Wiley, the Midget Coyote, and She took a break in their routine to hike in Closed Canyon along the Rio Grande del Norte.
“Wow! This is a neat place!”
“Yup. Canyons, like many land forms, are like books. When you open a book in the middle and read the two flanking pages, you might wonder just how the story led there and where it goes. You might thumb through previous pages, or perhaps those leading to the end. Unless you read all the pages, you are left with pieces of narrative, dialogue and pictures that lie in wait for the whole story. That is what canyons are.
Canyons are slices in the upper layers of the planet we live on. Yet these levels we see were once buried deep in the earth’s crust, flowed from places far away, or crashed into by other layers and heaving them up. As in Santa Elena Canyon, there may be bumpy levels of stone made of accumulated bodies of minute sea animals. Or, as in Closed Canyon, they might be hard sleek cliffs of what was once flowing molten rock.
In essence, Wiley, canyons are open books, their steep cliffs pages of time and accumulated activity, far far greater than we can imagine. Layers of differential stone and rock, colors and form, tell us pieces of stories, events long before mammals and humans walked the surface. Remains of living entities that precede us may lie in wait to provide a dialogue enriching the story. Canyons talk to you if you listen.”
Wiley stood still. “Well, I hear things, but not sure what canyons talk like. Do they growl like me? Yip? Grunt like Josephine? This is like my Home where I was a pup. Sort of.”
“The canyon is a bit different than those you remember, aren’t they?”
“Yup. This one is only big enough for two of us coyotes to run in side-by-side.”
“It’s called a slot canyon, Wiley.”
“Hey, remember I am ‘Coyote‘!”
Sigh. “Yes, Wiley; you are that, too.” She and Wiley sat on a big boulder.
Wiley took a deep breath and then……. “Okay, so this is my turn to tell a story. They say….. Are you writing this down? I can’t hear talking pages, you know.”
“I am writing your story, Wiley. I will read aloud the talking pages to you so you can hear them.”
They say this is the way it was, long ago. When Sky Woman fell from Sky World and down towards the Great Water world, Turtle saved her. He swam underneath her and she fell on his back.
When she did, Turtle’s feet pushed mud up underneath him so they would both not drown. The mountains, valleys and oceans formed underneath them. Where his claws dug into the mud, water flowed and they grew into rivers. So the world grew from Turtle’s back, the mud underneath him, and Sky Woman’s songs.
Some of those claw marks in the mud lost their water. Some are narrow, like this here, and some are wider, like those where I grew up. Yet, when waters fall from Sky World and call on Turtle and Sky Woman below, that water will run through these gashes in the mud that is now rock. They look and search for Turtle and Sky Woman. And they take pieces of the rock mud with them when they go. That is how they remember how this world was created.
That was how it happened, they say. A long time ago.”
“That was a good nature story, Wiley.”
“What is this ‘nature’ ? What do you mean?”
“It is many things. It is the water in the well that was there before any of us came to be. It is also the bucket into which we put things, or ‘the’ things we call ‘Nature’. And it is a leaky bucket.”
“What do you put in the bucket?”
“We put in things we meet: lions, thunder, wind, water, rocks, you. Some people see only a bucket with one thing and call it ‘Nature’. Or they see only certain things in the bucket that they call ‘Nature’. Or things that have already been called ‘Nature’. ”
“But how did all those things get in the well?”
“Ah, well, that depends on who you ask, or who is looking. Some of us humans believe that things have been in there long before we could see them, and probably many things that we can’t see or even know about. Yet.
Many of these things were not created in the human mind, or in any living thing’s mind. They just ‘are’. Or ‘are not’. ”
Wiley said, “I don’t know about this ‘Nature’ thing. I only know I have to find food to eat. If I don’t, I may starve, maybe even die. Or I might become food for something else. Is that in the well, too?”
“Well, that is more an interaction with other things in the well. That tends to be put into the bucket, too, sometimes. Just as sometimes that tends to leak out,” She replied.
Wiley paused, then asked, “So, is Nature only those things that we see, touch, smell, taste, hear, and….?”
“Yes and no. It is all those things. We put all those things we encounter matching our world into a container. But Nature also does things on its own – with no containers. It did so long before we arrived with our buckets and it will continue to do so long after we are done with our looking and investigating and leaves it alone. Because it is a only word in our language. And a very leaky bucket.
“Yeah. But can we leave the bucket behind for now?
I’m going to teach you how to stalk. You need to learn how if you are going to hunt rabbits like I do. First you have to get low to the ground. Then move slowly and quiet, so the rabbit won’t know you are there. Hide behind a rock or tree, or slide along side this canyon side. See those rabbits up there? I’m watching your back.”
“Those aren’t rabbits, Wiley. Those are people.”
“So! You can pretend they are rabbits! That way you can practice for when you do see a real rabbit.”
“Okay, Wiley. Can I get up now?”
“It sure took them a long time to crawl around that deep pool of water. I’m getting thirsty……”
“We’ll just sit here and watch them. Here, have some water from my bottle.”
“Good, ’cause I don’t think I could get out of that pool. I wonder if Turtle is in there……”
(Original story written by this author in 2011 and published in issue of ‘Alpine Daily News,’ Alpine, Texas, 2013)