May 23 2011

#23 “Pure Mystery…”

From Jan in the Netherlands

It probably goes without saying that if you were to actually encounter a wolf in the wild, you would most likely be filled with awe and wonder. But you would also probably experience a profound sense of intimidation. I mean, when one inadvertently stumbles upon very definition of natural beauty and savagery, it is a momentous occurrence that would surely make one stop in his tracks. But for a picture… a mere illustration, mind you… to evoke this same reaction… what a moving portrait that must be!

When I first slid this particular illustration out of the envelope that was postmarked from the Netherlands, this is exactly what happened. The emotions described in the previous paragraph are the very ones that began to flood over me. In some ways, though, this revelation might come as a bit of a surprise. The wolf in this picture is anthropomorphic, wearing a suit and tie, and not pictured in his natural environment. In some ways he appears more human than lupine. Also, although the portrait is artfully rendered, the wolf itself is slightly cartoonish. How then could this wolf illicit such a strong emotional reaction?

After much pondering, I have decided upon an answer: No matter how much you dress the wolf up in the clothing of man, no matter how much you attempt to change or transform him, no matter how many t-shirts you screen his image across or how many times you depict him in pop culture through films and television… the wolf will always be intimately connected to the mystery of the natural world around us to a degree that we, as humans, cannot imagine or ever hope to achieve. This is what I see when I look into the deep yellow eyes of this lupine masterpiece: a deep connection with the earth that is so mystifying and enigmatic that it can evoke nothing but wonder and fear and can never be hidden or denied.

In the end, I think Cormac McCarthy sums this concept up best in the final lines of his beautiful story, The Road.

“Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.”