The Wound of The World, a Gray Wolf Pup And The Ancient Order of Things
In mid-Spring of this year, I found myself driving home with a 6 week old female wolf hybrid. The runt of the litter. Part of a private rescue which required that 19 puppies belonging to three litters of various percentages wolf, be wisely placed in Boulder homes. This little creature, this impossible treasure, who would become to us Ruby Dragon Chickadee, was shaking and silent as she huddled in her new Auntie Alyssa’s lap. Ruby’s litter was the youngest of the three and the highest wolf content – likely 75% gray wolf DNA running through this little one’s tiny pulsing veins and ancient intelligent spirit.
There was nothing even remotely responsible about bringing Ruby Dragon Chickadee home. I had just said goodbye to my oldest son, and was actively planning the important and imminent extrication of my younger son from our home. There is a sweet spot to fledging. Too early and you pay a price. Too late and it often has to be a violent excision rather than a mutually heartbreaking yet exciting departure. I was down to only one young stallion in the house. My full post-mothering independence was within my sight. And what should unfold but this: a newborn. And a traumatized wild one at that.
I was raised in a fairly domesticated, 'civilized' environment in suburban New England. We were upper-middle class and, following the rules, only opened our home to the socially acceptable things, like monthly tennis group potlucks, seasonal parties with briskets and martinis and the annual long weekend house parties at our summer home in the Adirondacks. The outlying behavior, and likely one of the things that instilled a rebel pulse in me, was that my mother always had at least two adopted cats living with us at any given time. But, there was never any question about taking in a wayward human stranger or wild orphan in need.
When it came time to make my own home, I organized around a very different set of values. I organized around the fact that not only am I part of the 1% and I have so much, we are all part of something bigger that requires, at times, an inconvenient participation. Even if, as we do, we live in a tiny little home with things stashed in the spider-ridden crawlspace and under tarps off to the side of the house, we are wildly fortunate. And, inescapably, we are part of the mycelial map of life. Somehow I arrived in my adulthood believing that I must find ways to open myself up to the world of others. And it’s likely going to feel odd and scary. And, it’s likely going to require that I engage with my regret and my desire to simply be comfortable and isolated.
Bringing Ruby Dragon Chickadee home was a gesture from this place. And one that already, before I even pulled into our driveway, had me feeling my regret. Our yard isn’t even fenced! We have two middle-aged cats and wolves are notorious predators. We live next to a farm with chickens, llamas and sheep. The elkhound, who has been my companion and savior for the last five years, is part coyote and one of the least social canines I’ve met. And while I work from home, my work requires a certain level of safety and calm – I’m a psychotherapist in private practice, with individuals and couples coming in and out of my home all day long, their lives often in states of great vulnerability and disarray. Through the five years, our marvelous elkhound coyote hybrid has figured out his role in this dance. He comes into the office, lays down and promptly starts snoring (loudly) until such time in a session when he senses something, gets up and situates himself directly in front of someone to offer them either some needed comfort and dark-brown-eye-gazing or some ‘hey! cut the crap and tell the truth in here!’ Either way, he’s never a distraction. Only an unerringly intuitive assistant. What would we do with a tiny traumatized wolf pup in the mix? How would we tend to her and everyone else at the same time? Had my altruism gone too far, jeopardizing the people and creatures I was already committed to?
Well, I have learned something about this process. And I think I learned it a while ago, but it still takes me some time to remember that I know it, each time I bump up against it. My default, in these places where I’ve extended myself, is to panic. I imagine I’ve gone 'too far this time!' Yet, what I’ve learned is that true fundamental healing and wholing only takes place in a context. Your healing doesn’t happen as an isolated event. My healing doesn’t either. And no one’s healing ever happens at the expense of someone else’s. Never. It turns out that even baby wolves are no exception to this rule. Ruby Dragon Chickadee’s healing and growing is happening right alongside my clients’. In fact, it seems they are not just simultaneous but co-occurring and even interdependent, reliant on each others' progress and experience. Perhaps even reliant on each others' offerings to the other, catalyzing the most sticky of wounded places and stories in each other. On the days when Ruby is restless, unable to settle, needing something different or more than yesterday, it turns out (9 times out of 10) the same is true for my client who is being given permission as they witness Ruby being given permission. Sometimes, even, they are the ones to parent her as they learn to re-parent themselves, offering compassion, attunement, care and patience. Sometimes I sit in my seat and the tears just flow, as I witness the elegance, vulnerability and perfection of this process.
On a daily basis I return to this fundamental question: how do we become people who perceive a greater story unfolding, of which we are an inextricable part? In order to see this web of wholeness and healing, we must have the capacity to acknowledge our value. If we cannot, or do not, acknowledge our value, we walk around like the living dead; zombies and hungry ghosts feeding on both the authentic substance and the convincing shit of the lives of others, those who are doing, or just pretending to do, their work. We have now created a global species that is hobbled under the weight of this empty feeding frenzy.
In truth – this being a matter of physics, a phenomenon we can easily measure – we are all woven together in the unfolding story of this finite world of soulful organic matter; whether it’s a tragic story of gluttony, ending in certain death or a numinous, wild story of multiple threads that is ending and beginning and ending again constantly – without judgment – we don’t know. And in truth, it hardly matters. The person you will never meet, who lives in Nepal or New Jersey, whose life is seemingly inconsequential to yours, is intrinsic to your wellness just as Ruby Dragon Chickadee is now intrinsic to mine, and to my clients’ wellness. Just as my clients' wellness has always been intrinsic to mine. And in this place, we are all required to acknowledge our worthiness and value.
We all must know our value, our important and humble place in the order of things. We must know that we matter to a larger story. If we do not acknowledge that we matter, we throw a wrench in the whole extraordinary process, that relies, so very simply, on the fact that all things exist, and thrive, in healthy relation and relevance to each other.