— by Susan Eirich, PhD —
Willow the coyote was on her back screaming convincingly as Streak, a male, stood over her growling mightily, touching not a hair on her body. But she certainly was making him feel powerful! This was a regular occurrence in their coyote politics.
The drama started very early in their relationship. Willow had been rescued from a den at a golf course and we were taking care of her in our cabin. After a couple of weeks young Streak arrived. In spite of the fact that the cabin was already her territory and he was smaller and younger, when he approached her for the first time, she looked at him, paused a moment, flipped on her back and submitted. In theory.
When they were old enough, we moved them outside together. As they matured Streak attempted to dominate her more and more. She responded with ever increasing drama, shrieking as if she were being ripped apart, delicate legs waving piteously in the air. Streak would be on his tiptoes standing astride her snarling ferociously. It all looked so very real. Kind visitors would worry. They didn’t understand that she was a force to be reckoned with.
One day I was standing by them getting ready to feed them juicy green grapes. Willow was on her back waving and screaming. I was standing behind her head as she carried on. I accidently dropped a grape. It rolled past her left ear. Without missing a beat she turned her head, snapped up the grape and returned to her original position, continuing with her ear-piercing yelps. Streak, concentrating on his dominating, never noticed a thing.
How did she do it? She couldn’t even see the grape until it became level with the corner of her left eye, and it was rolling pretty fast. There was a nanosecond of opportunity between when she could have seen the movement, recognize it as food, roll her head to the left, and grab it. But to be able to notice it in the midst of such drama, focus on it, realize what it was, act on it while carrying on for Streak – that was impressive. And to have the presence of mind to snap back into position as if nothing had happened . . .
I wish I could have seen the look in her eye but I wasn’t in the right position. I can only speculate. But after witnessing that event, whenever I heard the cries from anywhere on the ranch, I would have a little thrill of appreciation for the sheer acting skill of it. Talent should always be appreciated.
Willow’s presence on this Earth was both in the form of Coyote, and as a very specific individual with a particular personality. She was irrepressible. Resilient. Adaptable. And so are most animals, including human. We talk about the resilience of the human spirit and how powerful it is. I agree. We just don’t always recognize that resilience is inherent in all living beings. That Life itself is irrepressible.
Willow tapped in to, and was an expression of, that universal life force. Which she used to unabashedly express herself and achieve her own ends. We are all tapped into it, some more than others (we say of certain people – he/she is a force of nature). The good news is that we can learn to tap into it more.
Though we have the power to affect it, it is helpful to remember that we are not in charge of Life. That Life has its own force; its own trajectory and we don’t control it. It springs forth, in the most incredible places and circumstances. There are physicists who suggest that intelligence and Life are innate properties of the universe. If so, despite all the tragedies we cause as humans, current and future, and with full respect due them, it is a comfort to know that we cannot destroy Life; only some of its forms, and that given half a chance it will spring back. Life is bigger than us; is endlessly creative, and will express itself despite all we do. But it is better to value it, honor it, work with it, because then we can ensure that it thrives as it did before our onslaught, the skies dark with migrating birds, earth teeming with bison, enormous schools of fish, exuberant Life ever changing ever the same, and we basking in the energy and beauty of it all.