Coyote Moon, Peregrine Sky

by shelleyobrien

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I began this project on a tropical mid-January morning in Kauai. I had just read in one of the brochures that Hawaii, and specifically Kauai, being the most easterly of the islands, was settled in 400AD by Polynesians traveling 4000 km from the Marquesas Islands. They rode in 60 ft dug out canoes for months and months, at sea, navigating by the stars, the waves, the clues of the seascape around them. As a geographer by training, I was confounded.

How could that kind of travel be humanly possible? How could a vast ocean provide such clear signals to navigate these wayfarers to this extremely isolated island chain? That was sitting with me when I started writing about our city friends, the coyotes. Truly amazing animals that have also traveled great lengths to live in our land of plenty. It’s said they follow the lightly populated railways leading south, and sleep on the shoulders of highways, where they are safe from discovery as they travel. The mythology of the coyote runs deep throughout North America, and I resonated with the trickster, the wily mayhem-maker who knows way more than we give credit for. The being who sleeps in the moon, and howls at this land of plenty: geese, chihuahua, they aren’t picky. This being has made a home of concrete, and in my song anyway, he and she know when it’s time to load the dug out canoe, navigate by the stars, and head boldly for more hospitable climes.

Now, looking at the trajectory from the first pen scratch in Hawaii, there was a clear progression for me. The first part of the project I looked very critically at our relationship to nature in the the city, from the peregrine webcams to the coyote shenanigans. Our ego and fossil-fueled lives lead us to a land of hand-held, eyes-glazed distraction, and that distraction keeps all nature - our friends in the city, and our own natures - “safely” at bay.

If we are brave, and if we make time, we can settle down and touch the earth. We laugh at the Toronto Peacock that escapes from High Park, but we laugh because, man! We can relate to wanting to be free. We ARE nature. So as the songs wrote themselves, they became more and more about creating spaces of enchantment, gratitude and love. Transcending the distraction is the work of all of us, but we all have it in us to do. This city is full of love, and that is the lesson I took with me from this project.

Nature is Love, after all. And connection. Eyes met on a rainy day walk in the forest of High Park. A magical streetcar ride with your girlfriend to buy saree fabric in little india. The tune of songbirds weaving in and out of my recording sessions next to the park. And a community of people who, for better and worse, both rub against nature, and relish in the great riches it offers up to us, in this WILD city with a COYOTE MOON and PEREGRINE SKY.


released June 16, 2015

Made possible by the kind support of the Toronto Arts Council and the Ontario Arts Council



all rights reserved


shelleyobrien Toronto, Ontario

Since the release of her debut album in 2009 and her sophomore record Vivarium (2011), Shelley O’Brien has taken her electric ukulele and her haiku lyrics to festivals in Helsinki, Melbourne, Tokyo and Rome, and has toured in Iceland, Holland, Japan and Germany.

O'Brien's elemental and lush third album, Turn The Dark, delves into the inner workings of the human heart.
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Track Name: Bright Embrace
bring your ear close to me little girl
slow and stay those pounding feet
a symphony a song a little pearl
what you are is what you wish to be

raise your eyes and see me little girl
you can wear this bright embrace
see the sky go like a tilt-a-whirl
what this is, is your own shining face

reach your hands down deep into the dirt
feel my heart as your own beats
i made you and you are making me
isn’t that how we really meet

there could be no bigger love
there could be no bigger love
there could be no bigger love
there could be no bigger love
Track Name: To Hawaii, With Love
ran due south on tracks you made
lay my head on dirty shoulders
this mayhem maker is your new urban lore
i howl and roar, fur taker

your geometry a well-laid plan
grid lock, i have the keys to
these city races with charges as the prize
i eat fowl/foul and rise, game keeper

i live in the moon
i rule the ravine
will you shoot me down?

i straddle the worlds
seen and unseen
will you shoot me down?

fly by night in a canoe
months of stores, of stars of plenty
you keep going faster, you captives in lockdown
i’m lost and found, hobo master

this beautiful song’s full of terrible things
this beautiful song’s full of terrible things
this beautiful song’s full of terrible things
this beautiful song’s full of terrible things
Track Name: Songbird's Lament
i thought you knew me
i’m a songbird high in a tetris game
bricks close out all the light i’m blinded by
while the real green sea boils over

you thought you were free
but you’re just a ghost of you
you’re haunting yourself
through and through

with these handfuls of dirt
come the towers of pride
how you harvest the dreams from the sky
and the cloud-lands above
bereft of their love, cry

i’m all sung out
too much window pane/pain
i reflection of what i want so i
hit it again

you’re in there somewhere
oh such a pale disguise
living a life without being alive

turn out the lights! let the stars steer me right
take me far from the city night, far from the city night
Track Name: Double Halo Dreams (Fox Wedding I)
we fly west we slip between
northern showers southern beams
she’s got fox gloves i’ve got double halo dreams
and we ride, hidden

only children see us there
reach up to our coats to stroke our russet hair
in plain sight we dare to love and love to dare
and we hide, forbidden

we’re going to the end of the line
two forest brides
oak trees hold their hearts and pine
now i’m your’s and you’re mine
and the choir sings “YAY!”

rolling back to bollywood
as only foxes on an east-bound trolley could
dance loose from the rails, it’ll do you good
we’re alive, smitten

bangles sarees jasmine nights
the 506 twice made it right
into the woods! then back to city lights
we arrive, heaven
Track Name: Love is Loud, Love is Wide (Fox Wedding II)
meet me in the lost land, fox bride
where the bird houses drift
and rainbows collide
traffic don’t stop it spills down every side
but our love is loud, our love is wide

meet me in the hinterland, dear ones
raindrops on our coats set alight by the bright sun
hands and eyes eager, hoping and intertwined
all hearts beating to life in the same time

meet me in the lost land, fox bride
nothing is so precious
when there’s nothing to hide
when the world closes in, don’t forget the green inside
our love is loud, our love is wide
Track Name: Hazel May
you came like a hurricane
tore me down, carved me deeper
flooded me, dismantled days
i won’t forget you, hazel may

showed me how the tears can fall
can fill us up, can make us better
sadness can live, she’ll be ok
within the joy, if you just let her

i stood with you, i didn’t run
saw through the rain, til you were done
still my heart was swept away
oh my darling hazel may

i take delight down in the deep
where traffic slows and songbirds sleep
where you’ve gone i couldn’t say
i won’t forget you, hazel may

oh my darling, oh my darling
oh my darling Hazel May
Track Name: Peregrine Sky
come close, further be
watch me fly ‘round these glass trees

feed, feed my hunger games
why do you think you know my name

on your spectacle screen
is a peregrine sky
come out from behind, claim your own high

i’m one, i’m mean with the concrete
you’re a satellite, we will never meet

we’re both slaves to numbers games
i want to survive you want fame

i’m the true queen
you serf/surf/serve bay street
i fly you scurry underneath
Track Name: Golden Holiday
fly like a day fairy, to the apiary
to the middle, to the middle of the sweet

past all the hives and dives to the so alive
to the place where you’re complete

colours churned from
flowers turn to love

your heart your heart is a golden holiday, honey maker
and i for one wouldn’t want it any other way, honey maker

go through the portal til you’re immortal
right in the middle, in the middle of the sweet

better than the best, better than the rest you’re nothing
nothing but complete, ooh ooh ooh ooh
Track Name: Northwind, Absence
northwind, you’re turning me down
northwind, you’re turning me down

waiting for her to come ‘round
but she don’t come ‘round

winter, you’re burying me
winter, you’re burying me

waiting for the love to be found

in this northwind
in this absence
in this cold whistling heart with no substance

what’s to be gained?
what is the cost for what’s lost?
Track Name: Glass Brigade
you are my brightest lights
so wild and smart
oh city-ful of lights
make a child of my heart

you are my roads true
straight as arrows
oh city-ful of truth
make a child of my marrow

and we run, searching for the sun
falling for the sky, you and i

you are my glass brigade
reflecting all you’ve made
oh city strong and brave
make a child of my heart