myth and poetry

Mythopoetry Scholar

Annual Reflections In Depth Perspectives
Mythopoetry Scholar Ezine vol. 3 2012
Three Ways In
-Catherine Svehla

Creation Story


Long ago there was only water. 1 Coyote was floating on a log when he saw the ducks. “We are the only creatures in an empty world,” he told them. “One of you should dive down and see if there is a solid bottom under all this water.”

The red mallard dove first. He was gone a long time. When he came up he said, “There is dirt down there but I didn’t get any.” The small pin feathered duck dove next but he didn’t get any dirt either. Then the grebe volunteered. “I will bring you some dirt my brother” he told Coyote. The grebe was gone a very long time. When he came back to the surface he had a small bit of dirt between his webbed feet.

Coyote spread the mud around and made solid ground. He made rocks and stones and hills and trees and grass. He scooped out ponds and streams and filled them with fish. He created East, West, North, and South and plenty of room to wander around in.
From this came everything else.


Measured, marked, weighed, named, mapped, divided and divvied up, known, assessed. Smoothed, reconciled.
Dead butterflies on pins mounted in a box with a velvet backdrop.
Nothing stirs.

Then Old Man Coyote comes and kicks the empty skull of that world.
Finds the flaw, the crack,
The opening in that world of certainty, fixed points, clarified positions, and Truth.
Dust gets in. And light.

Coyote’s road is a track in dry sand going everywhere and nowhere.
Yiiieee—Coyote was going there!
Sanity is discovering the patterns and letting them dissolve.
So much good arises from happy accident.
This happens over and over again.

Old Man Coyote walked in the first twilight and howled at the moon, a soul mate in fickleness and fidelity.
When his tail tells him to make dirt and lie down, he does so.
Home is where his feet touch the earth.
If we are alone it is because we have forgotten him and his way.
Changing Person, Chief of the Human People, the one who makes things right.

Where Coyote came from, only the Creator knows.


Some mornings I hear coyote yipping and yapping with glee and sorrow as he runs on the rocky hills that surround our cabin. I go outside to catch a glimpse of him, lean and hungry, trotting down the sandy wash between creosote bushes and burro weed on his way to the next valley.  I hear his yelping far more often than I actually see him; I sense his presence, find his tracks in the dirt of the driveway where he danced in the desert darkness while I slept.

Old Man Coyote reminds me that my time in this beautiful world is short and encourages me to enjoy all of it. “Life is serious play” he says, and turns to pull a prickly seed from his fur coat, shaggy and rough in the colors of dirt and gravel. “But if you must have a goal, aim to be a master of opportunity. Learn to make some thing out of something else and show all of your teeth when you smile.”

He grins and lifts his tail high in the air. “Today the ground beneath you is solid,” he says, “so why not dance?” 


1 This story is a rough paraphrase of a Crow story collected by Barry Lopez in Giving Birth to Thunder, Sleeping With His Daughter: Coyote Builds North America, Avon Books: New York, 1977.

2014 Shorty Award in #mythopoetics

Nominated in the community generated category #mythopoetics,Three Ways In, a part of the top ten nominated pages from this issue, finishes competition on 2/18/14 with an overall standing in position ***37*** among more than 3,500 nominees. Congratulations to Catherine Svehla on this fine achievement.

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Catherine Svehla, Ph.D.

Author Bio
Catherine Svehla
is a scholar, storyteller, artist, and activist with a PhD in Mythological Studies from Pacifica Graduate Institute. She lectures at CSUSB and Copper Mt College and facilitates the High Desert Mythological Roundtable in Joshua Tree, CA. To learn more visit


Catherine's Blog

Cultural Mythology: Myth Culture and Consciousness

Catherine's Joseph Campbell High Desert Mythological RoundTable
It meets the last Tuesday of every month, 7-9PM at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center, Joshua Tree, CA


"There Is A Lot Next Door" see p23, The Sun Runner Magazine

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