Ki’s ears quivered and twisted, tracking the movement of the prairie dogs like sunflowers track the sun.[1] Their head flicked back and forth inquisitively, sometimes side-eyeing the ground, ears pinned down.[2] We watched them twist and turn from the windows of our 9 butt/12 seater van for what felt like hours but was probably just a couple of minutes.[3] Oooh’s, ahhhh’s, and cuteee’s filled the van as Coyote scanned the ground. “What are they looking at?” “Oh my, ki’s ears are so sweet!” “Whoa, I wonder if they can hear the prairie dogs in their holes?” Coyote’s body froze and their ears twitched once more.

HHHHHuuuuhhhhhhh!

We all gasped as they leapt into the sky, gray body arced, and catapulted toward the ground. SMACK. Their speckled gray snout rocketed into a hole and their paws wedged into the rest of the space. Two, three, four intense head shakes and they yanked A PRAIRIE DOG OUT OF THE HOLE. Then they tossed their head up and swallowed the rodent whole. A little smirk returned to ki’s face. After a final piss over the freshly ransacked hole, they trotted off.

Nearly two weeks later we are still recounting this wild Coyote encounter.[4] Today the story is in a slightly different context as we read an excerpt from Coyote America, one of our instructors’ favorite books.[5] Each of our classes are based on a conglomeration of readings, experiences, visits with people, and the places we go. We begin with an activity to take our brains out of the linear processing space that they are accustomed to. We made mind maps with a partner about characteristics and actions that influence both Coyote and Human people. My partner and I began with the touchpoint of ‘Super Queer’ and worked from there.

Both thrive by being creative and curious: Queerly, Coyote and Human are always changing their behavior depending on the places they inhabit. Both are incredibly resilient and share a ‘f**k oppression’ mindset: Coyote and Queer Human have been gassed, poisoned, and murdered by humans, yet are still here. Both queer species are misunderstood and recognized by sometimes crushing stereotypes: Coyote and Human have both been perceived as the cause of places being contaminated. Our mind maps extended into many more facets.

We all shared our maps, reveled in the brilliance of our peers, and then split into three groups of three, making the map touch points: Coyote as activist, Coyote as artist, and Coyote as politician. After cooking up examples of Coyote characteristics and stories and how they fit into these roles we created art that depicted them.

Coyote as artist was curated by my group. We each collected a material that represented an aspect of the touch point. Ponderosa Pine bark, Piñon cones, and Lichen tufts. The bark was chosen for its depiction of resiliency expressed when beetle come to chomp the cambium layer of trees and fires wash through forests[6]. The Piñon cone served as a symbol for space-holding and infinite opportunities to grow. The Lichen represented the connectivity and communication that many networks have (mycelium, tree roots, brains, people, etc). We balanced the bark in a cone shape, snuggled Lichen into the Piñon cones, and then perched them on the bark stack. This sculpture embodied the brainstormed characteristics that Coyote and artists share.

Each group came together to share their project and how each material and the form they produced represented Coyote as artist, as activist, as politician. Discussing these societal roles and the role Coyote has on this continent in this nonlinear framework allows for a flourishing learning environment. This environment is based on collective knowing from each other and our nonhuman relatives.

Our time learning here is hosted by a medley of non-traditional teachers who hold vast wells of knowledge in their minds, bodies, and stories. From coyotes to farmers, artists to rivers, ceramic pots to soil, everyone and everything we interact with is a teacher. Our class structure unleashes potential to share vast, multidisciplinary knowledge that weaves uniquely together in each of our nine minds. Deep curiosity is born from this way of learning, which both illuminates how much and how little we know, fosters personal growth, and initiates deep reflection and creative action. I love learning like this!


[1] Ki or Kin is a word Robin Wall Kimmerer has offered to talk about non-human beings without using “IT,” acknowledging the beings’ animacy and inherent rights and importance. It comes from an Anishinaabe word.

[2] I also use they/them pronouns for non human beings because I use those pronouns.

[3]  Time has evaded me on this trip. Watches were a required packing item but I totally spaced bringing one.

[4] Wild as in mind-boggling for us to witness. Judging by the hair stuffed poops we’ve been encountering this is a daily occurrence for Coyote kin.

[5] The photo is a sweet moment of Kerri reading from the book next to a grandmother Alligator Juniper.

[6] Fire is similar to a menstrual cycle and is a wonderful cleanse that upholds forest integrity!

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