Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Wolves Underneath the Stars

I've been thinking lately about niches, how I might be more successful in the Web-o-sphere if I wrote say, a vegan cooking blog, or had an allergen-rich child who had radically altered my life, and I could now show you how to prosper in the brave new world of wheat-less living. 

I don't have any aces like that up my sleeve.  In fact, trying to come up with a list of rules I like to live by, the first rule of Fight Club came to mind: You do not talk about Fight Club.  Except for me, it was more like - the first rule of living is: there are no rules.

Tim likes to quote the guidance he read in a book called Blue Highways:

1) Don't go around hurting each other


2) Try to understand

If there are rules in our house, those might be it, because there certainly aren't ones about cleaning things on time.

I guess rules are good for understanding how to live in community, how to care for one another, how to make space for those around you.  But I also think the human spirit is pretty intuitive, and when left to its own devices, I find it is a pretty benign, loving thing. 

I once wrote about how much wilderness means to me, and I've been seeing similar themes pop up here and there.  Lily at bigBANG studio wrote a gorgeous post this week about what wilderness does for her, and it made me think of this Wallace Stegner quote I've been sitting on, not quite knowing how to integrate it into the blog.  I guess the best thing is to just whack you over the head with it, so here goes (thump).

Have I mentioned reading Shopping for Porcupine, Seth Kantner's out of this world memoir about growing up in Alaska?  It is chock full of chipped, frozen knuckles, bear hunting, wolf hides, and moose.  In other words, my piece of heaven. 

I don't know how to explain how a girl who grew up in Connecticut, who hails from funeral directors and tobacco farmers in North Carolina, thrills while reading about harsh elements, extreme conditions, and homesteading.  I assure you, most of my free hours are spent day-dreaming on suburban streets, and wandering the fields of memoirs I adore, buns planted firmly on my porch rocker.  But still, I would only be half as alive, half as powerful, were it not for the wild spaces I love so much.

Here is another book that blew the door off my mind, about long-distance swimming in Arctic waters, of all things.  (If your library carries it in hard-cover, as mine does, it is a particularly beautiful cover.  When you get your hands on it, you should probably just sleep with it next to you like a big, watery promise.)

I suppose I'm getting at two things here.  The first is how important it is for me to explore in this life.  Besides woods and vistas and swampy lake curves, I probably enjoy exploring feelings best.  And the reason I love woods and vistas and swampy lake curves is because they resemble the un-tame parts in all of us - the messy, the scary, and challenging parts of being human. The not-easy parts, the one-size-fits-only-me parts, the parts that refuse to behave, and the parts that allow vulnerability and life-on-the-edge to rule supreme. 

Those are the parts of life I like to honor above all.  Anyone who can read can follow a list of rules.  Even more of a challenge, I think, is to let yourself howl wildly, a lone arc of hope across the crystalline night.    

I could end every post with a Josh Ritter song but try not to.  Here is one for you, though.  Do yourself a favor - go out and buy The Animal Years if you don't have it already.  Then go out and live your biggest baddest animal life.


P.S. For those of you following the mysteries of my neighborhood, a family moved in down the street with, like, 15 children.  One of the youngest kids was out in the yard one night at dusk, dressed in a diaper, armed with a long stick, banging it with authority on a mound of dirt.  As Tim and I walked past, Tim joked, "Hey! A feral baby."  But seriously, that little boy took my breath away.  I don't necessarily want to be a baby allowed to run around in the dark past my bedtime without a stitch of clothing on, but the fact that someone out there is living an existence like that, and right on my street, well, that pretty much made my summer.


  1. Thanks! I love that quote about the wilderness. I think for me, I need to know the Ocean is out there, and I feel like this quote puts its finger on WHY i feel that way. Nice to have an explaination now! You have now given me two more books to add to my library list! I think you might like the book I'm currently reading, it's about long distance running in Colorado. It's called Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall.

  2. I enjoy exploring feelings TOO! Maybe that's why we get along so well? Also, long distance swimming in the Arctic?! Sounds like a must read!