coyote poop

Taken out of context, the slide of the coyote feces on my slide talk, The Art of Business Thinking 1,  might seem like a random act of image-slinging for simple shock value. Well, maybe that slide was dog poop. But let me explain.

The subject has to do with ridding ourselves of ideas, beliefs, or viewpoints–the ones that no longer serve us, but that we hang onto anyways. Sometimes it’s worth arguing the pros and cons of an issue, but that could take a lot of time. That’s why an  image of coyote shit is often the most efficient solution to a tiresome debate: you can quickly get on to the next topic. The new idea.

If you think about it, you’ll see that most ideas, beliefs, and viewpoints are temporary. They can easily become just plain wrong wrong as they age. The most decisive way to deal with them is quick release.

I think this is close to what Gary Hamel was saying in his book, Leading the Revolution. (I’m not saying he would use my analogy.) Hamel says that true innovation is more important than the simply new, which might just be the latest fad. Achieving authentic innovation usually means tearing down and recreating traditional concepts and whole business models. Even the ones taught in school.

Sound something like what artists do? Well, that’s because quick release and decomposition of old ideas is the essence of the creative process. There is only so much room on a canvas, so quick removal, or overpainting, of the old allows room for the new.

Coyotes instinctively know this.That’s why they are one of the most adaptable and successful mammals on our planet. And the subtle connection with the creative process may be why they are considered sacred animals here in the Southwest here I live.

I took some better photos of verifiable coyote poop while on a hike in the desert recently. Coyotes like to shit on the trail, where they know you will see it. It’s part of the scenery.

At first glance at their scat, one can see that coyotes are omnivores, like us. Except that they really do eat almost everything, even things that are not food. Their scat is usually covered with hairs, and full of berry rinds, seeds, bones, almost anything that is not digestible. You can tell a lot about what is being served in the area by a close examination.

I looked in the literature and the oral traditions of the Tohono_O’dham people in my region of Arizona. Coyote is usually described as a character with a certain personality we’ll call Coyote, with a capital C. He is a trickster. In general, when Coyote shows up in the stories, things always take a turn for the worse, go wrong in creative ways that one would never have even imagined. Everything he tries to do fails, and not in a simple way, usually in an spectacular way. Or so it seems.
Yet Coyote was one of the first beings hanging around at the creation of the Earth. Along with the Buzzard, another low-life character. And Coyote helps in the Creation. Or tries to. But sometimes, unexpectedly, some good comes of the situations he messes up. It eventually serves a purpose that no one else had thought of.
Coyotes are considered a pest and must be one of the most hunted animals in North America. Yet they are still extending their range: in the last few decades coyotes have colonized the Eastern US, as well as their traditional ground in the West.I know because I designed a map for a book I recently illustrated, Frequently Asked Questions About Coyotes. Maybe they really didn’t need that map because coyotes are basically almost everywhere.

Despite bounty hunters and the best we can throw at them, coyotes are more successful than ever. Why? Because they are both adaptable and intelligent. They do not necessarily follow the rules, even those laid down by authorities on coyote behavior. They are also cooperative–they will take turns chasing down a rabbit to tire it out. Coyotes have even been seen cooperating with badgers. Of all things. I never would have thought of that.

Come to think of it, I’ve draw a lot of coyotes over my career as an illustrator. I decided to pay attention to what the coyote might have to say. There is often a deeper wisdom behind folly. So I started with his shit. After all it was right there in front of me.
So back to my point in the business talk. (Remember I did have a point.)
They are smart, flexible, observant, and playful. I think I’ll adopt the coyote as the patron saint of free-lance illustrators.
Here are to several versions of these stories collected from from the O’Odham People of Southern Arizona, my home.

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