Alone in the Woods : Part 4 – Unexpected Relationships

When Grandfather Coyote finished speaking, he retreated back into the shadowy woods.  Dinner was called and the drizzling rain came heavier and faster.  Little Girl knew she had to do something about her sad little tent and the puddles inside, so she grabbed a tarp, some twine, and a shovel, and ran to her tent site.  This time, she slowed before entering the area, apologized whole heartedly for her rudeness before, and asked the plants and ground in the area if she could stay there.

The mood changed, from disconnection, to warmth and friendship.  Little Girl stood, awestruck.  The feeling saturated her.  Approaching her tent she threw her tarp over the top, and worked the cords through the grommets and around the little branches of the blueberry bushes.  As Little Girl wrapped the cords around the branches, she asked permission.  The thought that returned was, “Yes, you may use my branches, but please remember to untie me when you leave.”

“Of course!” Little Girl promised as she worked.  Next she began digging around her tent to help the water flow away.  There were many roots from trees and bushes in the way, so she carefully worked with her hands to create little trenches through the roots without cutting them with her shovel.  “I’m sorry to disturb your roots,” she said, “I promise to put the dirt back when I leave!”

Little Girl sensed the trees and bushes were all right with her and her promise.  She felt a connection she had never felt before.  She began to understand why some Native American’s call plants “the Plant People.”  To Little Girl, the bushes and trees no longer felt like greenery in the background, the trees and bushes she spoke with felt very personal and friendly.

Later that night, when it was time for Little Girl to walk the path to her tent, she had a very different experience.  The rain was falling, like the night before.  It was very dark, like the night before.  Little Girl had her flashlight, like the night before, but everything was different.  No longer did the blueberry bushes grab at Little Girl’s coat and pants as she pushed by.  No longer did the shadows jump and menace, frightening her.  No longer did the tall pine trees moan a warning.  Instead, Little Girl walked freely through the paths to her tent, without any trouble.  The shadows were calm and still.  Even the trees, swaying in the wind, rain falling in the darkness, seemed to be saying, “You’re home.  Welcome.  Come rest with us.”

Little Girl walked on in wonderment, amazed at the change.  She got into her tent and settled in for the rainy, wet night, but this time Little Girl drifted off to sleep to the sounds of gentle rain playing softly to her sleepy head.  What love and comfort she received by giving so little.  Through her small acts of respect, and kindness, and awareness, of all that was around her, Little Girl discovered unexpected relationships that would remain with her, for the rest of her life.

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Alone in the Woods : Part 3 – The Lecture

Morning came too soon, yet not soon enough for the shivering child.  In her struggle to keep warm and dry, Little Girl had piled her sweaters and jacket under her sleeping bag so the cold from the ground wouldn’t chill her.  The puddles that formed in her tent from the leaky roof had to be avoided, and her belongings moved around, as the puddles grew, to avoid getting wet.  Little Girl was sleepy, but glad the night was over.  She was new to camping alone.  In the past, someone else had always been around to take care of her.

Little Girl dressed and pulled on her wool socks and fleece lined boots, still wet from the night before.  After the warmth of the sleeping bag her feet objected to the cold, wet socks and boots, but as Little Girl walked through the drizzle toward the main camp, she was surprised how quickly her feet warmed up.

Others were also emerging from their tents and moving toward the central fire.  Gusty greetings rang out across the open woods and smiles shown on faces.  Their shared adventure was bonding the children together, and the rain couldn’t diminish their excitement.  They were in Grandfather Coyote’s camp.  What would the day bring?

The young coyotes, Grandfather’s grandchildren, were already up, preparing for the day.  The visiting children were given a meager breakfast of thin soup while they talked excitedly among themselves, sharing stories of why they had followed the old coyote into the woods.

As the children were finishing their meal, Grandfather Coyote emerged from the thickest, shadowy part of the forest, walking slowly and quietly, head down, somber.  No longer was he the tongue lolling, winking, playful coyote that had enticed the children into the woods.  Instead, the children saw an old, worn, worried coyote, deep in thought.  Everyone’s attention was on Grandfather Coyote.

The children waited, watching as Grandfather Coyote slowly  moved toward them.  He did not look at up, but seemed completely and utterly unaware of them, so deep was he in thought.  Then Grandfather Coyote looked up.  The look of sadness in his eyes shocked Little Girl.  Coyotes eyes told the story of deep worry, and experiences beyond understanding.  Grandfather’s eyes also showed love, and anguish; anger, and grief.  That moment he looked up, into her eyes, Little Girl saw . . . no . . . felt his soul.  At that moment, something shifted inside her, though she didn’t know what.

Grandfather Coyote sat quietly, looking down, up, then down again, eyebrows meshed, as if he were trying to decide what to say.  Finally he looked at them and spoke, in deep, low tones, “Hello grandchildren.”

‘Grandchildren’? Little Girl was startled by the word and wondered, ‘Is he talking to us?  What does he mean, “grandchildren?”‘

“Yes,” the old coyote said, “I said, “grandchildren.” You followed this old coyote into the woods . . . you are searching for something . . . just as I followed an old coyote into the woods.  You are all part of my family now.  You have a home here.”

Again, somewhere inside Little Girl she felt a shift, like an opening up of something.  Again, she didn’t understand it, but it felt good.  She felt a connection forming with her new Grandfather and this new family.

Grandfather Coyote talked to the children at length about the Grandfather Coyote who taught him, and other coyotes from the past.  He spoke of the worlds we live in: the Physical, the Spiritual, and the Spirit That Moves In And Through All Things . . . sometimes called the Force.  He said, “Everything that lives in the physical also lives in the World of Spirit and in the Force.  This includes everything, even all animals, all plants, all rocks, all elements, like water, air, — everything.”  He spoke of relationships, how we are all connected, how we all have awareness; even all animals, all plants, and all the elements.

Little Girl thought about that.  She had believed that animals had spirits and even that the earth itself had a spirit, but she had not thought much about plants, rocks, water and air having awareness.  Does that mean they have feelings?

“How did you approach the area you pitched your tents?” the old coyote asked.  “Do you realize that when you walked into that area, you were walking into someone’s home?”

The children stared blankly at Grandfather Coyote, and glanced worriedly at each other.

“How would you like it if a stranger came into your house and pitched their tent in the middle of your living room, hammering stakes into your beautiful floor?” Grandfather Coyote growled, “That place, where you pitched your tent, is home to every plant, animal, and rock that lives in there!”  He paused for effect.  “Wouldn’t it be considered good manners to ask permission before you waltz in and take over?”    The horror in the old coyote’s eyes was unmistakable as he pointed out the rudeness of his new grandchildren.  “Wouldn’t it be good manners to treat everything in that area with the same respect you would want for yourself?” he asked, incredulously.

All the children looked down, every one guilty in their ignorance.

Grandfather was quiet for a minute, then, as he looked into their eyes he said softly . . . kindly . . . “You didn’t know . . .   You couldn’t have known . . . No one taught you.”

The children looked into his eyes, gratefully.  Little Girl felt she had been forgiven for her mistake.

When Grandfather Coyote excused them for dinner he offhandedly suggested they might want to go and thank the areas they camped in, and express their gratitude.

To be continued . . .

Alone in the Woods : Part 2

Little Girl followed a ways behind Coyote, following his trail of trodden grass and scattered seeds.  The trail led her on a wander, turning this way and that, criss crossing other trails and roads, without time or destination, until the trail ended at a border of tall pine trees.  Little Girl cautiously approached, not sure which way Grandfather Coyote had gone.  She entered the woods.

Tall pitch pines were scattered naturally.  Little scrub oaks and blackjack oaks between, trying to reach up and touch the knees of the pines.  Here and there were pretty leaves of red maples fluttering in the breeze, with blueberry bushes and tiny wintergreen plants covering the ground.  ‘This is beautiful!’ she thought.

As she continued along a vague trail, she heard voices.  The further she went the louder the voices sounded until she saw three young boys chattering away.  The boys looked at her, smiling, and asked, “Are you following the coyote?”

“Yes,” she answered, looking from one boy to the other, “How did you know?”

They laughed.  “You’re on the path of the coyote!” they answered, ” We’re following him too!”  The boys were flooded with excitement.  Little Girl felt safe and happy and her excitement flowed with theirs.  She liked them immediately.  One of the boys, Little Seal, was used to adventure and knew about being in the woods.  Another boy, Little Trader, had traveled the world.  The third, Good With Numbers,  was following Grandfather Coyote because he, like Little Girl, was looking for something, but didn’t know what.

Little Girl walked with them, swapping rumors about Grandfather Coyote, feeling grateful for companionship.

Eventually they came to a large opening in the pines where they saw a whole pack of coyotes.  There were other children there too, cautiously entering the place and looking for Grandfather Coyote, but none of the children saw him.  The day was growing old, and before dark the children each wandered into the nearby woods to set up tents.

Little girl walked down various trails looking for an empty space.  She found a vacant patch of ground quite a ways from the coyote clearing, set up the tent she brought, and returned to the main camp where the evening fire had been lit.  Greetings and introductions lasted into the night as all the children met the young coyotes.  By full dark a storm had set in and fat raindrops began to fall.  The wind picked up and Little Girl left the warm fire to go to bed.

The trail to her tent was dark.  The little light she carried cast jumping shadows through the wet blueberry bushes that pressed against her and snatched at her arms and legs, catching her coat and pants as she pushed through.  The wind began to howl and in the growing darkness she could make out the tall pines swaying and menacing, as if in warning.  Little Girl felt small and alone as she hurried along, trying to be brave.  As she searched the trail, Little Girl worried she would not find her tent in the darkness. She searched each little side trail.  Shadows continued to jump in jerky, spooky movements as her light played off the branches along the trail.  The twigs of the bushes continued to grab at her.  Panic rose in her heart.

Finally, she released a long breath.  There was her tent.  Little Girl climbed in, crawled into her sleeping bag, and pulled the covers over her head, but that didn’t stop her from hearing the rain pound on her leaking roof.  That sleepless night was one of tossing, and listening.  ‘Are there coyotes running around my tent, playing tricks on me?’ she wondered, ‘Or does the rain sound like running feet?’  Little Girl peeked out into the darkness, over and over, to make sure she was alone.  Even so, the sounds she heard fooled her still and she could have sworn coyotes were running around and around her tent all night long.

To be continued . . .

Alone in the Woods : A Story About Relationships by Michele Ballantyne

One day Little Girl was sitting at her window, feeling hopeless and helpless, gazing outside across the dry, brown grass in her yard, to the sunny fields, ripe with seeds, when she saw Grandfather Coyote trot by on the edge of the golden grass.  Little Girl watched him, his tongue lolling out of his mouth, eyes twinkling, merrily passing, when she could swear she saw him wink and smile at her.

Coyote disappeared into the tall grass of the fields, and Little Girl wondered about him.

Day after day, when Little Girl went to her window, she saw Coyote trot by, and every day Little Girl could swear he winked at her.  Little Girl decided to follow Coyote.

Little Girl had never gone away from home alone before.  She was frightened at the thought, but Little Girl was tired of being alone in that house, feeling helpless and sad, so she packed her bag and prepared for an adventure.

Little Girl went to the window and saw Coyote trotting by, as usual.  Coyote winked and smiled at her, as usual.  Then, when Coyote wasn’t looking, she slipped out the open window and hurriedly tiptoed after him.

To be continued . . .