A series of writing about a long realised dream to go and live… where the wolves are.
2. Why Wolves
I am commonly asked: “why wolves?” A question that I don’t find particularly easy to answer because it always opens a door into a different sense of reality that I, perhaps wrongly, assume most other people will not understand. Maybe I’m afraid they will think I’m woo woo, for on the other side of that door, myth, mystery and magic, merge with what our scientistic society calls ‘normal’. However I know I’m not alone in my fascination for this animal. There is something, in particular for women it seems, that draws us to the wolf. Maybe because in her we sense our wild other, one we long to know, but have few social narratives that might lead us down a path of such knowing.
I’m not sure when my fascination with wolves began, but I know when it got serious. I found myself writing a performance piece called Wolf Tales: a Shepherdess in the 1300’s, knowing where the wolf has her cubs, goes and watches them as they grow. The 1300’s was highly significant for the English wolf for by the end of that century they were gone, just 100 years after King Edward I order their extermination. One of the last wolf legends (there are a few), occurred not far from where I used to live in the Lake District in the far northwest of England, at Humphrey Head on Morecambe Bay. The wolf, hunted down was cornered on this headland and killed.
What else died with those last wolves? What died in us? What are we unable to know of ourselves now that they are gone? All this, if you let it, eventually gets under your skin, or at least it did mine. Those 10 years I spent in the Lake District, a stunning beautiful place, were nonetheless lived in the knowledge of those absent: wolf, wild boar, beaver, and if we go even further back in history elk, bear and lynx, and that’s just some of the bigger mammals. These absences haunt me and bring to mind the words of Chief Seattle:
“If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts also happens to the man, all things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth”
A great loneliness of spirit is what I felt living there, despite the beautiful landscape, and I started to wonder, perhaps the place that is wild enough for the wolf will be wild enough for me. I lived those years in the Lake District in the town of Ulverston – Wolf Town. Ulfr, being Norse for wolf, Ulfarr a Norse name meaning Wolf Warrior. My dear friends, who I spent this summer with on their small holding in Portugal, also previously lived in the Lakes, in the village of Ulpha in the beautiful Duddon Valley. The ghosts of wolves and a wilder time in history indicated all around. Although these clues too, get slowly irradiated. I love maps and recall finding an ‘Eagle crag’ on an old map of the Lake District that is no longer marked on the new. Is this because no eagles fly these skies anymore, let alone have a crag where they always nest?
This desire to go and live where the wolves are grew out of an experience I had when I took part in a contemporary journey of initiation in 2017. A year long foray into the psychic realm of the underworld, guided by Bill Plotkin and some of the team from the Animas Valley Institute in Colorado. This was a year in which my perception of reality changed, expanded, awoke to wonder, awe and a knowing of the world as alive, animate; all which is manifest in material reality, consciousness. A knowing held by all indigenous animistic societies. In our modern world the word pan-psychic seeks to describe this aliveness. An aliveness which modern science, quantum physics aside, has so far sort to deny.
Our Western culture entrains us to look out at the world as if an outsider, but there is the possibility to know the world from within, as a felt, sensed experience. In my own experience this knowing makes life more real than our receive perception will allow – it being limited to what is measurable.
Personally I spent years in the wastelands of doubt, as I slowly broke free of the all knowing scientist and was able to allow space for curiosity, for not knowing, and the possibility of the unexplainable being an acceptable part of reality.
But that’s not to say the scientist in me is dead. No, she just had to move aside and make space for other windows of knowing to exist. The scientist is still very much alive, and through that window more aspects of wolf are known. Wolf as healer of land: for wolf changes the behaviour of herbivores, who, no longer able to blithely graze anywhere, act more cautiously. This allow trees to recover in areas where ambush would be easy, such as riparian fringes. So wolves change the entire ecology of the landscape, just like beavers, they bring back a far greater diversity of life. Without these ecosystem engineers we continue to deny to potential of the land to restore life’s abundance.
Part of the year-long soul initiation was a vision fast. Four days and nights alone with no food, just water. On the fourth day I had various waking dreams and visions. Wolf, bear, horse, eagle, owl and snake variously appeared, some with messages, others it seemed in simple solidarity. It was not long after that, that the idea took hold, that I’d like to live in a place where all those beings other live. So here I am, in search of wolves and a wilder place to call home.