Colder temps are arriving tonight, so when I woke up I thought I better take off on one of my predawn rambles. I stepped out into the cold, my only agenda to get some exercise and enjoy the quiet before the relative hustle of COVID life in Burlington, Vermont begins.
I got much so more…
I started thinking about how many people in the world are facing some of the same challenges as me right now. I felt an instant expansive kinship with them all. I imagined a middle-aged mom in Tibet taking a walk, coming in from the cold, making a cup of tea, and wondering what her next chapter will bring.
Perhaps she too is struggling to find some grace and acceptance in that endlessly tricky space betwixt & between her intentions, words, & actions.
Next, I thought about my sister-in-law and all of the school administrators/teachers struggling to keep the world’s children engaged and healthy. Then I imagined our planet’s exhausted nurses and doctors working to heal the sick, and be present with folks in their last moments when visitors are no longer allowed. I went down the line thinking about the professions and circumstances of all of the people I know and their cohorts around the world.
As I walked back home thinking about the web of our shared humanity—I felt lighter, less burdened, and more a part of a team.
Funny, just last night my husband said, “You really like being part of a team, don’t you?”.
A few Saturday mornings ago while walking down the hill to the Cape Cod Bay, my daughter, Willa told me that she had never seen a coyote. She’s traveled to South Dakota at least once a year her whole life to visit my family and I was surprised. We stepped on the beach before sunrise and the very first thing I noticed was a coyote in the shadows walking the shoreline. The shape was haunting, and instantly familiar.
“In Plains Indian stories, Coyote nearly always takes the shape of a man. He is clever but reckless and is constantly getting himself and the people around him into trouble with his socially inappropriate behavior like greed, boastfulness, lying, and chasing women…
Growing up in South Dakota I frequently heard coyotes howling outside my bedroom’s eastern-facing window that overlooked acres of the uninterrupted prairie where my horse, Honey Bear lived.
Like the mystery of fog and the way it makes me feel, coyotes also hold a similar sacred space. They are a tether to the wide-open plains where I grew up and the inner wildness instilled by the freedom I was granted to roam that spacious landscape. Coyotes, I’m now realizing are part of my interior geography.
In Native American storytelling, the coyote plays a crucial role. Interestingly enough though, the coyote is seen quite differently from nation to nation, region to region. The familiar thread is that the coyote is generally viewed as a trickster meant to serve as a example of traits that don’t always serve the community. The flip side though is that the coyote’s cleverness can often get them out of certain pickles and predicaments.
When I got out of college, I wanted an adventure. In September of 1988, I went to Auckland, New Zealand to volunteer in the public relations department for a non-denominational radio station, Rhema. While I was there an American man who claimed to be a prophet arranged a visit. I don’t remember his name. He wanted to pray with us all right away when he arrived. I was the only American on staff.
He gathered everyone in a circle, my hair stood up on my neck and arms. I was so certain he was a fake. He singled me out and said, “come here, Dakota, please join us”. I said “no” without any explanation. My colleagues were surprised, but not pushy and let me hang back. Kiwi’s are wonderfully respectful and polite. I looked up while they prayed and watched his body language closely. He opened his eyes to look at me. I didn’t blink.
Of course, the American Prophet wanted the only other American to lend authenticity to him and help advance his narrative. He was seeking, as many before and after him, donations of course, and a larger platform to spread his message about what those donations could do for his personal cause and humanity.
$ I grew up in a household with Tammy Faye and Jim Baker on in the morning. I saw the tricks used to get donations, create false narratives, and get people hooked into the drug of magical thinking—a high that is never ever enough.
As a 22-year-old, I knew that American claiming to be a prophet was a snake oil salesman. I’d been in training to spot what’s inauthentic from a very young age, not the message intended by watching the PTL Club. However, an education I now find myself quite grateful for in hindsight.
This story was a pivotal event in my life. This was when I realized that I no longer had to accept the dogma of my childhood. Or at least that I could personally reject what felt inauthentic to me and navigate the world in a way that honored my inner knowing. I also understood, with maybe even more significance that I could handle the fall out if others thought I was wrong.
“Coyote is a revered culture hero who creates, teaches, and helps humans; in others, he is a sort of antihero who demonstrates the dangers of negative behaviors like greed, recklessness, and arrogance; in still others, he is a comic trickster character, whose lack of wisdom gets him into trouble while his cleverness gets him back out. http://www.native-langages.org/plains-coyote.htm
This morning I awakened at five, it was still dark and there was a bit of coastal fog in the air. I sipped my coffee outside and watched the light shift over the bay. In my head, I walked through what I would do if I encountered a coyote on the beach or during the half-mile walk down the hill this morning. I imagined I could be the trickster and outsmart him…magical thinking indeed, Lisa.
I arrived at the beach to pick up garbage and scanned east then west. There was now enough light to see the coyote. I didn’t. I was a little disappointed at first, but then I felt safe to walk the shoreline.
I started noticing the tracks in the sand . I never felt this way before. I had some unfamiliar energy and vigilance.
I thought about my northern Quebec ancestry…fur trappers perhaps? Maybe I should become a wilderness guide or a private investigator? I was heady with possibilities as I walked along.
Then I came upon these sandals and I got a little concerned.
The potential coyote tracks awakened my curiosity today in a way that led to further investigation. I don’t feel tricked. I feel sparked and pretty damn grateful.
PLEASENOTE: I’ve tried to identify online the difference between tracks. I’m well-aware that I could be wrong, but without human prints closeby, it seems to me these are coyote tracks and not those of a large dog. Please let me know. I would like to learn how to easily discern the difference.
diagnosed with ADHD inattentive presentation. I’ve suspected this for years, but at this stage in my life it was becoming unmanageable. As an artist and mother of young kids I naturally had to shift gears constantly just to keep things running in our household. There were endless ways I could stave off boredom and feed my brain’s insatiable hunger for disruption, distraction and change.
I could hide my challenges quite easily because the whole universe was operating in a constantly distracted way. The endless buzz in the world rewarded my brain with “quick fixes” and made me believe I was managing just fine.
Then four things collided at roughly the same time.
1. My children became more independent and my day to day responsibilities shifted.
2. My husband, children and friends were telling me that I was leaving out crucial information in my communication AND I was getting defensive about it.
3. I studied positive psychology and the necessity on both a personal and societal level to quit spinning, slow down, reflect and get more focused on how I want to spend my energy and talents.
4. I turned fifty.
I know people joke about the endless diagnoses out there. I’m a little OCD or that’s my ADHD talking or I can’t get that done because of poor executive function etc. I was resistant for years because I didn’t want to be off the hook for the behaviors that were affecting my life and those around me. I did however, need some answers and solutions for help to narrow my focus and allow me to better utilize my skills in both my private and public life.
Now being able to look back at the ways ADHD manifested in my life has provided a certain amount of ease and less shame about my deficits than before. As a child I was highly adaptive, creative and curious about so many different things. However, I also was a day dreamer, a poor tester, I rarely followed directions and was often told that I wasn’t working to my potential. I was always armed with loads of ideas and didn’t follow through on them. I created a narrative around my deficits that I was less than.
I fell asleep during the science portion of my ACT test in high school. I got the minimum score required to go to private schools in South Dakota. I also dozed off during the ADHD test I recently took with a psychologist. I think my brain was bored and the competition of it all wasn’t enough motivation for me. I wasn’t getting any juice so my brain just shut it down.
I recently remembered as a high school kid reading one page of the dictionary before I went to sleep to boost my vocabulary. When I think of this now I believe I was trying to find ways to boost how my intelligence presented to others because it was less quantifiable than my siblings and my peers. The really smart kids wanted to be friends with me, but my grades were very average unless I loved the subject. Then I could focus. Thank you English and creative writing.
My husband remembered that my Dad told him when we got married that he would have to help me with certain things—paying bills, insurance and so on. My Dad knew on some level that I had some challenges with organization. I recently found insurance paperwork he had requested in the 1980s for me to sign and send back. I never did. I guess he asked me again.
I did all of the stuff I was told to do to quiet my brain and help my focus—manage stress, exercise, meditate, rest and eat well…and yet it just wasn’t quite enough. I’m taking a low dose of a psychostimulant on the days more focus is required of me.Now, with greater knowledge about my brain’s chemistry, I have renewed hope and focus about my life.
So, I’m unsure why I need to share this now on such a public forum. I guess I feel that storytelling is what we need now more than ever in this uncertain world. I believe that a willingness to be vulnerable and share our stories and fears is very important in 2017.
I don’t want to hide behind this diagnoses. I really am the only one that needs to understand my brain. However, if my story helps you share your story than this was well worth my time. We are all in this together.
Go forth and be bold and share something personal or painful from your story. That small act of courage could change someone’s life.
These are images I created from my photographs one night this week when the house was quiet and I stayed up late. The cowboys are from photographs I shot at the Burke Stampede Rodeo in Burke, South Dakota. The boots are mine. The railroad shot was taken in Sandwich, Massachusetts. The Chevy truck I shot in New Orleans.