In A Spark of Heavenly Fire, I had a character meeting up with a coyote as a way of showing that the character was becoming “untamed,” that she was finding her inner savage. She went from searching for self-affirmation from the men in her life to finding affirmation in herself. But more than that, she overcame her squeamish nature to do whatever she needed to do to survive.
Although her communion with the coyote seemed a bit trite or maybe just too pointedly mystical, I couldn’t think of a better way to show the change in her. And perhaps it only seemed trite because such things do happen. Yesterday, while walking in the desert, I came across not one but three coyotes. They were far enough away that I was never in danger, but they all stopped and stared at me. I stared back. We stood there for a minute or two, then I got distracted by a noise, and when I looked for them a second later, they were gone.
Perhaps this encounter was symoblic, a way of showing me that like my character, I am becoming untamed, embracing my inner savage, willing to do whatever I need to do to survive. More probably, the coyotes had come close to civilization in an attempt to find food. Either way, it was an interesting synchronicity of life imitating art.
Here is the coyote excerpt from A Spark of Heavenly Fire:
She had traveled only a mile or two when she felt a presence. Someone. Something. The awareness vibrated in her body, jangled her nerve endings. She stopped. Looked around. Although she didn’t see anyone, she knew she was no longer alone.
On full alert, she walked farther, and suddenly, there he stood, silhouetted on a hill.
Pippi froze, afraid that if she made a single move, he would spring on her. She thought of the knife, but it didn’t give her any comfort; the knife was so small and the coyote so large.
She tried to remember what you were supposed to do in a situation like this. Look the animal in the eyes? Look past it? Look at the ground?
Too late. Her eyes locked onto the coyote’s.
As she looked into him and he looked into her, she could feel her fear draining away.
They stood motionless, staring at each other for a long time — eons. Then the coyote’s ears pricked up. He cocked his head as if listening to something in the distance.
Pippi cocked her head, too, but all she heard was a quickening breeze.
Casually, as if he had more important things to do than to stare at this insignificant human, the coyote trotted off.
He turned to give her one last look, then he was gone.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+