Throughout my life I have always been attracted to the wisdom that has been carried on through generations in different forms, especially the meaning behind names and symbols. This has led me to put a lot of thought into the names that I assign to things: children, blogs, pets… my iPhone.
There was a good week and a half between when we decided to start this blog and when it finally went live solely because I couldn’t land on a name. And I was a little preoccupied during the day with the NICU-life. Finally, a name came to me. I sat on the name for a few days to make sure this was really the name I wanted to settle on: Coyotes and Saints.
We have a regional park that we hike around in a lot. One early fall morning when I was about 4.5 months pregnant with Olivia we were walking in the park and a coyote slowly crossed the trail in front of us. It was a majestic site with the crisp fall colors. About a 1.5 month later we were walking in the same park one early afternoon. Casey was a few steps ahead of me. I casually recalled, “hey, remember that time we saw a coyote?” Casey turned around to face me and commented on the fresh scat he saw on the ground. As his eyes raised to look at me I could tell he was actually looking right past me. I turned to see a coyote standing in the middle of the trail a few yards behind me. We joked that I was the “coyote whisperer” as the coyote sauntered off.
As I recounted this story to people at work they encouraged me to look up the symbolism of coyote sightings and coyotes in general. At the time I didn’t think much of what I was reading. I ran across the words “bad omen” a few more times than my pregnant self was comfortable with, but through the following weeks and months the meaning of coyote symbolism lingered in the back of my mind. The coyote is a trickster, but often for the purpose of indirectly teaching us something. The coyote reminds us to have a sense of humor. To be adaptable. Some native peoples believed that the coyote is a symbol of life and coyotes are included in creation stories as entering the world alongside humans.
“The coyote totem is symbolic of the magic in life and creation. In some traditional stories, it is associated with the dark side of witchcraft and is considered as a bad omen. The flipside of these negative associations is the spirit of resourcefulness and ability to survive. When the coyote spirit animal shows up in your life, it might lead you to experience the unexpected more fully. Surprises await you. Pay attention, you may also find piece of wisdom in the most unexpected places. By affinity with the power of adaptability of the coyote, you may be called to be flexible and adjust to a situation that you did not anticipate.“
After Olivia was born and she was transported to UCSF, I was sitting in a hospital room two hours away. The events that had taken place just hours earlier barely had sunk in, but I found myself Googling the meaning of coyotes on my iPhone. Had I been warned?
My body was still trembling from the trauma of being flung into a hospital delivery with an OBGYN that literally was the worst match in the world for a crunchy planing-on-having-a-home-birth mama like me. I was trying to process how quickly this all had gone so differently than we had anticipated. I was trying to find some meaning in this all as I looked over at the empty bassinet in the corner of the room that still held the hat that was supposed to be on my newborn baby. Reading about the coyote reminded me of a word I had said to one of my midwives earlier in the day: surrender. When asked how I was feeling about going into preterm labor, I said that I had surrendered to the situation. This baby was coming and I was the vessel. So much was out of my hands. When I made the decision to surrender to whatever it was that lay ahead, I really had no idea what that would entail.
Unexpected. Flexible. “Adjust to a situation that you did not anticipate.” Survive.
After Olivia was born people close to us have repeatedly had close encounters with coyotes — including on the side of a busy road in Marin and back in that regional park. Every day in the NICU Olivia shows us that she has other plans in mind. After each encounter, I go back and read the different interpretations of coyote symbolism and I am reminded to welcome wisdom in unlikely places.
One of my favorite things about the Catholic Church is the Communion of Saints. I love that it is built into the tradition of the Church to remember and honor the giants on whose shoulders we stand. It is important to remember that saints are humans that are recognized by the Church for their life of dedication to the faith. Because saints are humans they were sinners and nowhere near perfect. But that’s the beauty of it. Saints were ordinary people that responded to God’s calling, some as children and some not until much later in their life. Some were grumpy. Some led shameful lives. All have something to teach us.
When naming our children it was really important to me that their name had a strong meaning behind it. What’s beautiful about naming people after saints is that every time we say one of our children’s names we are invoking the intercession of someone that is especially close to God.
Oscar was named after Blessed Archbishop Óscar Romero of El Salvador. He was assassinated while offering mass because the Salvadorian government saw him as a threat. He spoke out against the abuse and exploitation of the poor at the hand of the powerful.
Olivia’s two names – Olivia Mercedes – were picked in honor of Our Lady of Olives and Our Lady of Ransom (Nuestra Madre de Mercedes). Mercedes is also a family name from my paternal side that holds a legacy of strength and perseverance. Both of Olivia’s names are Marian names, meaning that they are derived from special devotions to Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
In addition to these, as a family we have a few saints that we have a special devotion to. You may be wondering what that means. Simply put: there are a few saints that we feel a special connection to. We ask these saints to pray for us because there are certain things that some saints uniquely understand because of the lives they led.
Some of these saints are:
- Saint Martin de Porres (my confirmation saint)
- Saint Padre Pio (Casey’s confirmation saint)
- Our Lady Undoer of Knots
- Our Lady of Guadalupe
- Saint Francis of Assisi (the inspiration for the coyote monk logo)
- Saint Maximillion Kolbe
- Saint Pope John Paul the Great
PRAY FOR US!