The one about coyote and the mirrors
He’s always trying to help eh?
Misplacing the items he takes.
Holding them on our behalf, he says.
‘For safe keeping’, he says, convincingly…himself or you, it’s unclear really, who he’s trying to convince.
Wincing at you while he chatters away, staring into you.
For safe keeping, until later when you ask for them.
When you need them,… like really need them…like yesterday!
And… he forgets where he put them
And you, so desperately need them NOW!
Left to deal with “being flexible. Adaptive. Making do with what you have”.
Until then, you need something else.
So THEN he remembers and brings you what at first appears to you to be the wrong thing.
Presents them as gifts.
All the same, it’s been yours all along.
The whole time he’s held them, for you, from you.
That’s the problem, he says this time, with time…
It’s alive, like the people. Like all living things.
And off he goes, leaving you to sit with your self, wondering…what the heck? What to do? What do I know?
We ALL have that time…
When we look about to find what we have thought long and deeply about…
That we’ve long lost our reflections, and therefore, somehow we have lost our selves.
…and reminisce that our olders did the same and went about looking for mirrors…they didn’t.
They were too busy being alive and knowing it.
Too busy to be distracted and dis-track-ed by a “train of thought”.
But we, you and I, we’ve been looking for a while now.
Trained. Tracked. Distracted.
It all started you know, back when our lakes and rivers weren’t reflecting us
…they were getting damned up and polluted or flooded.
Lands and mountains moved from here to there without a thought about it and what was left.
“You can, actually move a mountain if you tried” and a river, and a stream, sadly.
And we were given tins of salmon and these really nice looking glasses to look in…gifts they said.
Mine got a little bent with time. You know the way old mirrors go foggy.
When I was little I was given another one, forced to hold in my right hand…
It would distort me. For years.
I never look quite right when I looked at it to see me.
For years I tried to break it, break me.
But I could never really commit to the mess of it.
The cleansing I required to rid the mess deemed unbearable.
After a while, I just left it there. That mirror.
“nothing to see here folks”…as I erased my self by not looking in that mirror.
Until finally went home.
I couldn’t pack everything, there was so much baggage to consider.
So I left it.
It wouldn’t fit.
I didn’t like it anyways.
After all, like everything else, it was replaceable…Wasn’t it?
Once at home though, I went in search of my mirror after the only ones that recognized me, left this world for that one.
But I couldn’t find it. I couldn’t find one.
Most people couldn’t understand why I would want to see what was in them anyways.
Especially since they thought I had such a nice replacement somewhere. Why on earth would I want to see theirs? Ours? Could I still have one? From whom does one get a mirror anyway? Such disturbing questions I brought.
I think they liked toiling with the idea of having more than one, never realizing its’ illusion was deep.
And that those mirrors are just that. An illusion
So Coyote, always willing to help me out, went out.
He went out and found me one and brought it back.
I looked at it for a minute.
“hey…Wait a minute! This ain’t right! Where’d you get this?”
“At the trading post, school library, museum, resort gift shop, social services and…the airport gift shop and customs. Why?”eyes darting as he recounted his latest journey here and there in a list that resembled Saturday morning errands.
I turned it over to reflect him to himself.
“Here’s why? Look it. Who’s that?”
With chagrin he looks at me, for a moment.
And then smiles as he preens himself all stretched out.
His butt that way. His nose this way.
His nose, points, all the way up, touching the reflection of his ‘mirror’.
For a moment, lovingly nudges it, in my hand.
The slight movement of one whose fondness cannot always find outright expression.
And says “well that’s an indian!”
I stopped for a minute shaking my head, sigh and turned it again to face me.
Looking at me, looking at it, I realized, he was absolutely right.
There in place of the glass and a handle, coyote had fashioned a postcard picture into a ‘Made in China” dreamcatcher with a stick stuck enough to handle it.
And the picture in the postcard? An Edward Curtis “Indian”, as homogeneous, as he made us into art.
And there I was, in my search for myself, realizing at that moment, that what I was looking for is no more reflected in this mirror than exists in that imagined mirror, of my mind. Put there by this and that idea by that one or this guy over here and his poetry and prose.
Because an Indian is as constructed as Edward Curtis recorded them. Defined in policy just the same as his photos binded and bonded us to the past and as he/they saw us/them.
“But it’s not me” I said finally.
“Well no it’s not, but you’re not an indian.”
I look at him, at the Indian cradled in my lap while I sit, crisscross apple sauce, on the deck beside coyote as he licks one paw and then offers it to me.
I hear “she ain’t pretty, she just looks that way” by the Northern Pikes, playing in my head.
Eye ball to eye ball now, I say with my heart in my throat as if I will choke…
“But I need a mirror, How am I supposed to know if I am who I am if …
“Smoke and mirrors…pictures and remembrances. All games of the mind.” He says. “not our games. Our games are fun.” He winks softly as if involuntarily as he says so.
Paw in hand. What can I say?
“Well you better go look in the water for all that learning you’re looking for, hike the hill and sit in the grass, just like your First Peoples did. And listen like they did when they woke.” He pulls and prods me with his paw as if to move me.
And I realize, there it is…that mirror.
“What you do with them remembrances, those ideas, those pictures they made, is up to you now. That is the reflection you’re looking to find.
You live it.
You don’t see no white guy reflecting Shakespeare’s sensibilities now do ya???
How many times my ancestors would tell me before they left this world for that one…KNOW YOUR PLACE
Why would we do that to ourselves…focus on someone else’s picture of our self?
On the reflections from mirrors that we did not create our selves.
…use your illusions…and then, I think…regenerate and transformation…. Collecting until it replaces our own self and we can parade it with pride that we can transform into figments of others imaginations…
I get up and stories in songs sung in the night come to mind and dizzily set me back into my chair.
Habit I suppose, but I take and sip my tea. Sitting and realizing I am on the porch and looking out just as my grandmother did. Seeing what she saw. I was part of her, science finally admitted what we knew, DNA in lands and waterways, deep seeded connections. Humans, generation…generate…gene…gen
And coyote, gets up, makes circles into a nest and plops down to snooze. Peeks at me once and snuggles in against the chill.
My turn to watch him and realize…
He’s a smart one, coyote, even when he’s annoying eh?
― Rumi “The truth was a mirror in the hands of God. It fell, and broke into pieces. Everybody took a piece of it, and they looked at it and thought they had the truth.”
Recollections of sitting on porches and talking about life, the universe and everything with my people, here and there Summer 1998