April 17, 2008
I am working with a book I got at Manzanita News in Manzanita Beach called Crone Trekking in Coyote Land: A Storymaking Book by local Nehalem author Gwendolyn Endicott. She retells the famous story of Coyote and the Cedar Tree. After I read the story, following her suggestion, I made a list of the images that I remembered from the story, chose one and drew it.
Later, when I did this with my 18-21 year old students, not one of them listed as an image Coyote trapped in the Cedar Tree calling out for help, and six out of sixteen of them drew the beam of light from outside the tree going down the little hole to Coyote. This still startles me, as I believe it is symbolic of each of our generations.
I understand what it is to be Coyote, caught in a jam of his own making, held unmoving in the grasp of a situation where the only remedy is to dismantle the self limb by limb, push the parts through the hole and to have to reassemble myself on the other side.
But what does it mean to be the age where I am the beam of light shining down the Woodpecker’s breathing hole to Coyote?
The second image I did working with this story was Raven stealing Coyote’s eyeballs. This strikes me as macabre and funny; I always see Raven as some trickster shadow of death. Raven is gallows humor. Interestingly, three of my students also drew this image, but I’m already guessing they did so attracted by some very different energy than that which I perceived.
The next story was “Ice and White Sea Otter Woman” in which Nehalem fishermen paddle to a spirit world, enter a shining lodge, find a beautiful woman, and the youngest asks her to come home with them. “And the woman came with the man willingly, carrying only a small, woven basket. She held the basket on her lap as the men made their long journey homeward, back toward Neahkahnie.”
I was drawn by that pure moment of willingness. She is sitting happily in the canoe and all is promise. She is bringing a wonderful bride gift to her new family.
Of course, this story doesn’t end well. Like Pandora’s box, the men get to thinking it might be a food box. It is trickster Ice who tears the box from her hands even though the others warn him, “Do not bother her; you do not know her.”
He sees with revulsion little living human beings in the basket and throws it overboard. Of course, she dives in after it saying, “Those are my lucky lifetimes,” the gift of eternal life she had been bringing to the people, lost now, and Ice and his buddies cursed to paddle forever. “The men paddled and paddled, but the harder they paddled, the further they drifted from Neahkahnie.”