In which Coyote teaches me to listen to stories in the appropriate frame of mind.
“Tell me a story,” I demanded.
‘Demanded’ might be too strong a word because I meant it as a compliment. Coyote tells such good stories and I love losing myself in them. Like the year at Christmas when I heard The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for the first time and I listened while I was looking deep within the tree and I thought I had actually got into Narnia somehow.
I come from a storytelling culture. We don’t hold events for children in libraries but we do tend to see amazing things and to want to recount them. Given a chance we will tell every incident in the form of a story. Some people call it rambling and want us to get to the point but we think they need to slow down, smell the roses.
We think nothing, nothing at all, just happens. Everything has Characters and Intrigue. The bottom line has no punch without the journey.
This is just a news bulletin:
“I met a coyote in Wegman’s today.”
To make it a story, to make it interesting, I need context, color, plot.
In one of the gardens of the Temple of Literature, Hanoi. Photo by SRD
When I went to Vietnam I was staying with a friend from graduate school. Years before when we were earning doctorates in art history, we were in seminars together, shared child care, had long talks on the quad. The discipline of art history was, at that time, coming apart. In a world that was deconstructing everything, the classical model of art history, based on value judgments and masterpieces, was eroding and there was much hand-wringing over what would take its place.
My mother always held something back. I saw it from the time I was a little girl but didn’t know what it was. Some topic would come up and she would press her lips together and look away severely. I began to think she was sending me a silent message, a warning, but I did not know why.
I knew she feared physical dangers. I never had a bicycle because my aunt, a nurse, had told her about the injuries she would see in the emergency room. I had cats as pets but there were not allowed to be in my bedroom because she had read about diseases they carried. I never learned to roam, to explore, because of the menaces she was convinced were lurking. As an adult I came to believe that she was protecting me from something that had happened to her.