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The Roadside Oracle



Coyote is “up” because coyote is going down.

As someone pointed out the other day, perhaps the primary characteristic of writers is that they are acute observers. And as a blog writer, I am constantly alert for ideas in the form of anything that catches my eye. I have been mulling over a heart-wrenching image on the side of the road since Saturday, recognizing it as inspiration. As of this morning, the paw of its spirit seemed to bless my forehead with the point.

So what’s the big deal about a dead coyote? It is not an unfamiliar sight along highways in this country. This one, however, was in my territory. It lay on the side of Dinosaur Trail, which leads into my development. The road dips in places making oncoming cars invisible to anybody or anything in the dip, and the coyote was probably struck by a descending vehicle.

This sight touched me because I really like and admire coyotes. They are very smart and they are survivors. In spite of being brutally harassed, their range is expanding steadily, even as far as Seattle, Chicago, and New York. In their determined advance a message sounds: “Screw you, Humans.”


There is more in this manifestation, however, than just the sad sight of perished wildlife. My respect for coyotes became more informed when I ready Coyote America by Dan Flores last year and wrote a blog on it. When I found it in the archives, I discovered that I was reading that book at exactly this time last year, so that was meaningful.

And as I have written before, at a lecture at the C.G. Jung Institute of Santa Fe, I learned that many psychoanalysts see the archetype of “The Joker” manifesting in Donald Trump. That same archetype is represented by the coyote in Native American lore. In Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson, we learn that many Native cultures know coyote as the “Medicine Dog.” When it appears, as they write, “you can be sure that some kind of medicine is on its way–and it may or may not be to your liking.”

More about the “meaning” of coyote comes from naturalist and mystic Ted Andrews, author of Animal Speak. His book is a wonderful resource on the symbolism of creatures and their ways of being that helps us reconnect with the natural world. Everyone is so stressed out at this time that a little grounding in nature could be therapeutic, so I hope some of this material will help.

I need this myself, having come close to flipping out in anger lately, and the dead coyote gave me pause. We are clearly approaching a national crisis, and it’s time to start thinking beyond the moment and begin to plan for a better future.


In a symbolic way, Coyote weighs in on the extreme political polarization that has turned us into the Land of Stalemate. Andrews writes that if Coyote is “up,” it is a reminder that “cooperative efforts are usually most effective and successful, especially at this time.” After all, one of coyote’s gifts is the ability to hunt cooperatively. In the case of pursuing small game, they will run relays until prey is brought down.

They can also illustrate the Law of Unintended Consequences. When coyotes are threatened by shooting and poison, as by extermination-minded ranchers, Flores writes that litter size can jump from 5.7 to 19. Again, “Screw you, Humans.”

And ranchers are blind to the truth of an important matter; namely, that they are the ones who invaded the coyote’s natural habitat, not vice versa.  And even though they may have run coyotes off “their” land, ranchers’ success in cattle raising has a shadow side. I mean the fact that heavy beef eating has helped make heart disease the foremost killer in the United States.

Things are complicated, and a big thing we need to look at right now in preparation for long-term planning is the presidency itself. This means looking at the very nature of government and maybe beginning to encourage young people to prepare for a career in this general field.

With regard to the presidency, we need leadership that can deal with extraordinary complexity in government itself. The United States is not a corporation; neither is it a TV show. Charisma is not the foremost requirement and neither is wealth. The presidency is a job. It requires relevant education, significant experience in government at more than one level, detailed knowledge about how Congress works, connections within government and industry in order to make quality staff and cabinet appointments, and a solid grounding in diplomacy and international affairs. Sounds boring maybe, but boring might be good. That way we could concentrate on our own stuff. Perhaps the effort of each and every one of us to lead in a small but important way will help “Make America . . . .” You know the rest.


As for Donald Trump and the Trickster archetype, there is more from Coyote that may be helpful. Trump has, moment by moment, made the choices that have brought him to the threshold of crisis, and no one can save him. However, he is a very big and powerful person, and I think his presence and his example are teaching us all some valuable lessons about who we are and how we need to change. Because of his time in office, we may do that sooner rather than later. As for his own future, it was prophesied in Medicine Cards when the book came out in 1988. Coyote is addressed as follows:

. . . you may not be conscious of your own pathway of foolishness. You may have conned yourself, your family, your friends, or even the public at large into believing that you know what you’re doing. But listen, Coyote. You are balled up in your own machinations. You have created a befuddling, bewildering, confounding trick. Pick up the juggler eyes from the ground and put them back in their sockets. See through the genius of your acts of self-sabotage. Find it amusing and laugh, trickster, laugh. 

Donald Trump is no doubt looking for a good reason to howl in triumph. However, the body on the side of the road suggests that compassion is more likely soon to be in order.




3 Responses to “The Roadside Oracle”

  1. les fenter

    Well, Ellen. I just can’t help it. I don’t follow your last sentence above. Is it my limited grammar or did you include a brain-teasing sentence to cause pause?

  2. les fenter

    Ellen, I love the Native American Coyote tales. Pat & I just got a Shitzu pup. And I believe she must be part coyote. She loves to trick us. When we’re leaving the house, we give her a large rawhide bone. She grabs it in her mouth and takes off for the living room. How long does she chew it? Quien sabe. When we return, we can usually find it under a pillow and cushion of our sofa — well, until the other day. That day we could not and have not found the bone! Where is it now? Only our little trickster knows.

  3. Carolyn Skloven-Gill

    Oh, I cried when I spotted that pup on the side of the road. I cried for its spirit to be reunited with the Great Spirit Energy. I phoned the Animal Humane Society. They said they would take care of the little guy. And it was a little guy. A young pup, resembling my own Sheltie in his face.
    We have so much to understand from Native cultures. Signs and warnings from our animal neighbors. Their instincts are vastly more developed than those in mere humans.