Within Wildness

The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and took notice as my entire body rocked to attention.  I could feel my predator before my eyes found the lurking black shape crawling towards me in the grass.   Every morsel of my being knew in an instant that my role in the food chain had just shifted: I was prey.  My limbic system took hold and I leapt up scanning the horizon, searching in earnest for my hunter as the chaos of minutes slowed down to an eerie dreamlike clarity suspended in time. 



in the dwarf birch, a spot of black crept toward me. I locked eyes on the creature and yelled fiercely. It sat up; a dog at attention. Wolf. I was being hunted by a wolf!

My original panic shifted as I watched the wolf ascertain my bi-pedal nature.  I relaxed as I was confident in my security if it understood that I was human.  It took four more stalking steps towards me, closing the distance to a mere 75 feet.  Okay, so maybe it hadn’t get the memo yet: that I wasn’t food.  I removed the safety brake on my bear spray and stood aggressively at the ready to spray cayenne pepper into the onslaught of a pouncing charging beast.  I shouted loudily: “You’re BEAUTIFUL! I LOVE YOU!  But I’m human, so please GO AWAY!”  At this, the wolf paused again, sitting to stare into my eyes and take in this new information.   As our eyes locked, my body electrified with adrenaline.  I repeated myself, this time more confident in my belief that wolves never attack humans.  “You’re beautiful. I love you.”  I mean, this has always worked to make men run away from me in the dating scene, so why not wolves?  Sure enough, he heard the commitment in my voice, turned sideways and began to trot away at an ever quickening pace. 

This big black alpha male was the same wolf that had greeted me nine days prior as I got off the bush plane; his howls calling to his mate with pups back at the den, announcing our arrival.  I had watched this wolf a few days later work in tandem with his mate to split a herd of caribou into two, separating finally the weakest link in the herd to bring home as a tender feast for his offspring. 



This wolf indeed shaped my journey into the heart of wildness: The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  It was my fourth trip into this deep reservoir of vast epic proportions in my lifetime and instilled in me yet again the deep resolve to preserve this wildness in order to protect our our own wildness within ourselves.  This visit was marred with the impending change in our legislation, recently opening ANWR to drilling.  During my 11 day trip, there wasn’t a day that passed without tears as I pondered the loss of such magnitude.  I was moved as I watched this land, teeming with wildlife overflow with magic all around me.  Even as I came close myself to becoming one with the land as a feast for the wolf whose valley I had come to visit, I still marveled at the existence of such a place…the importance of such a place.  I cried as I watched this landscape move and shape people seeing and experiencing its rivers, peaks and epic beauty for the first time.  On our last night, I choked up as I read aloud to our group the powerful words of conservationist Margaret Murie from Debbie Miller’s book: Midnight Wilderness

“There, in those arctic valleys, there is room for pure unadulterated adventure and learning, for present and future generations That is one reason for protecting the Refuge. But more important, to my mind, would be our having courage enough, in the face of all challenges, to protect this region for the sake of the land itself, and the wildlife it supports. Will our society be wise enough to keep some of ‘The Great Country’ empty of technology and full of life?”

To preserve wildness within or exist without wildness itself:  which is the world we want to live in?  Within wildness is where you’ll find me.  Please join me. 


Preserving The Refuge


Anger and sadness wrestle

      For my attention

How can they drill here? 

Slayer of my heart,

    You splay it wide open

         Deeming it a wasteland…

~ A sacrificial wildness

      called up to offer

         on the oily altar of greed

Words struggle to find breath

   In this vortex of beauty

Tears pull away from my eyes

   Unraveling emotion

       Like caribou highways…

  Ribbons running deep

Into the landscape of my Interior. 

Wolf howls


       In the contours of my skin ~

Topography shaped

      In the origin of Wild.

Engulfed by vastness

   The magnitude of hunger

       Ripens in my belly…

A craving for the exquisite

   Nature of this moment

To be preserved…

        ~ uninterrupted ~


         ~not forgotten ~

The echo of a thousand hooves

    Thundering across the land…


~ Brooke Elizabeth Edwards