Coyote Spirit

Coyote Spirit
Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/
Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

I could have walked the hard stone trails of pale yellow and brown with my eyes closed. I know her sacred land of brittle grasses and lingering flowers like no other. “Why have I been away so long?” I wondered as a parked at the Coyote Wall trailhead.

The brief respite from the drought disappeared behind September-blue skies and friendly clouds. I slipped out of my raincoat shoving it into my pack. A t-shirt would be plenty.

My old friend beckoned my weary and wounded heart between precipice and boulder.  Step by step my heart walked trails well-worn by feet and baked by a summer of merciless sun and no rain. As in past journeys up the exposed fields, the coyote spirit led my mind through my to-comes, my are-nows, and my once-weres.

An old friend, I thought we’d gather beside her fallen Zen rocks and laugh about old times. Remembering my foibles of immaturity when we first met, she held my hand near her wall. But no matter how familiar, coyote spirit always teaches the lesson I need when I visit.

Turning east before reaching her Zen chapel, I trudged toward a cluster of trees. As I did, the damp wind blew behind me. First a smell and then drops caused me to open my pack and slip on the raincoat I thought I wouldn’t need. Mentally rehearsing my route back to the car, my old friend had another plan as she lay another trail before me.

I didn’t question her. I’ve long since learned that coyote spirit never reveals her mystery until she’s ready. And, so, I moved across switchbacks that my muscles had never traversed or maybe my mind had just forgotten.

Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/
Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

I met an angry dog in the mist. Wondering whether I’d be huffing back to my car with bloody hand or leg, I spoke to the territorial canine. He wagged and turned around as if to say, “Oh, you’re coyote’s friend. You belong.”

Confused about my location, I wondered again whether I’d bitten off more miles than I wanted. Step by step I hiked into the coyote’s wet breath until a junction lay before me.

I’d been here many times before but it took awhile for me to recognize the blazing bush before me. Without conscious thought I knew which direction was mine. Contentment befell me as I existed within the life force of this holy place.

Remembering other trips through the wilderness — some in which I was baptized in rain and others immersed in sweat — I trekked and paused to peer at coyote’s wall.

She always delivers, though on her own schedule. Wandering mind and focused heart, I would walk or stumble until my old friend gave me the glimpse for which I’d come.

The blue replaced the grey and a ray touched the still-thirsty earth unveiling a delicate pink flower. I knelt before its beauty worshiping in the are-now, thankful for the once-weres, and hopeful for the to-come. 

Back at the trailhead I placed my pack on the front seat beside me. “Until next time,” I said as waved goodbye to my ever-present friend.

Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/
Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

A Whisper of a Trail

A Whisper of a Trail
Photo by Tim Graves

The well-worn trail begins along a crumbling former highway, passes between boulders and rocky paths and at one spot even features its own stone steps. Nonetheless, it is essentially a switchback trail through an arid, grassy field. The switchback reaches near the cliff-edge periodically before returning to safer parts.

There is, however, a whisper of a trail that follows the edge. Rocky, steep, and risky, the almost non-path gives freely of itself if you get close enough to the edge. Though holy, this is not a place for the erratic; the wisp of a trail requires steady, sure footedness particularly in damp weather. It requires risk and a willingness to trust that the Gorge winds will be faithful and gentle near the edge. Coyote Wall’s height is unforgiving.

A mere fifteen feet from the sacred ground – marked by large Zen rocks – the sotto voce trail becomes silent. Guarded by rocks, the silence of the trail physically models the pilgrim’s hushed posture approaching the holy place.

Photo by Tim Graves

Whether the culmination of my journey is the flowery meadow that overlooks Mt. Hood or the tall firs that crown the Coyote Wall, I always pause at the Zen Rocks. I bask in the warmth of the One who connects me to the ground beneath my feet, the mist that flows over the wall, and who loves with abandon.

Typically, I lay on the ground, arms wide, opening myself to the love that is in the universe. I level with God, confessing sins, and ask for help. I feel the arms of Mother Earth wrap around me. The peace of the Spirit settles over me as my breathing slows and the sunshine or the mist dance on my face.

When I am ready, I rise and continue my journey upward toward the meadow or back down the wall to my daily life.

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