Balancing Fire

I don’t remember anymore what  brought me to the Santa Fe Plaza that

Coyote in the Shop Window

particular day. I do remember how I felt when he caught my eye: that cool, focused amber gaze above the smiling mouth with its ironical twist made me pull up short.

Coyote, the Trickster who stole fire. He was there, living fire balanced in the palm of each hand. I stood and stared at him, feeling he was telling me something. What happens when you reach out and grab hold of fire? It’s going to mean change.

Fire warms, but fire also burns. Fire makes all sorts of creation possible – from smithing to pottery to cooking. But Fire also destroys. Fire is a useful ally, but a chancy friend.

And there stood Coyote, holding fire on the palm of each hand.

Afterwards, the piece haunted me far more than a sculpture less than two feet high should be able to haunt anyone. I asked Jim – whose office is in Santa Fe – if he’d go by and see if he could take a picture for me. I was sure that as soon as I saw the picture – the one that illustrates this wandering account – the spell would be broken.

Far from it. I kept thinking about it. On my next trip up to Santa Fe, I made a special trip to the Plaza to see if Coyote was still there. At first I thought he wasn’t, that I was safe.

However, when I stepped inside, I learned that they’d just changed the window display. Coyote was inside now, sharing a shelf with other works by the same artist. They were wonderful, but he stood out, those eyes meeting mine, that smile challenging my desire to live in a comfortable world.

I talked to one of the clerks and learned that Coyote was a collaborative work between the artists Shawn and Kevin Gadomski. According to the gallery’s files, Shawn is Ojibway from the Turtle Clan of the Grand Portage Band. Kevin is American of French and Italian ancestry. They live in Minnesota.

Coyote with Fire wasn’t an inexpensive piece of art. Although the artists list their creations as numbered within a series, each one is actually unique. The wooden parts are hand-carved. The clothing with its painted ornamentation and fur trim is handmade.

Then I had a bit of a financial windfall. I decided to take the gamble, to take Coyote home with me. We were making a trip to Santa Fe to visit with our friends Julie and Ken Bartel, who were down from Utah. They came with us and witnessed as I decided I could do it, that I really could work under that enigmatic gaze.

Coyote stands on top of a bookcase in my office, looking down over the room, smiling ironically, balancing fire in each hand.

He’s a constant reminder that those of us who strive to live by imagination are playing with fire. He’s a reminder that fire warms and fire burns, that change comes inevitably, and that the very process of creation is – in itself – one of change.


5 Responses to “Balancing Fire”

  1. Emily McKinnie Says:

    I have to say I can relate to that feeling of seeing a piece of art that draws your attention and thoughts back to it. I usually end up buying whatever item it is or at least searching for it each time I’m in that particular store. I have to say your coyote is a very interesting piece. I’m going to have to look up the story of this little trickster coyote who stole fire. It sounds very much like Changer. Any chance Changer was inspired by this myth?

  2. Paul Says:

    A friend of mine named Bud Webster, who is a book collector, dealer and scholar, said it best, regarding books, but the same could be said regarding a piece of art: Your biggest regret will always be the one you wanted but passed up.

  3. Alan Kellogg Says:

    The connection between the Trickster and fire is a long one. Take, for example, all the times Bugs Bunny gets Elmer Fudd to blast himself, or another hapless soul.

    Then you have Loki, Trickster and god of fire. It has struck me how often stories of Loki are caution stories, told to teach children how important it is to keep an eye on the hearth fire, and how bad things can result when you don’t.

    Trickster stories, whether tales of Loki, Spider, and Bugs Bunny cartoons are cautionary tales, and that is why we need them. For were we ever to forget the lessons taught we would be in bad shape indeed.

  4. Eric Says:

    I love finding works of art that stick with me in the way that coyote stuck with you. I’ve been fortunate to never be forced to pass up one, although I did walk away from one once, but came into possession of it through chance later on.

  5. FreedomGallery Says:

    HI Jane! Love what you wrote. Thanks so much!
    Ironic…Sardonic? LOL

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