Feb 13 2012

#289 Awareness (13)

From Matilda in Australia

Wolf Park (Indiana):

Mission Statement – “Wolf Park is a non-profit organization dedicated to education and behavioral research which benefits wolves and their canid relatives. The Park maintains free-living ambassador animals in mixed habitats, provides public educational programs and in-depth seminars, hosts researchers from many institutions to conduct behavioral and cognitive research with the wolves, and advocates for the species’ conservation.”

Dec 29 2011

#243 “Auld Lang Syne”

From BTP in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

With the end of the year just around the corner, I cannot help but to feel a slight, creeping sadness. This year has been a good one, and as such, it will be a bit of a struggle to let it go. The passage of time is what brings us all the pleasant memories that we store away, but at the same time, there is a bit of sorrow in the knowledge that as these fleeting moments pass, they will never be regained. When I look at this intriguing illustration by BTP, I feel a sort of empathy flowing from its lupine subject. There is a pensive quality to this wolf that delivers a tone of thoughtfulness and reflection. The wolf’s brow seems slightly furrowed and the gaze is a bit downcast, suggesting that we have caught this creature in a moment of meditative introspection. The scribbled lines and squiggled features that make up the animal suggest age and perhaps even wisdom. Truly this is a creature in the midst of contemplation.

So often when we find ourselves ruminating on ideas related to that mysterious thing called time, we try to usher them instantly from our minds. But while it would certainly be detrimental to focus on the past forever… there is something to be said for freely allowing ourselves to grieve a bit for the time gone by, even if it has been filled with gladness… especially if it has been filled with gladness. We are human after all, and perhaps no one trait is so inherently tied to the human condition as the recognition of the fleeting nature of time…

Dec 27 2011

#241 “Red Dawn”

From a stranger in an unknown location

A wolf pictured in his natural environment is always a breathtaking sight, but something about this particular illustration seems to deliver discomfort as opposed to tranquility. I don’t mean to say that this illustration is unattractive or is not artfully rendered. I believe just the opposite is true. Only an illustration that is drawn with great skill could induce an intense emotional reaction, whether it be negative or positive. But what is it that delivers to me feelings of discomfort? Let’s examine the physical environment first. While the landscape in the picture is beautiful, it is also barren and harsh. The craggy surfaces of a rocky mountain face rise up in opposition to the earth below and block out the final rays of the autumnal sun. A few sparse trees dot the landscape, offering little comfort or shade to a weary traveler seeking shelter. The river, the source of life, seems to be not only flowing but running away, fleeing from this land without promise. And then there is the wolf itself. The creature is majestic and dignified, but there’s something in the eyes that sends a message of pain and vexation, something in the ragged fur that speaks of hardship.

However, even though this picture suggests thoughts of adversity and austerity, there is also a memory of one of my favorite films that I have somehow tied to this illustration and that I just can’t seem to shake. The movie is called “Red Dawn,” and like the illustration above, the movie paints a picture of the hardships and trials that are faced when living in an unforgivable natural environment. But at the same time, the movie (like this picture again) delivers themes of perseverance, determination and the magnificent power of a strong will to survive. The obvious disconnect between the two is that there are no Russians taking over the United States in this stranger’s picture, but overall, I still thought the movie was applicable enough to warrant the connection. If you haven’t seen the movie, send it to the top of your Netflix queue today; it’s a true classic. Before you view, check out the trailer below.

Nov 10 2011

#194 “Fight For Me”

From Shelley

Every once in a while a piece of artwork comes along that tugs at your heartstrings so violently that you are unsure whether they will ever return to their original state. For me, this fantastic contribution by Shelley is just such a piece. The eyes of the wolf in this picture are truly haunting and serve to effectively pierce the viewer’s soul while the message in the foreground provides a statement that only the hardest of hearts could ignore. What we have here before us represents the pinnacle of both sentiment and artistic aptitude.

It seems that in recent times, the word “pathos” has become a bit distasteful. People have come to associate the term with a devious desire to manipulate another person through the use of illogical emotional appeals. However, even though I believe this illustration is brimming with pathos, I choose to commend rather than condemn this artist. To touch another human’s heart, to make an emotion truly felt by another, to move a stranger to tears… all of these require a unique intellect and a talent that only a small number of blessed souls possess. And in the end, emotional awareness and vulnerability is just as essential to our wellbeing as intellect. We shouldn’t guard our hearts against messages like these, but instead we should open them wide and allow ourselves to experience all that the world has to offer.

Congratulations, Shelley. You have accomplished what many have aimed for but only a select few have achieved. On a related note, if you, the reader of this post, are interested in fighting for the wolf, I suggest you check out Project Alpha Wolf on facebook. PAW advocates wolf education and conservation, and overall provides a great way for you to become involved in a great cause that you can really put your heart into.

Check out PAW here.


Oct 30 2011

#183 “Fragility”

From Sophie in London, England

It takes a very special person to stand up and say that there’s no shame in fragility. Most of us spend so much time trying to be invulnerable that we often lose sight of the value of our delicate nature. I fully believe that fragility is a trait that is not reserved for humans alone, but that every being on this planet (no matter how resilient it might appear on the surface) possesses a side that is as frail and delicate as an eggshell. And there’s no shame in this. We are all beautifully flawed beings who need and deserve to be treated with kindness. If more of us realized this, perhaps we would be nicer to one another, and then in turn the world would slowly transition into a happier place.

When I look at this wolf with a tear streaming down its furry cheek, I don’t pity the creature, nor do I condemn its emotion. I simply embrace its sensitive and sentimental nature with an empathetic heart and know that I, too, have shed many tears… often for reasons unknown.

In closing, this touching illustration of two tender lobos reminds me of a passage from a self-help book entitled Transformation Soup by SARK (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy). The excerpt is called “More Tears, Please.” I have included it below. I hope you enjoy it, and if you ever feel like embracing more fully that delicate and fragile side of yourself, I encourage you to check out some of SARK’s other works, or at least think back to these beautiful animals created by Sophie.

We are afraid to cry.

We are afraid to be seen as weak, or falling apart, or not FUN! to be with.

We cry and then we apologize. We only cry in front of certain people. We only cry when we’re alone, or we can’t cry.

Crying is not spoken of enough.

When Princess Diana was killed, the images and sounds of so many people crying together really touched me…

We must let go and TUMBLE through our interiors with no handholds, and fall limply down, our clothes damp from tears.

We must cry together, and hold each other as our shoulders shake.

We must cry with JOY and bursting open at the stunning beauty and kindness in this world. 

We must cry when we encounter our primitive loneliness and wake up gasping at 4 A.M.

Cry More Often.

We must cry at the injustices and evil and violence in our world.

Cry Again.

I think that until we cry as often as we laugh, we are not fully alive.

Cry For No Reason.

Our tears are the waterfall of the soul and it is our right to experience and express sadness and other feelings through tears.

Don’t Block Tears.

When you feel that distinctive tingle behind your eyes, let the tears out.

You tears live inside of you and want to flow freely.

No More Apologies For Tears!

I welcome your tears and encourage my own.

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 11 2011

#103 “Memento”

From Sam in the Bronx, New York

In a spare room of the upstairs portion of my parents’ house, tucked back in a corner, rests a dusty chest made of cedar wood. The years since I have opened that box have been many. In fact, I cannot even remember the last time I stepped foot into that room, but the contents of the chest are not lost on me. Without much effort or mental searching at all, I can rattle off a few of the current or previous contents. Actually, it gives me great pleasure to do so. In my mind’s eye I see an Indian drum made from a Quaker Oats cylinder and a construction paper headdress from preschool, a variety of baby teeth, a clay impression of my handprint from when I was 6, the white bonnet that the nuns at the hospital gave to my mother when I was born and which was later sewn into my wife’s wedding dress as her “something old,” various Valentine and Christmas cards made for my parents, elementary school report cards, countless photo albums, precious Golden Books, and the list goes on and on.

Mementos. Keepsakes. Little treasures. Whatever we call them. We all have things that are precious to us because they transport us to a time of innocence or remind us of a particularly special person or magical place.

In the note that Sam included with his wolf illustration, he stated that he had drawn this wolf in 7th grade and held onto it until now, several years later. I can’t help but think that this small picture drawn by the hand of this talented young man meant a great deal to him. Surely it must have if he protected and cared for it this whole time. And now, because of this generous heart and willing spirit, he has passed it along to me.

Sam, I can’t thank you enough. Someday, on the sad occasion of my parents’ passing, my weathered hands will probably unload that cedar chest from the back of my car as I prepare to place it in the spare room of my own house. I’ll no doubt fight back tears as I relive its contents, savoring every homemade craft and snapshot. And then, as I rearrange its contents and place them carefully back inside, I’ll add a few new items of my own to that sacred box, and without a doubt, this illustration will be one of them.

Jun 5 2011

#36 Contents: One (1) Wolf

From a stranger in Roanoke, Virginia

I am delighted to share with you one of the most clever pieces of artwork that I have received. This artist has taken the idea of mailing a wolf one step further and has actually drawn a picture of a wolf  mysteriously placed inside a package; this displays an inventive mind and a unique intellect that I think should be applauded. As I studied this picture more and more, I began to ponder the idea of the containment of the noble savage and the impact that it can have on both man and beast. As a result, I am trying something new with this post and am sharing with you a piece of short fiction. I don’t claim it to be great, but it will certainly be different, and I hope that it is well-received.

Note: this piece of fiction was inspired by concepts brought to mind by this picture but is not necessarily “about” this picture.


The creature radiated energy of an otherworldly sort. Vibrations pulsated from its quivering body like the sonic boom of a jet engine unexpectedly soaring across a clear, springtime sky, over and over again.

Kneeling a short distance away, the man surveyed the drama warily, his eyes wide and breath shaky and visible in the cold.

As the struggle of life and death played out before him, his heart pounded in his chest like a prisoner rattling the bones of his ribcage, stirring his insides into an oily mess. He saw the spray of blood lying gently upon the delicate white surface of the snow outside of the wolf’s radius like a covering of dark red lace. The creature’s forepaw had been caught in the bear trap only hours before. While its resolve was iron, the frenzied eyes filled with rage spoke of a desperation that the man knew would win out in the end. Ultimately, when the wolf had gnawed through its own flesh, grinding the rubbery ligaments in its very jaws, it would be free. But it would die.

Then, he knew, the pup would also die that worriedly trembled near to its mother’s side, offsetting her deep growls with a strained whimper, creating a poignant symphony of pain, fear and anxiety.

The man thought silently. He bit down upon the inside of his cheek and swallowed hard. Then he raised himself from his haunches, lifted the barrel of his rifle and fired. The shot seemed to echo for a long while and the man listened as it died out. Then, pinching the young creature by the nape and cradling it gingerly in his arms as it yelped, he turned and walked away.

In the months and years that followed he questioned his judgment more than most would imagine, crying as he lay awake and whispering his prayers aloud. The murder of the mother was irrelevant. He had known that she would perish. What he punished himself for was not the execution, but the rescue.

Most mornings he would awake in the cold half-light of his cabin to the coarse sensation of the creature’s tongue sandpapering his hand. Often he would simply open his eyes and try with all his might to absorb the beauty of the animal, but no matter how he tried, he just couldn’t seem to drink it in fully. In short, he felt unworthy. The thing was of a godly nature to him. Each claw that clicked upon his battered hardwood floor anchored his guilt and solidified the knowledge that he had no right to contain this creature, to house this embodiment of everything wild and fierce in the natural world. He didn’t know if the wildness of the animal could actually be tamed, but he feared that he done more damage than good, that he had tainted the purity of the creature.

Sometimes, when the days were warm, he would leave the front door open and secretly hope that the wolf would simply trot through it and head back into the wilderness and never return. He would imagine seeing a wisp of the tail cut across his periphery and then all his guilt would wash away like the oil on the highway during a hard rain…

But on these occasions the creature would only stare at the man inquisitively and lie down in the splay of sunshine as it beamed onto the cabin floor. In time the wolf would yawn and lick himself, and the man would walk over to the creature and crouch to pet him. In that moment, as the animal thumped his tail against the floor in approval, the man would wonder if this was the communion with nature that so many had seemed to hope for throughout history or, he questioned, was it still out there floating along on some swampy breeze, buried underneath the needles of some ancient pine, intangible and unattainable?