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 . . .