Apr 22 2012

#358 “The Room”

From David in Siauliai, Lithuania

This illustration was accompanied with the following letter:

You know, J, I really like the forest, but most of all I love colored lights, in the evenings when I hear the nightingale sing; it warns me of upcoming night. Then the forest gains new sounds. Windy nights remind me of the sea. I don’t know how, but I find myself going into the dark woods. Somehow I feel everything will be perfect; I’ll find the light, even though this forest looks mysterious and scary. Finally, the sounds of the forest connect with the lake and space around me to form the strange shape of a room: the place where I am at this moment… Before my eyes, I see a red glowing table. On this table is a cup of black coffee. This coffee is talking and it smells like fir trees.

Near the coffee is placed an envelope and a note: “My mind depends on this room, there are no mirrors, but it reflects you. Everyone of you.”

I ask myself: Where am I?

And the Coffee says: You’re in a strange shape room. Please, look at the cup. Watch it.  In a couple of minutes you’ll meet the woman: she’ll show you a gel. Then she’ll go out.

I: What women?

Coffee: There is something you cannot see. The blue light goes on and the wolf will come. He’ll watch you for a while. Light goes off. Light goes on.

I: No wolf, no wolf, no wolf.

Coffee: Now. Take the old small radio from behind the table. Do you see the door in a left corner of the room? Open it. There will be a
room with strange floors and the cross on the wall. Sit down in the chair. This chair saves people from vampires.

I: Whats next?

Voice of the Coffee from the radio: Look at the mirror. This is a mirror.

You’re the women.

The woman: Hi. I’m wearing black. Do you like me? There… Look! This is the white wolf. He is the owl. Ask him. (she runs away.)

I: What do I ask?! Wait!

Voice of the Coffee: You may be happy now. Get back in the strangely shaped room. Sit down.

Then all becomes dark. I can’t see.

To be continued.


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…


Dec 9 2011

#223 “The Cave”

From Kusti in Finland

The cave. It is the very embodiment of fear and mystery. It is the truest representation of adventure and danger. But in the mind of the famous philosopher Plato, it is also a symbol for ignorance and naivete. If you have never read Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” I highly recommend it. Taking just a quick glance at this picture of a handsome wolf standing proudly at the mouth of this chamber instantly reminded me of this classic story with a lesson for all of us.

Here is the gist of the tale, courtesy of our friends at Wikipedia:

In the “Allegory of the Cave,” Socrates describes a group of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of a fire behind them, and begin to ascribe forms to these shadows. According to Socrates, the shadows are as close as the prisoners get to viewing reality. He then explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall do not make up reality at all, as he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the mere shadows seen by the prisoners.

The Allegory is related to Plato’s Theory of Forms according to which the “Forms” (or “Ideas”), and not the material world of change known to us through sensation, possess the highest and most fundamental kind of reality. Only knowledge of the Forms constitutes real knowledge. In addition, the Allegory of the Cave is an attempt to explain the philosopher’s place in society: to attempt to enlighten the “prisoners.”

As the perpetrator of this project, I have been tempted at times to deem myself the great philosopher who possesses the wisdom and knowledge to lead the uneducated masses from the cave of ignorance. But in the end, I know that this self-assessment is just the result of self-centered pride and is truly inaccurate. It is not me who holds the key to enlightenment, and I hope that you will take no offense at this, but it also not even the artists whose works are collected here that are the cultivated philosophers. No, my friends, it is the wolf itself. It is the lonesome lobo, the master of the wilderness, the furry fountain of enlightenment.

Thank you, Kusti, for leading us to this conclusion. For while it is the wolf who is the true leader of the pack, it is you who have made this fact known to us. Best wishes.

To see more of Kusti’s work, check out her website.


Nov 25 2011

#209 “A Little Red in the Hood”

From Aaron

One of the most appealing qualities of those classic fairy tales from our youth is that they are familiar but fluid at the same time. We know them all, from The Tortoise and the Hare to Cinderella, but since their origins are usually mysterious, there seems to exist a universal sense of ownership that allows us to take these tales and mold them into very personal interpretations. In other words, the framework of the story is familiar, the individual details and embellishments lie completely in our own hands. When we become the story-teller, we have the unique opportunity to experience a certain feeling of tradition and nostalgia as well as a thrilling sense of freedom and individuality. And likewise, the listener is able to encounter a tale that is both recognizable and new.

This mind-bending illustration perfectly represents that innate desire to become a unique and masterful storyteller, even if the tale itself is one that has been heard a thousand times. With a little twist here and a slight bending of tradition there, the artist of this unparalleled work has created narrative art that is both traditional and unique. His work is relatable, but it is also groundbreaking and remarkably rare.

This astoundingly refreshing retelling allows us as viewers to take a stroll down memory lane and enter a new world at the same time. It offers a chance to relive a little piece of our childhood but also allows us to appreciate the truly individualistic nature of storytelling and explore the boundaries of the human imagination. And in the end perhaps these are the two most universal desires that exist within all of us: the desire for the comfort of routine and familiarity and the desire to be seen as a true individual.

So, while Little Red Riding Hood may not have packed a Glock or had four arms, this wild rendition of a classic tale possesses a special appeal that simply can’t be denied.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy a classic… with a new twist.


Oct 18 2011

#171 “What a Smile!”

From Arantxa in Santa Marta, Colombia

When I was in high school, my circle of friends just happened to also be friends with a man in his mid-30s by the name of Jeff. Because of extensive drug use during his own high school years, Jeff had sustained some serious and permanent brain damage and was forced to take a number of medications in order to keep his moods regulated and his brain functioning somewhat properly. It was actually a very sad story, and in the end it served as a great lesson for all of us to simply leave drugs alone. We had a painfully vivid first-hand account of what they could do to you if things got out of control.

Anyway, as my friends and I grew to know Jeff, one of the most entertaining features of our relationship was the fact that he would share with us stories of his high school sexual escapades and extensive drug use. Many of these stories were wildly improbable and completely depraved, and the simple-minded delivery that Jeff would employ was often just as hilariously astounding as the actual details of the stories themselves. Of course, these anecdotes were entirely inappropriate for us to be listening to, but this fact made them all the more attractive. Also, I know that your Spidey Senses might start tingling when you think about a man almost 20 years older than us telling us stories about sex and drugs, but what you have to realize is that intellectually and socially, Jeff was actually on about the same level as we were. We practically viewed him as a peer, and I am fully convinced that we were never in danger in any way when we were with him. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, his stories often served as a very effective warning for us.

Also, even though Jeff’s stories about his own high school experiences were raunchy and completely immoral, as an adult he was more calm, gentle and caring than any man I had ever met. I never heard him say one cross word to or about another living being, and he was always respectful in the extreme. In fact, when urged to speak about girls or women that he thought were attractive, Jeff would always say the same thing: “She was a real pretty smile.” That was it. After all of his wild adventures, mild-altering trips and sexual conquests, that was all that Jeff had to say about women.

I can still remember being completely shocked but also very impressed by this. There was a simple truth in that statement about a pretty smile that rang true to me, even as a self-asborded teenager. I know it sounds strange, but in a small way Jeff actually taught me a greater respect for women and he instilled within in me the idea that the beauty of a smile was perhaps the most valuable feature that a person could have. Now, as an adult I look around at this materialistic and over sexualized culture that we live in today, and I believe it’s important to return to that simplistic appreciation for a kind and caring smiling.

In the end the reason why I have said all of this is because this beautiful illustration by Arantxa takes me back to that wonderful, youthful appreciation for the smile. Thank you, Arantxa, for the reminder. You could have drawn just about anything: a sexy wolf in lingerie, a savage wolf feeding on a human feast. But no, you chose to focus on a subject of beauty, innocence and kindness, and that is truly what the world needs now.

Never stop smiling, Arantxa. After all, when you get ready to start your day, a smile is the most important thing you can put on.


Oct 17 2011

#170 “Mr. Darcy”

From Andrea in Montreal, Canada

I’m not sure if Andrea was aware of my affinity for classic literature before drawing this particular illustration, but regardless of whether she was or not, this piece speaks to my soul in a way that few others can. The poise and elegance of these two magnificent creatures is straight out of the pages of a Victorian novel, and in fact, in her accompanying email, Andrea made reference to the notion that this wolf reminded her perfectly of Mr. Darcy from that triumph of British literature: Pride and Prejudice.

As I just mentioned, I was easily aware of the mood and setting of this piece in reference to Victorian ideals and society, but the idea of a relationship between the illustration and Pride and Prejudice was not instantly graspable in my mind. If anything I believe the standing wolf to be dressed in a military style which would lead to a more natural association with George Wickham instead of Mr. Darcy. Add to this idea that I easily imagine the headstrong Elizabeth to be sitting so subserviently, and I just didn’t see the connection at all.

But then it hit me. Andrea’s connection between the character of Mr. Darcy and the wolf was so astute, so clever and intelligent, that I didn’t even have the wits to see it at first. Ultimately, the wolf is the perfect representation for Fitzwilliam Darcy. It’s so insightful yet so simple. Just like the wolf, Darcy flaunted a tough exterior. His desire was to be seen as the Alpha Male, and he carefully crafted all presentations of himself in such a manner as to successfully thwart off any attack. He was rough, crude, violent and dangerous. But underneath this shell of abrasiveness, Darcy was also sensitive and caring. He was calm, cool and composed, and his ultimate commitment is always to the greater good. What better representation of the wolf is there?

Andrea, how could I have been so blind? The connection was there all along. Well done, my talented friend. Take a bow!


Sep 13 2011

#136 “Whose story is it anyway?”

From a stranger in Calimesa, California

Although I love updating this site on a daily basis, I have never really been much of a creative writer. Simply put, I’m too much of a perfectionist to believe that anything I write is complete or finished. It always seems like there are words that need tweaking or parts of a story or poem that just don’t feel right. I tried for a while to create some finished products that had a true sense of completion to them and that actually said something about the human condition, but even to this day I’m not sure that I ever wrote anything reading.

I took several creative writing courses in college and I scored well, but for some reason it seemed like I could grasp the concepts easier than I could apply them. Anyway, I remember one day in particular in one of those courses my professor said something that took me totally by surprise. He was describing a story he had written years ago that he was pleased with but that seemed to have something missing. After trying a variety of different techniques to bring his story to life, he ultimately realized the problem: the narrator of the story was the wrong character; in other words the point of view was the problem. And once it was fixed, the story clicked.

Before this particular class on this particular day, I had taken the notion of point of view completely for granted. In my opinion the narrators of the stories I had written had always been the right narrator simple because they were the ones that I had chosen to tell the story. It had never crossed my mind that there could be a correct or incorrect narrator for a story. The narrator simply…. was.

The reason why I bring all of this up is because there traditionally seems to be a fair amount of confusion about the ownership of “The Story of the Three Little Pigs.” Or is it “The Story of the Big, Bad Wolf”? Whose story is it? Does it belong to the wolf or to the pigs? And what impact does this have on the actual telling of the story? In many ways, this concept can make all the difference. Just go back and look at the children’s book that came out a few years back which was called “The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs” and which was narrated by “A. Wolf.” I can guarantee that if you take a quick glance at this retelling that you will realize just how important the narrator of a story truly is.

Specifically, I love the picture that is on display today because I believe it plays upon this concept of the ownership of this story. As you can see, this picture makes it clear that the tale belongs to the wolf, but at the same time it appears to take no position on whether or not the wolf is the villain, which still leaves the tale up for interpretation.

Bravo, stranger. Bravo. A new take on a classic tale. You may walk with your head held high.


Sep 7 2011

#130 “Impasse at Dead Moon”

From a stranger in Morgantown, Pennsylvania

What/where exactly is “Dead Moon”? I can’t say for sure, but what I can tell you is that it must be a place of twisted mystery, a place where Ralph Steadman meets Leonardo Davinci, where “Starry Night” meets a horrific nightmare rendition of Scooby Doo. It’s a place where all roads converge at a dark dead end of a spooky stained glass canyon, flooded with the bizarre light of brightly twinkling red stars and the pale light of a yellow vermiculate moon.

It’s a place of perplexing and mystifying oddities, of sights and sounds beyond description. Dead Moon is a place that hums with curiosity and electricity buzzes through the air and sets the hairs inside your nostrils to itching. It’s a place where wild, mutated wolves howl in a twisted chorus of arcane loneliness so soul-stirring that few are able to withstand its lonesome cry. In the background of this illustration, you can see one such victim of these queer wolf howls, hanging from the sharply pointed tip of the dead moon, itself.

Those who find themselves in this place of unfathomable mystery often don’t know how they came to set their feet upon the shifting sands of this crazed world, this realm of warped wonder. But they do know one thing: when those wretchedly pink lips begin to curl back from the misshapen jaws of the dead moon wolves, there’s anyplace they’d rather be. Some say Dead Moon is a deep valley in the heart of a small undiscovered island off the coast of Thailand. Others say it’s a strange dystopian oasis in the middle of Death Valley. Still others say it exists only in the minds of those who have been bitten by a rabid wolf born under a crescent moon.

Some say Dead Moon doesn’t exist at all, but those people… well, somehow they always seem to… disappear.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!


Sep 5 2011

#128 “Where the WOLF things are…”

From MAK in “East Texas”

As a child, I absolutely loved Maurice Sendak’s soul-stirring book, “Where the Wild Things Are.” But then again who didn’t? The essence of the story was just so alluring. Here is Max, king and leader of this motley collection of wonderfully wild creatures, traipsing through mysterious palm jungles on a distant isle, throwing caution to the wind, and taking the world by storm.

But it isn’t the character of Max that makes the book so endearing, of course. It is those monsters, those Wild Things. What was it about them that grabbed my heartstrings and has refused to let go, even decades later? Was it their appearance? Partly. Their amicable nature? Perhaps. But I believe what was really alluring about these wild wonders was the fact that they were simply so unabashed about their monstrous nature. They had nothing to hide, nothing to prove; they were free. They were in your face and unashamed. They said, “Here I am world. This is my blood. It’s red. Do your worst.”

For some reason, when I gaze upon this beautiful illustration by MAK, I am filled with that same since of childhood wonder that overtook me when I carelessly flipped through that magical book, its pages smelling of mild spiciness and home. Those trees in the background behind the wolf transport me to those mysterious palm-filled forests, and within the eyes of this welcoming wolf, I hear that call of the Wild Things that says, “Come out tonight. Come join us for the Wild Rumpus. Rediscover your lost youth and join us in a nocturnal frolicking of fantastically wild fun!”

Who knows? Maybe I will…

After all, there’s nothing wilder than a wolf.


Aug 2 2011

#94 “Fair/Foul”

From Samreen

Macbeth paced anxiously in his quarters, stroking his beard with one hand while attempting to smooth his sweaty and furrowed brow with the other. He had left the dinner table, left his guest, his king, unattended. The prospects of the night’s venture weighed heavily upon his mind. Could he go through with the act? He had begun to have doubts. After all, King Duncan had honored him recently; he was also his king and his kinsman, distantly related by blood, but besides this, he was a guest in his own home, and if nothing else, it is the duty of the host to shut the door to the murderer, not become one, himself. He pounded a fist firmly against the table; his resolve had regained its firmness. His strength was renewed but with a new plan: He would not kill the king.

At that moment, the door swung open and a cold breeze entered the room along with the wife of Macbeth. “Why have you left the table?” She hissed. “Do you not know that he hath almost supped?”

“We’ll proceed no further in this business,” Macbeth replied. “He hath honored me of late.”

At this, the countenance of the lady fell. The demon inside took control, and the poisonous words flowed like honey from her lips: “Art thou not a man? Art thou afeard? Did thou not a promise make? I have given suck and know what it is to nurse a child, yet had I sworn you as much you to this, I would pluck my nipple from the mouth of the babe and dash its brains out; this I would do if I had promised.”

Injury. Insult. An attack on his masculinity. He could not stand for it.

“I would do all that becomes a man…” he said, sulking and turning away from her.

“Then screw your courage to the sticking point and we’ll not fail. Look like the innocent flower but be the serpent under it. Then, leave all the rest under my dispatch.”

And with these words, Lady Macbeth convinced her husband to follow through with the murderous plan to take the life of Duncan. As a result, a country was thrown into turmoil, countless lives were lost, and a dark blot formed on the scrolls of the history of the great nation of Scotland.

These lines are obviously not the actual ones from William Shakespeare’s famous play Macbeth, but this brief paraphrase hopefully serves as a reminder of the damage that can be done when we enter into a world of deceiving appearances. The italicized quote above by Lady Macbeth was included in the email from Samreen that accompanied this picture. Samreen also included a few brief ruminations on how appearances can be deceptive and the idea that we cannot always judge a book by its cover. Overall, this is relatively deep material to be associated with a simple wolf picture, but it fits, nonetheless.

In his discussion of this concept, Samreen noted the nonthreatening demeanor of this lupine marvel, but then stated that there was no telling what savagery might lie underneath the animal’s calm exterior.

“Come a little closer”: words that sound sweet but hold so much foreboding. The choice is yours. Keep your distance or take that step forward, but don’t say I didn’t warn you…

 


Jul 30 2011

#91 “Which will you feed?”

From Steven in Ohio

If you’re like me, your first reaction when you saw this picture was one of shock and horror. Truly this beast brutal. Surely he is deranged and psychopathic. Certainly he is cruel and bloodthirsty. Just look what he has done to those poor men: he has devoured their bodies entirely, leaving nothing but gruesome reminders of his awful strength and savagery in the form of their severed heads. And to add insult to injury, there the evil wolf sits, smiling that victorious and toothy grin in triumph over his prey.

But wait… How is it exactly that we know these things? Yes, we do see a wolf that has apparently eaten two humans, but how do we know it is the wolf who is evil? Could it not be that the men were deserving of death and that their punishment was doled out rightfully?

Since we are only capturing one moment in time by examining this illustration, we may never know the answers to these questions, but this conundrum reminds me of an applicable story. You see, we may not know whether or not this wolf is good or evil, but for our own sakes we must try to analyze the “wolves” that live within each of us. We must explore our own sides of righteousness and wickedness. Ultimately, the end of the moral spectrum that this wolf resides upon is irrelevant, but the end that you are on….. well, that could make all the difference.

Examine this story:

The One You Feed”

An old Grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice, “Let me tell you a story.

I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do.

But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times.” He continued, “It is as if there are two wolves inside me. One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him, and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.

But the other wolf, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger,for his anger will change nothing.

Sometimes, it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me,  for both of them try to dominate my spirit.”

The boy looked intently into his Grandfather’s eyes and asked, “Which one wins, Grandfather?”

The Grandfather smiled and quietly said, “The one I feed.”

 


Jun 18 2011

#49 “The Lesson”

From a stranger in Canada.

It is undeniable that the natural order of the world is largely based upon systematic violence and ferocity. The food chain. Predator vs. Prey. These elements are savage and unpleasant at times, but they are natural and necessary. All around us, even in our most civilized communities, just outside our doors, the fight for survival is taking place; but in this day and age it largely goes unnoticed by us. Why don’t we pay more attention to the savagery and carnage of the natural world that pits creature against creature? Well, simply because it IS natural, I suppose.

We know that this is simply how the world works. However, when it comes to the human race, certain “moral” standards and social norms have developed that we believe separate us from the baser creatures with whom we share this planet. But sometimes things do go awry. Sometimes we cast of the facade of civilization that we believe separates from the animal kingdom and we revert back to the savagery that is found in the forests and jungles and oceans surround us on all sides. When this happens, we are disappointed that we have not lived up to our own standards and we attempt to learn from our mistakes. In order to gain wisdom from our own errors, we often tell stories or fables that simplify matters and are easy to remember. Some stories are optimistic about civilization while others are pessimistic, but that is beside the point.

What is really interesting is to examine who these stories often feature as the primary characters. You guessed it: Animals.

Upon examining the illustration above, I was reminded of the wonderful fable by James Thurber that is reproduced below. I hope you enjoy it.

“The Rabbits That Caused All The Trouble” by James Thurber

Within the memory of the youngest child there was a family of rabbits who lived near a pack of wolves. The wolves announced that they did not like the way the rabbits were living. (The wolves were crazy about the way they themselves were living, because it was the only way to live.) One night several wolves were killed in an earthquake and this was blamed on the rabbits, for it is well known that rabbits pound on the ground with their hind legs and cause earthquakes. On another night one of the other wolves was killed by a bolt of lightning and this was also blamed on the rabbits, for it is well known that lettuce-eaters cause lightning. The wolves threatened to civilize the rabbits if they didn’t behave, and the rabbits decided to run away to a desert island. But the other animals, who lived at a great distance, shamed them saying, “You must stay where you are and be brave. This is no world for escapists. If the wolves attack you, we will come to your aid in all probability.” So the rabbits continued to live near the wolves and one day there was a terrible flood which drowned a great many wolves. This was blamed on the rabbits, for it is well known that carrot-nibblers with long ears cause floods. The wolves descended on the rabbits, for their own good, and imprisoned them in a dark cave, for their own protection.

When nothing was heard about the rabbits for some weeks, the other animals demanded to know what happened to them. The wolves replied that the rabbits had been eaten and since they had been eaten the affair was a purely internal matter. But the other animals warned that they might possibly unite against the wolves unless some reason was given for the destruction of the rabbits. So the wolves gave them one. “They were trying to escape,” said the wolves, “and, as you know this is no world for escapists.”

Moral: Run, don’t walk, to the nearest desert island.

 


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?