Hunted like an outlaw for centuries, coyotes carry generations of persecution trauma in their body memory. From their feral vantage point, humans are enemies to be avoided whenever possible, and for a coyote to be at peace with a person is an unlikely scenario. Yet it is precisely this kind of possibility- of wild animals coming into mutually respectful contact with humans- which is the mission of dedicated people around the globe.
To experience wild animals in close proximity can be deeply touching and enlivening. In late September I found myself perched with a camera near the enclosure of Tender, a timid coyote, awaiting her potential emergence into a verdant garden. Having lived within the enclosure for months, and not knowing if the large garden would be dangerous, she opted for the safety of her protected habitat, week after week.
Built twenty years earlier, Earthfire Institute- a pioneering wildlife sanctuary and rehabilitation center- is nestled in the western shadow of Grand Teton National Park, southeast of Yellowstone. Founded by Susan Eirich, PhD and her partner Jean Simpson, a wild animal wrangler, it now serves to provide a living eco-laboratory, working ranch and unique classroom for ongoing human-wild animal interaction.
My own coming to Earthfire was at the invitation of Susan, whom I had met at the annual Spirit & Science Cortona Conference in Todi, Italy (where I also met Antonio Vergara, publisher of Wall Street International Magazine). Having viewed the recently released film, Beyond the Fear of Singing Susan sensed that I had an ‘eye’ to convey the ‘soul of the animal’ on film. She then arranged for me to fly from Helsinki to Idaho in order to film the wolves, bears, bison, foxes, cougar, and coyotes of Earthfire Institute.
Along with spending time filming the other animals and caring staff, I began a daily ritual of sitting in the garden, watching Tender’s numerous hesitant approaches to the threshold of her open enclosure, only to retreat again to safety.
As a music educator, I could see her process of testing for safety provided a perfect mirror for our own human condition, becoming so securely comfortable in our ‘cage’, unsure of stepping into the open- and the fear of criticism and judgment which may be experienced- particularly around personal expressions such as singing.
Common to all of us is the need for safety, especially if we have experienced the trauma of humiliation due to an unaccepted expression of our creative self. For animals, the fear is of the threat of life danger- but the fear of rejection is no less vibrant in humans.
On my last day of filming, Tender the timid coyote finally reached the courage to venture forth, into the garden. To witness her discovery was a gift to behold, and I was happy to have the scene captured in the resulting film, Emissaries from the Wild: The Animals of Earthfire, created as a way of introducing the purpose of Earthfire to the world while stimulating a deeper relationship with wildlife.
Some weeks after the filming, I heard from Susan that the challenge no longer is how to coax Tender out from her enclosure, but how to invite her back inside for food and shelter, as she has become quite happy cavorting freely in her garden.
I hope you enjoy learning more about Earthfire and perhaps letting the animals living there- such as Tender, the timid coyote- inspire you to take another step outside your own cage.