Rewilding The Heart: The Coyotes of Taos

I wake in the night to the voices of coyotes yip yipping outside.

TaosMountain

Taos Mountain as a rainstorm arrives and night descends.

The small casita where I am staying in Taos, New Mexico is silent and dark, a trickle of clouded moonlight seeping through the windows. In this moment the motorized whirl of the heater and the hum of the refrigerator compressor are both hushed, and for a few minutes the silvery darkness that enfolds me is rich and deep. Curled up in bed, hearing the coyotes, a thrill rushes through me like a child on Christmas morning. 

Welcome home.

From the sound of their voices, the shaggy wild ones are near, probably across the road in the open field near the little river, laughing and singing at the veiled, half-torn moon. For a moment I am tempted to throw back the covers and get up, to open the door and step outside to hear them better, but the gravity of the warm bed holds me fast and I simply lie there listening. Smiling. Feeling my heart unfurl its wide, feathered wings.

I have traveled to New Mexico, driven out of my coastal California cottage by a familiar autumnal wanderlust, a lingering blue sadness, and the gentle prodding of a supportive mate who often recognizes my signs and symptoms better than I do. Heeding the strange tug and deep yearning to be among the golden cottonwoods, the fragrant piñon and sage at the foot of Taos Mountain, I have returned to this special place where I have resided twice previously in my life. It is a soulscape that brings me deeply alive, a world of pastel-hued earth and wide turquoise sky that remains deeply lodged in my bones like an ancient chant. When I have been away too long, like some migratory impulse in my wild soul or a powerful spirit that beckons, I need to return to walk, sleep and dream at the foot of The Mountain.

There is nothing more sacred than a mountain.

I read those words somewhere years ago and they have lingered with me ever since. Here, the looming sentinel of Taos Mountain, protected and largely inaccessible on native pueblo land—its summit newly crowned with snow from the days of rain since my arrival, and now shrouded enigmatically in shifting clouds—looms over the town. Its presence is inescapable, a quietly grounding force that draws eyes, hearts, and souls toward its mystery.

Sacred mountain. Warm casita. Wild, furry feet singing outside in the dark. Utterly brilliant, this.

I am blessed to be staying at the home of my dear friend who owns Casa Gallina, an artisan inn. The cluster of charmingly rustic, beautifully furnished adobe casitas is set amid gardens and an orchard on the rural west side of town. It is a hand-crafted, alluring sanctuary featuring the work of local artists, where guests are greeted with a basket of freshly gathered eggs from the free-roaming hens (gallina is Spanish for ‘hen’), and Richard’s inimitable style of being a host with heart. Everything at Casa Gallina urges visitors to slow down, to appreciate life and the beauty of Taos. Richard has a true dedication to eco-friendly and organic products, with a diligent eye to the sustainable and local, and these values mirror my own. It feels like no detail is overlooked here, and there is little that could warm my heart more than being in the warm home of a fellow Soul Artist.

coyotes

Except maybe listening to the coyotes yipping at a cracked pearl of moon.

It is a sound that I always associate with dear, dusty/muddy Taos. Both times that I have resided here—first in the 90’s in a shaman’s adobe tower on the sage-strewn mesa, and years later in a jewel box casita on the Rio Grande del Rancho—the coyotes were a frequent and welcome presence in my life. I cannot count the nights I lay in my bed and listened to them laughing and serenading in the darkness.

The Trickster in native legends, Coyote reminds me to laugh at life and not take it all so damn seriously. Always a welcome reminder.

Having these wild ones near, hearing them again, feeds my own wild soul. Like birdsong, the susurrus of wind in the pines, or the high and low notes of a musical mountain stream, they are part of the song of the world—the one we can easily hear if we’re paying attention. Almost none of us can catch the other song anymore, the deep music—the silent, wordless rejoicing of the animate earth singing, particularly at night and at dawn. The noise of the modern world is too great and we have shuttered our hearts, while simultaneously our senses are dulled by the manmade commotion. Always I am grateful for the more easily heard wild voices, the ones that like a gypsy songstress call me home to myself.

Many times I have written of our innate connection to place, how we are never apart from our environment but rather a part of. Nothing is separate. For better or worse, we shape and are shaped by our surroundings, which reflect and also draw something forth within us. On the deepest level, when we are in harmony with a locale—literally, its energetic oscillation and frequency—our souls resonate with a compatible frequency. We feel harmonious and in alignment. We are open and at ease on a deep, cellular level.

At the core of its DNA, or at the whirling heart of its atomic structure, everything is light and sound. (That sounds New Age, but it’s actually Nobel Prize winning science.)

Taos (and northern New Mexico, in general) is one of the places where I most strongly resonate and feel in tune. It is somatic: a grounded connection in bones and breath, a quiet hum of power. I feel authentically myself, an openness and expansion mirrored by the landscape—soulscape—itself. I am as much a part of the natural surroundings here as the old adobe houses, the pale green chamisa and fragrant sagebrush, ebony ravens with guttural voices, copper rattlesnakes, lightning-ripped thunderstorms, the shimmering aspen trees, and wild sunflowers. Or those laughing coyotes with darkly glinting eyes.

PilarHill_crest

The crest of Pilar Hill, looking toward the Rio Grande gorge and Taos Mountain.

Though my painted gypsy wagon has rolled far from this high desert plateau, it is always good to return. I need to breathe and walk in a land that feels more wild than domesticated, where the song of the world can be heard and sings me home to myself. A place where the power of earth and sky far outweighs the noisy impact of man and his notions of time. Body and soul are expansive here, an openness I find essential—like the pause between inhale and exhale, or the deep silence between heartbeats and stars.

I’ve written quite a bit on the Wild Soul (the better part of a book, actually) but lately I’ve been musing on rewilding the heart—particularly for men, who tend to place their seat of consciousness in the head rather than bodysoul or heart (much to the world’s detriment). Too I’ve been pondering the ways that we can facilitate that shift and essential awakening, particularly through cooperating with nature and learning a heart-centered attention. When we are inspired, in tune, and receptive, the heart opens.

In rewilding the heart, like any creature of nature, we become more authentic, passionate, embodied and free. At the same time, we draw closer to a new mythology and ancient wisdom that connects us to the larger story.

Rewilding the heart. That’s what Taos does for me. It is not a cure all, this place, but as with a beautiful meal I am feeling well fed. Lying in bed and bathed in silvery moonlight, listening to coyotes join their yipping voices to the song of the world, a smile lingers on my face. I’m deeply content and grateful to be here, immersed in this soulscape that nourishes down to the warm, bright center of my being—from which I have been estranged.

Come on and dance with the Trickster, why don’t you. 

Friend, I wonder, where is the place, the soulscape, that draws and nourishes you? And how long since you have wandered there with heart and senses cast ajar? Perhaps in the interest of connecting with your soul and rewilding your heart, it is time to return. To reconnect … with yourself.

And maybe, if you’re lucky, the wild ones will welcome you back home under a coyote moon.

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