Thursday, October 20, 2011

Memory and Medicine

There is something about Autumn that conjures memories. The wind brings them in I suppose, blowing like the richly colored leaves. I enjoy this kind of remembering as it helps me to link the past to my present, to see patterns and the arc of my own personal narrative. I am in a mind to share with you my very first memory. To do so means we travel back to when I was two years old. My parents were renting a house outside the small town of Plattsmouth, NE. Though they had to commute to the larger city of Omaha, they wanted to "live in the country." These things I do not remember, but often when my sisters and I were older, my parents would drive us past that house, tell us stories from the early years of their marriage. In a photo (now lost) from that time 40 years ago, I am sitting in the grass with a kitten on either side of me. The three of us intent on whatever game we are playing. My mother has told me when I was outdoors she had to keep an eye on me because I loved to wander off into the woods.

So it is here near the mouth of the Platte river that I trace my first memory. I am standing outside on a small porch. There is a screen door behind me. It is dusk, neither light nor dark. A coyote is howling. I stand there listening to this repeated howl. Mesmerized and a tiny bit frightened. I listen for awhile, then in a quick bustle of motion, I open the screen door and go inside. That is all that I remember, but that howl went deep because I have held onto that moment, that call from the countryside, for forty years.

In many tribal traditions, coyote symbolizes a powerful storyteller, a trickster of sorts. Magic and humor are often involved. S/he teaches that things aren't always as they seem. And that sometimes to really learn something, we must be tricked into doing so. Coyote is also a shining example of adapting to survive. While many wild animals have struggled to make it in our modern world, this canine has found ways around our invasive human presence and even extended its range.

from Daughters of the Moon Tarot by Ffiona Morgan

Though there are many aspects of my life where I find Coyote's energy at play, I am especially able to link her archetypal presence to diabetes. To thrive despite this illness, I must adapt. I must listen to my body in the moment and determine the best course of action. Some days, weeks, even years are more difficult. Survival is not always graceful or pretty. Sometimes it requires scrounging, high risk, and many failed attempts. Often it is lonely. And then you remember you can howl. You can call in another who's been there. Someone who has wisdom to share.

Several years ago, I began working on a series of poems about Coyote's presence in my life. This is one I wrote, inspired by this memory:
How It Begins

Coyote called me
Into being
Her howl
Cut across the Plains 
Sharing air with winged things, drifting
Down at dusk
Her howl 
Startled me from some other slumber
Rippled my spine, my skin  
Two years old, I 
Inhaled my first memory
Like a birth breath
Coyote called me
Into being
I know because
Her howl 
I have spent my whole life

Coyote Woman Waits by Susan Seddon Boulet

[And it seem so very magical and fitting, that I am learning a great deal these days from a beautiful and wise Coyote Woman. The Autumn session of Pixie Campbell's SouLodge course begins on October 31st. She has created an inspired place to connect with your wisest soul self, other women, and the sacred Earth. Registration is open through Monday the 24th, and it would be lovely if you could join us!]


  1. angela, this is such fabulous story telling. i love reading the words you have woven together, the memories, the lessons, the insights, the beauty. such expansiveness, right here. xoxo!

  2. i so loved reading this....

    pure magic, really.

    much love...xoxox

  3. i can't say it any better ... my sisters capture my thoughts!

    what an amazing first memory! honestly, mine is either throwing my bottle out of the car window or visiting someone on a trip, taking a bath there (?) and oops! i had an accident in the tub! So my first memory is either of shame or an act of defiance - go figure!

    i too feel Autumn is a season of memories and stories ... i cannot believe another year has slipped by ... i feel the need for this coming Lodge ... i think it will be a very deep time. taking a breath as i type that!

    xo lis

  4. So, so beautiful, Angela. What I love the most is my fantasy about how you came back around the circle to her, having held her call in your bones for your lifetime. We just know, don't we. My first memory is from about the same age, and I am sitting out in the pitch black dark of our overgrown backyard, knowing that neither mom nor dad knew where I was, that I was alone, and that somehow, I was okay. Feeling at ease in the dark, at least in that moment, has come full circle for me, too. Awrooooo, sister! xo p

  5. this is beautiful--i love the poem. :)