Mythology: Why Tarweed was a Good Idea

Another in my series of Sonoma Stories: mythology for a sacred landscape of meaning.

It was summer, and the great Sun was in love.

He stretched his warm arms down to stroke the soft green of Sonoma’s belly, and everywhere he touched the grass grew tall, the leaves spread wide for him.  How he loved her!

He couldn’t help but want to come closer.  Obsessed by her beauty, dazzled by the wide artistry in her diverse creation, he brought his flaming face close until the slopes of her body toasted golden, till the streams dried and the Animal People (who were the only ones living here then) cowered under the wilting oaks against the searing heat.

All, of course, except Coyote.

“Hey!” he cried, stepping out into the blasting light, “What’s with this?  What’re you trying to do, fry us all?”

“Go away, little dog,” said the Sun, “I am wooing my love, the beautiful Sonoma.”

“Wooing, or barbecuing?” replied Coyote.  “This is no way to show your affection!  Does this look like something She’d LIKE?”  He leapt over a widening crevasse forming in a parched meadow.

“What you need, pal, is DATING LESSONS!”

Well, the Sun got pretty mad at that, and figured that this scruffy and insolent little creature hopping with fleas needed lessons in who was the center of the solar system and who was a scavenger who ate mice and carrion.  He spat at Coyote, and the tip of Coyote’s tail caught fire—you can see it’s black, even today.

Well, Coyote went yipping off across the hills and started grassfires that burned far and wide.  Finally, he ran all the way up Big Sulfur Creek and plunged his tail into a spring he found leaping from the top of the mountain. The Sun’s fire is still in there—it’s the Geysers, now.  When the First People came, they went up there to get fire, and that’s where Coyote gave it to them.

Sitting there, with the plume of steam from his tail rising high in the sky from where it sat in Big Sulfur Creek, Coyote had a good view across Sonoma, and she wasn’t looking her best.  Everything was black with the fires that the Sun had started in his anger.  And sitting right in the middle of it, bright and confused, sat the Sun himself.

When Coyote trotted back down, still smoldering, he was surprised to find the Sun rather contrite.  Obviously, this scorched-earth love affair hadn’t been what he’d had in mind.

“She won’t even SPEAK to you?” asked Coyote.  “What did you expect?  How would you feel if somebody dropped a gas giant into YOU as a valentine?”

“But I don’t understand,” moaned the Sun.  “We were getting along so well!”

“Tellya, Burnyface,” said Coyote, licking his burned tail and remaining a respectful distance from the Sun, “you just overdid it.  Believe me:  people don’t want to be incinerated.  Appreciated, yes, respected, even maybe flattered a little.  Not flambéd.  Trust me on this.”

“But I want to be CLOSE to her, I want to HOLD her!”  The Sun was getting upset.  He was used to having things his way, having been the big cheese in the solar system for some time.

“Listen, pal,” said Coyote, “It’s a good idea to leave a little space in a relationship.  you’re gonna go away in the winter, am I right?  Check out those ripe Andean valleys, and such?  Well, maybe you need to give Sonoma the same latitude, if you don’t mind my saying.  Treat her nice, give her presents, let her do her own thing, you know.  It’s not like you can OWN her, if you catch my drift.”

There was a sullen silence.

“How’d you know about those Andean valleys?” grumbled the Sun.

“Look, I get around, okay?  Heavenly bodies just have that wandering eye, if you know what I mean.”  Coyote flopped on the ground, trying to cool off somewhat in the blazing presence of the Sun.

There was another silence.

“Presents?”  said the Sun.

“Yeah, presents.  Things to say how much you like her.”

“How about a meteor bombardment?”

This didn’t sound like a good idea at ALL to Coyote, but he was impressed, nonetheless.  “you certainly think on a grand scale, but listen, little stuff goes over well, too.  Flowers.  Perfume.  Even a picture of you, maybe.  She DOES like you, you know.  You two were hot and heavy before you got carried away.”

The Sun grumped for awhile, and wandered south to visit other loves and think about Coyote’s suggestions.  The rains came and Sonoma’s breast swelled green and sweet once more.

When the Sun came back to Sonoma the following spring, he stroked her flanks golden and left the land dreamy and lissome with summer heat.  And sometimes he got carried away and a fire started, but more often that was Coyote playing with his new toy.  And Sonoma and the Sun danced all the sweet summer long.

But the biggest difference was the gift he gave her:  a tiny flower bearing his golden face, rich with a perfume that filled the summer air, and so filled with his longing that it clings to everything it touches.  He gives her armloads of them every summer.

And she always welcomes him back.

4 thoughts on “Mythology: Why Tarweed was a Good Idea

    1. Hah! Yes, Coyote is a trickster figure in many of the Native stories from this region. As you get farther north, many of the Coyote stories morph into Raven stories.

      I like coyotes. They’re sly and intelligent.


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