Saturday, August 6, 2022

North Shore Notes: Coyote

     As I padded upstairs at 3 o'clock in the morning to edit today's post from North Shore Bureau Chief Caren Jeskey, I reflected on how different she is from me. And how good it must be, I imagine, after six days of Neil Neil Neil (sigh, Neilneilneil) for readers to be placed into the hands of another writer, one of such boundless energy and mystic passion. 
     As if to illustrate that difference, today's post was particularly spiritual and celebratory. My edits were entirely stylistic — spell out numbers up to 10, spaces on both sides of a dash. I did add one word in the first sentence, "Pavilion." I'd never heard of the downtown concert venue simply called "the Pritzker" and to me that conjures up visiting the governor. And Caren later pointed out that the "the" could then go. 
     I almost plucked out the "ethically gleaned" and "ethically gotten" in the fifth paragraph, as a favor to her. They seemed over-the-top, to me. As if I wrote something like, "And then I ate a candy bar (paid for; not stolen)." But then, that is me, and I stayed home Friday night because it was hot outside and we were tired, my wife and I deciding not to picnic at Ravinia listening to the CSO, as we had planned. A writer has an obligation to be who they are, and an editor has the duty to let them. I satisfied myself with adding hyphens to the word pairs then, after studying the rules for compound adjectives, taking them out again, because they make perfect sense the way she wrote them.

By Caren Jeskey
"There's no comprehending
Just how close to the bone and the skin and the eyes
And the lips you can get
And still feel so alone."
     —Joni Mitchell, Coyote
     On Monday night two friends and I headed to Pritzker Pavilion to see Gabriel Garzon-Montana and headliner Ana Tijoux, part of the Millennium Park Summer Music Series. It was the best kind of Chicago night. In the 80s, no chance of rain, with a late sunset.
     My friends slid into seats near the stage at the center of it all. The wide open grassy field called my name, so I sat on a bench at the edge of the arbor that frames the Pavilion grounds, with the expanse of the lawn and the stage in front of me. But who was I kidding? There’s no way to sit on a metal bench when thick, fragrant, perfectly manicured grass is calling. I found myself barefoot in the green stuff, laying back and watching the occasional cloud, instinctively stretching my body as I loosened up.
     After the show, my Spanish-speaking friends filled me in. Ana Tijoux is a Chilean-French songstress whose parents were exiled from Pinochet’s Chile. She spoke a bit in English about the plight of little children trying to make the treacherous journey straight into the colonial U.S. of A. Right into where armed boys are proud. 
     I caught my breath as I imagined what’s happening there, right in the same moment that I — often ungrateful me — was gazing up at one of the world’s greatest skylines on a spectacular night. My only problem is trying to pull myself together with the privilege of having the safety, time and space to do so. Or at least to try. No one is chasing me.
     I’d brought a pair of (ethically gleaned) coyote bone earrings for my friend Sylvia to give to her beautiful daughter Vero. For years, (also ethically gotten) coyote teeth earrings were my go-to. I felt I had to have them on almost every day, and without them I felt naked. Last fall I accidentally pulled one off on a sidewalk in Humboldt Park one night. It fell to the ground and disappeared in the fallen leaves. A kind couple brought flashlights out and we searched forever, but it was not to be. I felt I’d lost a piece of my soul. I bought the bone earrings to replace the teeth, but it hadn’t worked. It felt right to pass them on.
     When my close friend Laura Rose — who’s now a mountain mama in Black Hawk Colorado — saw the huge teeth framing my face once, she commented. “That’s powerful medicine. Are you sure you want to wear those?” Her use of the word “medicine” to describe an animal reminded me of the teachings I’d had from Lakota and other people indigenous to the Americas.
     I’d studied with teachers of the Lakota ways for seven years. I was welcomed to participate in inípi ceremonies (also called sweat lodges) and chanupa (also known incorrectly as a peace pipe) ceremonies. The curanderos and curanderas (medicine people) taught us to connect with Mother Earth, and to connect with our ancestors. To honor our heritage, and thus to honor who we are. The inípi itself represented the womb of Grandma, and the red hot rocks that warmed us were Grandpa. We sat on the dirt in the inípis we’d built, which were housed on a farm in Kingston, Illinois called Spirits Whisper Acres. It was a horse rescue farm, with a smattering of random “four leggeds” as my Lakota teachers called them. It took an army of us to get an angry bull back into the barn one time. Luckily, no-one was gored.
     When I came across a war manifesto written by Lakota people on the Pine Ridge Reservation that railed against anyone who taught their ways to white people, I decided to take a break and did not return to that group. Since then I've spent just one long day and night in an inípi just outside of Austin, Texas. I met a gorgeous black horse there, and we hung out. Animals are so much easier than people sometimes. Oftentimes.
     After that big night out on Monday, I spent the next three days days inside my cozy cottage, missing out on some of the best days and nights Chicago has to offer. Last week I said that I was trying to look at it as hygge, and I am still trying; however, it felt more like going in and out of states of agoraphobia where I’d almost leave, punctuated with a feeling of rawness that seemed to expose every nerve in my body, as though my insides were on on the outside, topped off with a few heart-thumping panic attacks. But hey. Other things went very well this week and I am grateful to be alive, muddling through with the best of us.
     Finally, on Thursday after my last client ended at 5 pm, I put on some shoes and grabbed my helmet. I got on my bike and just went where the wind took me.
     As I rode down Old Orchard Road next to Dignity Memorial Cemetery I noticed a coyote standing in the grass next to the bike path, watching the cars go by. I wondered if he or she (they look alike unless you are closer than you should be) was considering crossing the busy road. I briefly considered halting traffic to make a safe path but then remember this is not a Disney movie. The coyote gracefully glided back between the slats of the metal gate, gave me a couple of good long looks from a safe distance, and laid down. They did a bit of grooming, then settled, head and eyes in my direction, ears perked up. Time stands still in moments like this.
     Later that night my friend Jesse Ray sent me a photo of a hawk’s feather. My main Lakota teacher’s name is Red Tail Hawk. Jesse discovered it in a bit of sticky tar on a freshly paved road near his house. Yesterday as I left for a doctor’s appointment I was pleasantly shocked to find a feather of my own. I realized that there are hawks in the trees all around me that I’ve been missing in the business of my overthinking mind. I will keep an eye to the trees and hope to spot one soon.
“Synchronicity is an ever present reality for those who have eyes to see.” 
          —Carl Jung



  1. Well I for one am a Neil, Neil, Neil person. My issues with Caryn's writing are almost always more about me than her (let's just say that "mystical" is my absolute no-go, while many people adore it.) She is obviously an excellent writer. However, I am grateful for your editing of "The Pritzker PAVILLION" as this is the once discernable actual flaw I have seen repeatedly in Caryn's writing. Referring to things as though the reader would know them, when why in the world would they be likely to...and you make your reader quite confused...thinking "huh, what is that?? (and I'm actually less than a half mile from that Pavilion right now but I'd never think to refer to it without the descriptive.) It's like a writing teacher once told me, you do not need to refer to Paris, FRANCE, but you DO need to reference Wisconsin when you mention Mukwonago (where she was from). If you aren't 100 percent sure, don't stop your readers in their tracks to puzzle it out .

    1. It's funny that you all see my as mystical. I am an atheist, and an ethical humanist. My connection with nature and fellow humans. is reverent because it feels so damn good. It's Caren. :)

    2. Personally, I'd have gone with "Pritzker Pavilion," too. However, I submit that, for the informed Chicago audience primarily reading this, adding "Pavilion" is closer to saying "Paris, France" than it is to "Mukwonago, Wisconsin," when the context is "I headed to the Pritzker Pavilion to see Gabriel Garzon-Montana and headliner Ana Tijoux, part of the Millennium Park Summer Music Series."

      I will also suggest that "Neil Neil Neil" provides a superb alternative to the classic "Marcia Marcia Marcia" from the days of the Brady Bunch. ; )

    3. Uh, you might want to know that you are misspelling Caren’s name.

    4. I, too, favor Neil Neil Neil (or Neilneilneil)...otherwise, I wouldn't readreadread EGD, or post nearly every goddamn day. Caren is an excellent writer, and so delightfully energetic, availing herself of so much that Chicago offers. But l must confess that I'm just not into things spiritual or mystical. Never have been. My first wife was. We didn't last. My present wife is just the opposite: practical, sensible, hard-headed, realistic. Our 30th anniversary is fast approaching.

      But I do understand why Neil, who works very hard six days a week, chooses to rest on the seventh, and have Caren pinch-hit for him and keep the streak alive on Saturday, the Jewish sabbath. He most likely needs a brief opportunity to recharge...a bit of breathing space. As sportswriter Red Smith famously said: "Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed."

  2. Oh! And the ethically gotten part? I have vegans in my life, and I also try to consume animal products responsibly. I am far away from animal product free though. I still wear leather shoes.

    1. When I worked for Leather & Shoes, a trade magazine, corfam was much talked about. It may be still available, but I'm hoping that the use of plural pronouns to refer to singular antecedents goes where corfam went...and soon.

      John, an old fart, apologetically

    2. Looks like Corfam shoes are a thing of the past, though available on Etsy and eBay. Sharp looking!

      I'm not sure which pronoun/antecedent you are referring to? It's late...

    3. Corfam was a fake leather that failed disastrously because, while long-lasting, it couldn't mold to the foot or beath. I write about it in "Complete and Utter Failure."

  3. Don't know if you saw this from the Humane Society, but this is happening in Illinois, and I am sickened.

  4. Hey, I feel grateful o get Caren mixed in with my Neil.


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