Apr 13 2012

#349 “Adventure!”

From Billy

It’s an undeniable fact: Within all of us there lies a deep-seated yearning for action and adventure. No matter how faint, we all hear that call for excitement, and in no illustration is this innate desire for peril and danger more evident than this masterpiece by Billy. With his armed sidekick by his side (or rather on his back), this lupine warrior launches forward on some unknown escape, his breath as hot as fire. Will his journey bring him glory and honor or only disappointment? No one knows for sure, but there is one thing we do know: the call has been answered. The adventure has begun…

Apr 4 2012

#340 “Rawr!”

From Kelly in Phoenix, Arizona

“The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me,
He complains of my gab and my loitering.
I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric YAWP over the roofs of the world.”

- Walt Whitman
“Song of Myself”

Jan 9 2012

#254 Less is More (9)

From Hanne in Belgium

This wolf perched on top of a rock promontory reminds of something very Kipling-esque. Bearing this in mind, I hope you will enjoy “The Law of the Jungle” from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book.

Now this is the Law of the Jungle — as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back —
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.

Wash daily from nose-tip to tail-tip; drink deeply, but never too deep;
And remember the night is for hunting, and forget not the day is for sleep.
The Jackal may follow the Tiger, but, Cub, when thy whiskers are grown,
Remember the Wolf is a Hunter — go forth and get food of thine own.
Keep peace withe Lords of the Jungle — the Tiger, the Panther, and Bear.
And trouble not Hathi the Silent, and mock not the Boar in his lair.
When Pack meets with Pack in the Jungle, and neither will go from the trail,
Lie down till the leaders have spoken — it may be fair words shall prevail.
When ye fight with a Wolf of the Pack, ye must fight him alone and afar,
Lest others take part in the quarrel, and the Pack be diminished by war.
The Lair of the Wolf is his refuge, and where he has made him his home,
Not even the Head Wolf may enter, not even the Council may come.
The Lair of the Wolf is his refuge, but where he has digged it too plain,
The Council shall send him a message, and so he shall change it again.
If ye kill before midnight, be silent, and wake not the woods with your bay,
Lest ye frighten the deer from the crop, and your brothers go empty away.
Ye may kill for yourselves, your mates, and your cubs as they need, ye can;
But kill not for pleasure of killing, and seven times never kill Man!
If ye plunder his Kill from a weaker, devour not all in thy pride;
Pack-Right is the right of the meanest; so leave him the head and the hide.
The Kill of the Pack is the meat of the Pack. Ye must eat where it lies;
And no one may carry away of that meat to his lair, or he dies.
The Kill of the Wolf is the meat of the Wolf. He may do what he will;
But, till he has given permission, the Pack may not eat of that Kill.
Cub-Right is the right of the Yearling. From all of his Pack he may claim
Full-gorge when the killer has eaten; and none may refuse him the same.
Lair-Right is the right of the Mother. From all of her year she may claim
One haunch of each kill for her litter, and none may deny her the same.
Cave-Right is the right of the Father — to hunt by himself for his own:
He is freed of all calls to the Pack; he is judged by the Council alone.
Because of his age and his cunning, because of his gripe and his paw,
In all that the Law leaveth open, the word of your Head Wolf is Law.
Now these are the Laws of the Jungle, and many and mighty are they;
But the head and the hoof of the Law and the haunch and the hump is — Obey!

Jan 8 2012

#253 Less is More (8)

From a stranger in Halifax, Canada

Please enjoy this selection from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
by T.S. Eliot

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous -
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old … I grow old…
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.


Dec 17 2011

#231 “I get by…”

From a stranger in reddit-land

A squirrel riding a bearded wolf… Is this the result of an overactive imagination dreaming up whimsical thoughts for the mere fun of it? Or is there something more going on here? Only the artist knows for sure, but what can easily be seen by every viewer is that there is an intimate relationship between the two characters in this picture. There’s a friendship, a codependency of sorts, that helps to show that we are not alone, that we all need companionship, and that no man is an island. And speaking of this concept, I believe it would be very fitting to pair this illustration with one of my favorite pieces from the well-loved Renaissance writer, John Donne. If you’re feeling intellectually malnourished or simply in need of emotional sustenance, or if you’re feeling up to diving into the deep end of a pool of classic literature, you should look up Donne’s “Meditation 17.” I’m sure you’ll find it very fitting.

But then again, if you’re not so much into classic literature, you might find the words of some contemporary poets a bit more fitting. Maybe John, Paul, George and Ringo said it best when they sang these simple words: “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

Thanks for the picture, stranger. Even though we’ve never met, we’re intimately connected, and strange as it sounds… I consider you my friend.

Nov 22 2011

#206 “Spinning a Fantasy”

From Hannah in Chattanooga, Tennessee

I’m not sure what the inspiration behind this piece was, but whenever I look at this curious illustration, I can’t help but to be reminded of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s famous poem “The Lady of Shalott.” In case you’re wondering, there aren’t any wolves in the poem, but it’s not the anthropomorphic lobo in the illustration that calls to mind the Victorian work; it’s the unusually romantic web of colors that the wolf is spinning.

You see, in “The Lady of Shalott” the lady is a mystical maiden who is cursed to reside in a castle tower on an island in the middle of a river that leads down to Camelot. The exact origins of her curse are unknown, but the malediction placed upon her stipulates that she must never look upon the world beyond the tower, lest she die. However, in an unusual twist, the lady possesses an enchanted mirror that shows her a twistedly beautiful version of all the wonderful sights and sounds of the world outside which the lady then weaves into a magical web. This, in essence, is how she lives her life. Then one day a troop of knights passes by on the banks of the river, heading down to Camelot, and there among them is Lancelot, the most charming and handsome knight to have ever lived. After taking one glance at the magnificent knight in her magical mirror, the lady is so enticed by his handsomeness that she simply must lay eyes upon the genuine article. She passes across the room, peers out of the window, and sees the striking knight with her own eyes. With this, the curse is called down upon her, and the lady knows that she is to die. In preparation for her death, she takes a boat and writes her name upon it; using the boat as her coffin, she floats down to Camelot where all the knights approach her with fear and trepidation. All that is but one: Lancelot, the knight of honor and valor approaches the body of lifeless lady and comments on her beauty. And that is where the tale ends.

Once again, I can’t say for certain that this illustration is a conscious allusion to the story, but there are certain elements that seem to fit: the lady, the web of colors, etc. But in the end, I’m left wondering if this illustration is a comment about wolves and their misunderstood nature and the curse of persecution upon them, or if this picture is more of an introspective piece. Perhaps the artist views herself as an outcast like the lady of Shalott because of her love for the lobo. I guess the world may never know the answers to these questions, but that’s ok. Not knowing the answers allows us to weave our own web of fantasy and conjecture, a web of imagination of creativity. And in the end, I suppose that is the most important thing.

Nov 13 2011

#197 “Classwork”

From a stranger in China

Over the past several months I’ve seen wolves printed on a wide variety of canvasses. Artwork drawn on everything from napkins to tampon boxes to Post-It Notes has arrived in my post office box, but never have I received a picture of a wolf that was drawn on the surface of a desk in a Chinese classroom. I guess there’s a first time for everything.

One of the most interesting aspects of this picture is that it possesses both temporary as well as timeless qualities. The picture certainly reflects a level of talent that is praiseworthy; the viewer can easily tell that the artist has a well-defined skill set when it comes to drawing wolves. And so it is a bit of a shame to realize that this wolf will soon be erased or washed away (if it hasn’t been already). But at the same time, the illustration has been preserved with a thoughtful and well-timed photograph that will preserve it for ages to come. Even though the original work will be lost to annals of time, the photograph will endure.

On another note, when I look at this picture, I’m also struck by the universal nature of artistic expression by children, especially in the classroom environment. At one point we were all children working our way up through the grades, anxiously awaiting the day that we would be finished with our formal schooling and free to take the world storm and follow our own individual desires. Along the way we all doodled on desks and scribbled in spiral notebooks and passed notes to friends and wasted time and flirted with the opposite sex. Things haven’t really changed that much, and I suppose they never will. Whether you’re in China or South Africa or the U.S., school is still school, and children are still children, and there will always be that need for distraction and that desire for a personal creative outlet.

But going back to that earlier point about this illustration being fleeting as well as permanent… I can’t help but be reminded of a sonnet by Edmund Spencer which seems to strike a similar thematic chord. Your homework tonight is to read this poem and discuss it with a friend. Now get to work!

One day I wrote her name upon the strand,
But came the waves and washed it away:
Again I wrote it with a second hand,
But came the tide, and made my pains his prey.
“Vain man,” said she, “that dost in vain assay,
A mortal thing so to immortalize;
For I myself shall like to this decay,
And eke my name be wiped out likewise.”
“Not so,” (quod I) “let baser things devise
To die in dust, but you shall live by fame:
My verse your vertues rare shall eternize,
And in the heavens write your glorious name:
Where whenas death shall all the world subdue,
Our love shall live, and later life renew.”

Sep 1 2011

#124 “Unhappy Traveler”

From Hristina in Slovenia

First of all, I have to say that I  am completely enamored with the angle of this drawing. The image of this wolf with his head hanging down towards the ground as he slowly trots away from the viewer is truly poignant and very powerful. I have received more than a few “sad” wolves, but this one offers a cathartic experience like no other. The site of a despondent animal is one that can stir the soul. There is simply a level of vulnerability that is so pure in an animal that seems to express sadness that your heart simply leaps out of its chest to make a connection with this creature. Perhaps that is why our hearts ache for suffering animals: because it provides an emotional link for us. We can look into those eyes, and if nothing else, we can identify with the pain that we see staring back at us.

Thankfully, Hrsitina informed me via email that this wolf is no longer so sorrowful and has cast off his dejected state. I must say that this provides more than a little comfort. I can’t help thinking that maybe this has something to do with the lonesome but rewarding road of trials that creature seems to have set his paws upon. Many times we may set off down a path and expect only disappointment and sorrow, but then we are uplifted by the journey itself and the unexpected mysteries that lie ahead.

Ultimately, I think Robert Frost expressed this idea better than I ever could. I hope it’s not cliche, but I thought it appropriate to accompany this poem with Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” I’m sure most of you have read this poem before, probably several times. However, don’t pass this poem by without another look. Pay attention to the message… it might make all the difference.

“The Road Not Taken”
By Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Aug 5 2011

#97 “Frozen…”

From a stranger in Tuscon, Arizona

When it comes to this piece of art, the illustrator’s words say it all.
So poetic. So moving. So full of imagery.

I think you captured the spirit of this majestic wolf perfectly, my fair stranger. May your spirit echo for ages to come as well; I certainly know that images of this wolf and the words of your eloquent poetry will ring beautifully in my ears for quite some time.

Thank you for blessing us with your talent.

Jul 13 2011

#74 “Acquainted with the Night”

From Jen

I am convinced that Mother Nature can offer no image that is more soul-stirring than that of the lonesome lobo, perched triumphantly upon a monolithic promontory while the silver moon anoints its fur with a shimmering glaze of light. There is so much emotion tied to this one image, so much longing and regret, so much desire and sadness, all of it intersecting at this one point. It’s enough to capture the deepest reaches of the human soul that have yet to be explored by introspection and dredge them up to the light of day that resides inside the conscious mind. Laying eyes upon this creature is like tangentially connecting to a universe in which we are merely strangers and yet we know that in some far away time and place, in some distant history that was never recorded, this was our home.

As much as we long to belong to this wild and wondrous scene, we must be content to exist in a world in which we have taken our own selves as prisoners. We may admire the wolf at a distance, but we are not of the same breed; yes, we are all made of the stuff of stars, but in some different formula. Only the wolf knows his own world, and disappointing as it might be, this must be accepted. We may touch this wild and strange world of wonder every so often, but we are not wolves, ourselves. We are not the fearless, wandering conquerers of the moonlight skies.

We are not “Acquainted with the Night” as they are….

“Acquainted with the Night”
By Robert Frost

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain — and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
A luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

Jul 12 2011

“73 “A Midsummer Night’s Wolf”

From Emily in Chattanooga.

It’s often a wondrous experience to sit back and examine the path that the stream of one’s life has taken and to speculate what further twists and turns lie just beyond the next bend. Who can predict the track that a stream takes on its journey to the sea? Each of us must sail the river of his own existence; the eddies that pull us back and the rapids that tumultuously present life’s problems are unique and individual. Even so, at times our separate waters may overlap and become one; and thus we may become a part of waterways vast and deep and then a short while later branch off into tributaries both narrow and shallow and drift back into our own individual existences once again.

Just recently my path crossed serendipitously with a young woman in my own community known as Emily who just happens to be the illustrator of today’s post. In an accompanying letter, Emily described how she found an orange Easter egg that I had hidden in downtown Chattanooga and opened it to discover a miniature WBS flier inside. She said that she had made immediate plans to draw a wolf and send it in, but for whatever reason her intentions never came to fruition until she happened to be walking along on one of Chattanooga’s many bridges and came upon one of my fliers. It was then that she knew that fate was calling her to produce this masterpiece of “A Midsummer Night’s Wolf” and contribute it to the Wolves by Strangers project.

How stranger and funny life can be sometimes. In a community in which some people have not ever heard of this project, this young lady just happened to come into contact with my pleas in two different ways and at two different times, months apart. And then, when she did comply with the request, she did so in a way that could not be better suited to my personal interests. How could she have known that I am an ardent fan of classic literature and have studied the work of Shakespeare quite extensively? And on top of this, how could she have known of my love for unusual modern poetry when she included the poem below?

I’m not sure. I guess life is just funny sometimes.

“There are Men Too Gentle to Live Among Wolves”
by James Kavanaugh

There are men too gentle to live among wolves
Who prey upon them with IBM eyes
And sell their hearts and guts for martinis at noon.
There are men too gentle for a savage world
Who dream instead of snow and children and Halloween
And wonder if the leaves will change their color soon.

There are men too gentle to live among wolves
Who anoint them for burial with greedy claws
And murder them for a merchant’s profit and gain.
There are men too gentle for a corporate world
Who dream instead of candied apples and ferris wheels
And pause to hear the distant whistle of a train.

There are men too gentle to live among wolves
Who devour them with eager appetite and search
For other men to prey upon and suck their childhood dry.
There are men too gentle for an accountant’s world
Who dream instead of Easter eggs and fragrant grass
And search for beauty in the mystery of the sky.

There are men too gentle to live among wolves
Who toss them like a lost and wounded dove.
Such gentle men are lonely in a merchant’s world,
Unless they have a gentle one to love.

Jun 27 2011

#58 “Romanticism”

From Elaine in Jacksonsville, FL

I would like to start off by quickly addressing this illustrator’s self-deprecating comments about her own artistry, but I won’t spend much time on this subject because we can all see that the artwork is amazing. In short, try not to be so hard on yourself, Elaine, your work is both artistically and thematically impressive.

When we as humans examine nature as a whole or in general, we often view ourselves as creatures that live either in separation from it or in opposition to it. But a question that we don’t ever consider is how animals, themselves, view the natural world around them. It is doubtless that they feel a much greater level of harmony than we do, but do they have an actual aesthetic appreciation for it? I believe that they can and that they do and that this illustration serves well as a rendering of this concept.

Notice the coy smile perched upon the snout of this wolf’s face as he gazes down into the grinning countenance of this beautiful little flower. He obviously appreciates the loveliness of this flower and the magnificent adornment to Mother Nature that it provides. All of this is taking place while the benevolent sun shines down lovingly from above. It make my heart leap with joy. Hmmmm… that reminds me… this picture is surprisingly similar to one of the most famous nature poems of all time: “I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud” by William Wordsworth.

I won’t bore you with details of Wordworth’s life or work, but suffice it to say that he revolutionized poetry by single-handedly launching the Romantic time period in British Literature and is widely accepted as England’s greatest nature poet.

Read this poem for yourself and see if you find the connection as well.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
that floats on high o’er vales and hills
when all at once I saw a crowd,
a host, of golden daffodils;
beside the lake, beneath the trees,
fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
and twinkle on the milky way,
they stretched in never-ending line
along the margin of a bay:
ten thousand saw I at a glance,
tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
a poet could not but be gay,
in such a jocund company:
I gazed- and gazed- but little thought
what wealth the show to me and brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
in vacant or in pensive mood,
they flash upon that inward eye
which is the bliss of solitude;
and then my heart with pleasure fills,
and dances with the daffodils.

Jun 17 2011

#48 “Echoes”

From a stranger in Utica, New York.

The act of calling out over a cliff or precipice and hearing our own eery and exciting echo is something that I think we all can identify with. We’ve all done it, whether it we were sitting in an empty bathroom or standing on the edge of the grand canyon. We’ve all called out to hear our voice come back to us, to hear it resonate and permeate our environment.

It is believed that wolves perch themselves upon promontories and howl in order to communicate over great distances. But why do we as people call or shout out from cliff tops when we have the opportunity? Is it a narcissistic act designs to simply allow us to hear our own voice? Or is there something deeper that we are subconsciously trying to achieve?

I’m not really sure what the answer to this question is, but examining the illustration above and considering this concept brings to mind one of my favorite poems by Robert Frost called “The Most of It.” In the poem, a boy calls out from a cliffside, seeking some sort of response from the universe. As the boy cries out, the speaker says that the only response he receives is the sound and image of a great buck that comes splashing through the water below and then climbs upon the bank, pouring water from its coat. The buck then crashes through the undergrowth. At the end of the poem, the reader is left wondering what to make of this scene. Was the appearance of the buck the result of a conscious decision on the part of the universe to let the boy know that he was not alone? Or was this perhaps a random event that could only reinforce the boy’s fears that he is a stranger in this primeval world?

Take a look at the poem and decide for yourself.

“The Most of It” by Robert Frost

He thought he kept the universe alone;
For all the voice in answer he could wake
Was but the mocking echo of his own
From some tree–hidden cliff across the lake.
Some morning from the boulder–broken beach
He would cry out on life, that what it wants
Is not its own love back in copy speech,
But counter–love, original response.
And nothing ever came of what he cried
Unless it was the embodiment that crashed
In the cliff’s talus on the other side,
And then in the far distant water splashed,
But after a time allowed for it to swim,
Instead of proving human when it neared
And someone else additional to him,
As a great buck it powerfully appeared,
Pushing the crumpled water up ahead,
And landed pouring like a waterfall,
And stumbled through the rocks with horny tread,
And forced the underbrush—and that was all.