I hear a hushed voice behind me and blink my eyes to try to focus. I realize I am in the forest that has become the space and place where I meet with Coyote. This interstitial space has provided me with healing and a sense of understanding and belonging.
“Coyote,” I call out when I do not see him right away.
“SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH,” Coyote appears and hushes me. “I just got them to sleep”.
“Just got who to sleep?” I whisper.
“Why, the Stories of course! No thanks to you. They spent all day crying. Shame on you for yelling at them like that. You know Stories are sensitive and should never be linear. Asking them to line up; have you never listened to anything I’ve said?” Coyote stomps off in a huff.
I stand there wondering if I should follow him, but I hear him whispering to the stories.
“Shhh, shhh, it is alright. She won’t hurt you,” Coyote soothes the stories.
I sit down on a rock and sink my feet into the moss. I allow the connection with the earth to ground me, and I feel the stress of the last few days fade away. I reflect on what Coyote has said to me, and for the first time I realize the damage I may have inflicted upon the stories.
“Non-maleficence,” I say out loud. I contemplate the first principle of ethnography and what it means to do no harm. In ethnography, this refers to the research participants.
“But what about the Stories?” I ask as Coyote appears.
“Exactly,” Coyote sighs and sits down beside me.
I hear a Story whimper from behind me, and my heart squeezes when I think about how I made the Stories feel.
“Maybe you should ask them,” Coyote offers, and he seems to have nodded off.
I take a long look at my friend and realize he has what appears to be Cheerios and applesauce stuck in his fur. I feel grateful for the kindness and support he offered the Stories and realize that there may not always be someone there to undo the harm I cause. The need for relationship and care in those I work with is more important than I realize. I cover Coyote with a small blanket that is sitting beside me. I sit for a while, listening to Coyote’s quiet snores and wonder about what I should ask the Stories.
I stand and walk towards where I heard Coyote comforting the Stories. I come across what appears to be a small nursery and see small bundles lying in cradles. I sit down and rock the cradle nearest me.
“You are so important,” I tell them.
Coyote appears by my side and smiles, “Beautiful aren’t they”?
Margaret Kovach (2010) says that “Oral stories are born of connection within the world, and thus recounted relationally. They tie us with our past and provide a basis for continuity with future generations” (p.94). So… this means that I should treat the Stories as my relations…
I stop talking, and Coyote looks at me patiently as I struggle to make sense of what he was trying to teach me. I look at the cradles and smile.
“You always make it harder than it is… Did you ever think that you were the reason I needed a nap and not the Stories?” Coyote shakes his head at me.
“They are the centre of everything we do. Like child-centred education, the Stories will take the lead,” I say, and Coyote pats me on the back and nods as he hands me a crying bundle of Story.