings and made an altar for our ceremony. I reached out to connect with Coyote Nation, honoring the wild dogs in the sacred smoke of the ceremonial pipe, and offered up my question as a prayer: How can we co-exist on the land?
Somewhere in our conversation, Coyote let me know that they are hunters. They were very clear about not being interested in acquiescing, in giving up their natural ways, in being forced to become something they’re not. I shared my deep respect, appreciation, and understanding. I asked if Jasmine could please not be the target of their hunt. I asked if we both could continue to walk about on the lands as I understood we were moving around in the coyotes’ territory. I appreciated this gift of being on the mesas which so enriched my life and fed my heart and spirit, and the life and heart and spirit of Jasmine too. I respected Coyote’s thriving existence in this ecosystem. Jasmine and I were the newcomers. I wanted to be respectful guests, visitors, lovers of this land, travelers passing through, not intruders or a threat.
I can’t say an immediate response came from Coyote in any form of English words. There really was no binding contract to be made. No one was entitled to take power-over anybody else, to judge or confine, to recklessly disregard.
We were weaving fibers of connection, making structures in our web, fiber by fiber, sharing by sharing, asking and listening, step by step. There was curiosity and clarifying of our purposes and passions. And we were all sitting in the mystery of what would happen next. There were many unknowns. There were boundless potentials and possibilities in how our relationships would continue to be woven, in what would unfold in the days, weeks, months, change of seasons, new cycles and generations to come.
That’s the organic aliveness of the natural world. That’s the wildness of the wilderness. That’s what the coyotes know, live, experience, and express. That’s what I wanted too. Joining up with it all. Being part of it all. With respect, appreciation, and love.
That was my quest on the mesas – weaving harmony in the connections among a curly-tailed dog, her person, and a wild coyote pack.
That is my quest for this lifetime – being a weaver of webs of balance.
That is my dream for the now and the future of our earth – to find our way back home, as humans, to our natural belonging, our heart-centered ways of living, collaborating and connecting in the extraordinary web of life.
With gratitude for my beloved Jasmine and Coyotes, the exquisite teachings of the wild dogs,
Manaole U Manaole,
from my heart to the heart of the mother earth to your heart,