This story begins with a coyote. I’m not one of those fortunate people who often see interesting things from the car window as I pass by, but on Saturday evening I saw a coyote standing on the side of the road, staring. I wanted it to be a fox, because I’ve yet to see a fox in the wild, but it was not a fox, it was a coyote. I thought immediately of Loki and sent it good wishes for its travels, considering that I was a passenger in a car on a very busy interstate highway on which coyote was standing nearby.
Two hours later there was a bear. My stomach was full and the 90’s alternative radio station was playing on pandora and it was twilight, and I was talking about Frank Sinatra’s life with my husband. I had an uneasy feeling, my witchy senses were tingling, and my husband seemed distractible and energetically agitated. Maybe he had an uneasy feeling too. Maybe it was the coffee. I don’t know, we didn’t talk about it. He asked me to send a text to someone on his phone, and while I was looking down I heard him gasp. I looked up in time to see an adolescent bear bound across the highway perfectly timed to smash into our car.
Screeching breaks and a sickening thud and fur wedged into the new formed cracks in the front end of our car. We were ok. I prayed for the bear and thought about how I could have prevented this if I was not staring at a phone screen. I have an eye for danger while driving, but I wasn’t looking. A bit up the road we took an exit and found that our radiator was cracked as well, and we were four hours from home.
Three hours later our rescuers arrived and four hours after that we were home. While we waited in our car for help to arrive, at a desolate gas station in east Jesus nowhere, my husband slept. The air was thick and heavy with humidity, suffocating. I felt like jumping out of my skin. I thought back to the coyote: a warning. I didn’t know what it meant when I saw it. A couple pulled up across the parking lot and got out of their car. In the dead of midnight they screamed at each other, shrill voices cutting through the calm, and I watched in silence until they drove off again.
I didn’t feel protected. I didn’t feel the hand of Hekate or the familiar ease of Loki or the energy of my ancestors. I felt alone. Then the messages from my family and friends vibrated through my phone. Jokes, and wishes for our safety and wellbeing crossing space and time to surround us and lift us up. Loki, Hekate, my ancestors, were in those moments and those messages and that energy whether I could feel them or not.
Protection doesn’t always mean that shitty things won’t happen. Sometimes protection is walking away uninjured from an unavoidable collision, and having people in your life who put their lives on hold to come help you, and lighten the situation with their sarcastic and familiar humor that jolts you out of your anxiety and lifts you up above the situation you are in.
Bears often speak of boundaries and mine had been trampled over repeatedly as of late. They speak also of time in solitude, something I have been lacking. Coyotes speak of unpleasant situations ahead and adjusting to them and learning from them. Coyote was an omen for bear. Coyote was also a memory of experiences that called for the lessons from bear.
My watchful eye was turned away and we were blindsided. Even if I had seen it, my watchful eye could not have prevented it. It was going to happen. Still, I think of the bear, probably searching for its mother and blindsided as well as it moved according to its needs and instincts. I called for Hekate on behalf of the bear, and I cried for bear as well.
3AM came and found me nodding off in the backseat of my mother-in-law’s car, but not for long. The sound of a horde of cars in desperate need of mufflers brought me out of my reverie. Anxiety filled the space as car after car zipped past us in a tight construction zone, many of the drivers getting over in front of us and hitting their breaks, nearly causing a crash. I was awake the rest of the drive.
From dusk to dawn each liminal moment brought conflict, tension, and danger of some sort, until dawn finally found us safely home. The bizarre incidents of the 12 hour journey muddled about in the back of my tired mind where correlations continued to light up and bring understanding, the clearest of which was pay attention.
There’s no grand moral to this story, though. There is only infinite learning and adjusting and keeping as clear a head as possible to sidestep philosophical potholes filled with the waters of depression, angst, pigeonholing, and confusion. It was a long night, and then it was a long day, and then I slept.