One of the first things I did when I moved to Texas in 1995, besides trying to make a one night stand turn into a full-blown marital partnership, was drive – over night – to the Gulf Coast to buy a white wolf. They said she was a hybrid, of course, 25% Malamute. The rest was a toss-up between Timber and Grey Wolf. I had been obsessed with wolves for years prior to coming to Texas. Texas was the absolute last place I ever wanted to find a place to live. But while I was here, by God, I was going to take advantage of my stay and satisfy my need – my hunger – to be with an honest-to-god wolf. Dog. Wolf.
Luna’s mother weighed in at 125 pounds, and her sire slightly more. How it ended between my obsession and me is how all these things end – a lot of tears and a lot of regrets. I wanted, desperately, to convince the neighborhood that it was “okay” that my dog left at night to go kick the snot out of a pack of coyotes and that she was just “playing” when she came home with gifts like an intact spine and pelvis of a long-dead goat. She hadn’t actually killed anyone or anything. She was not the type. She was hugely shy and avoided human contact as much as possible. But the Game Warden who also lived on the edge of “new suburbia” with us, I was assured by his neighbor, would not be as open-minded on the matter as I. Too many young children running free in the neighborhood – they weren’t wild, according to him. I had fruits and veggies shoved up the tailpipe of my wife’s VW Bug that proved otherwise, but I was outgunned, from out of state and from California. I didn’t have a chance in hell of keeping my wolf outdoors and she was beginning to remodel the interior of my house, recover my leather furniture and gnaw on tasty antique table legs.
In my time with Luna I learned a great deal about myself and about wolf dogs. We bonded quite powerfully. I still see the old Native American medicine man whom I finally gave her to, gratis, because he had five acres and a girlfriend who was absolutely in-love with the idea of having a wolf. Especially a white one. I thought Luna would be safe out in the woods of Pipe Creek and in the haven of the sweat lodge of Crow’s Nest.
Not so much, as it turned out. Somewhere around week two she met up with a porcupine who fired quills right through her curious nose and upper jaw. I didn’t find out for weeks afterward and by then Luna was out of surgery and well on the road to recovery. I had to let go. Apparently so did her intended pack leader. Said girlfriend left my Native American friend and his abundant collection of peyote buttons for the “posh” surroundings of Medina Lake. I thought that would be that. Lost forever.
Several years passed and I was driving around Medina Lake, half because I craved the lower blood pressure being out of town always offers, and half because I wanted to know that Luna was out there, somewhere, and doing well. We found one another on a lonely country road as I was driving my new truck with my new wife and living my new life. There she was. I called her name. She came to the side of my truck. There were the scars one would expect to see on the nose and face of an animal attacked by a frightened porcupine. She was nowhere near the 125 pounds of her mother, perhaps because she was half grown when the porcupine attack had happened – I can’t imagine anything tasted good to her for a long, long time after that. Being hungry and getting impaled at the same time at that age…eating must have become a frightening option ever after.
She gave my hand a sniff and a lick as I patted her head. Before I could shed a tear, she trotted off down the road towards her destination. She may have remembered the last time I cried before and that didn’t turn out so well and, after all, we all have our lives to live. I sat watching her trot down the road, my engine running and my new wife asking me, “who was that?”
“That was Luna. It’s her,” I said.
Neither Luna, nor I, was ever very trusting of human contact. We tried to avoid it as best we could. There would be our circle of friends, people we could trust, and then there would be people we would tolerate having to be around. Whereas a good Heeler or German Shepard – hell, a frigging poodle – would go out of their way to warn of danger and to patrol the area for her “pack,” Luna was not of this world. Not Suburbia. She could tell me more about how she was feeling by the look in her eyes than any human female could in twenty minutes of conversation and beating around the bush. She wanted out of this place I had brought her to and wanted desperately to be free of the lunacy the two of us were living with. In the end, we both got our wish. Another lesson in obsessive love and letting go learned in a long, long list of more of the same.
Books on shamanic wisdom seem to coalesce on a few themes offered by wolf medicine. Facing the end of one’s cycle of life with dignity and courage, death and rebirth, spirit teaching and social and familial values; these are the themes that come up when one reads the spiritual teachings of the shaman. So it is altogether appropriate that this week’s haircut and shave begin with a little introduction into what I’ve learned and experienced with wolf medicine and its impact on my life.
Number one this week was a series of often funny, certainly light-hearted, definitely dismissively satirical reviews of the “power” of a Three Wolf Moon tee shirt sold by Amazon. Sales of this shirt jumped 2300% based solely on the hilarity of the reviews offered by Amazon’s site visitors. Even the BBC covered the phenomenon here.
The media have been saturated with stories about wolves and the popularity of the subject has been fairly ubiquitous for at least the last twenty years in the United States. Small wonder, given my experience and the experiences of the shaman with wolf medicine, that fixations with ending one’s life cycle would show up all over contemporary America. A person cannot walk down a city street without being struck by some “end times” message or meta-message. And, true to form, America’s youth have been programmed, on cue, to find anything and everything about their cultural milieu, lacking, small and “lame.” While this is certainly possible in most cases, the fact that it has been a fairly recurrent theme in just the last 100 years in the United States catches my attention. It is almost as if we have been programmed to divide ourselves not just into different generations, but into compartmentalized cohorts, each one with its own peculiar sociological handles, cues, symbols and product identifications.
The compartmentalization extends even into shared pools of knowledge, such as the knowledge that water boarding is a form of torture. Number two this week featured the video of conservative radio talk show host Erich Muller being water boarded. Apparently Sean Hannity was all bark and no bite, so MSNBC host Keith Olberman awared ten thousand dollars to a charity founded by the man who water boarded Erich “Mancow” Muller. Atheist and journalist Christopher Hitchens lasted 17 seconds – three seconds longer than the average person. Mancow lasted anywhere from six to eight seconds, depending on which right-wing rodeo apologist one listens to. Mancow was well below average like a lot of right-wing nut jobs who seem to permeate the firmament in and around Texas.
In his defense, Mancow admits to having been drowned as a child, perhaps even by accident. Arising from the water board, Mancow was clearly in shock and readily admits that the procedure he had just undergone was indeed torture. And yet the groupthink of the present media epoch pulls credulity towards dismissing water boarding as nothing when compared to having one’s head chopped off by a Saladin wannabe. As if every Muslim or brown skinned individual should be considered guilty until proven innocent; as if every person designated by a cabal of useful idiots in Crawford, Texas to be “enemy combatants” deserves to be water boarded or have their heads lopped off.
Water boarding did one and only one thing useful to the military junta then in charge of the United States: it extracted tailor-made confessions from the person being water boarded. Need evidence of WMD’s in Iraq? No problem! Locate a designated high-value al-Qaeda target and water board him until he confesses to his intimate knowledge of the nuclear weapons program Saddam Hussein was actively pursuing! Next, show a masterfully edited version of the torture tape to a roomful of prominent amateurs and watch the groupthink descend on the gathering like a fogbank. Bada-bing, bada-boom, you’ve got a pretext for a long, miserable, expensive war.
Wolves have dignity, hunt in packs, communicate almost telepathically with one another, and survive on fresh kills. Hyena’s feed opportunistically on the kills of other animals. Many people have gotten hyenas and wolves confused, particularly in recent times, because both are mammals and both have a similar appearance in the wild. One species, however, is demonstrably canid and inclined towards familial loyalty. The other species is a specialized offshoot of the weasel family and, in spite of their remarkably stout physique, would prefer to scavenge like vultures. “Yes we can,” says the hyena, “but, you, first.”
Crying wolf was the order of the day in entry number three for the week. Badness comes in threes, usually, but because of Canada’s advanced, sophisticated social strata, badness came in the form of four drunk girlie-girls crying “rape” when a cabbie not only refused them the illegal privilege of smoking in his Edmonton cab, he had the nerve to expect them to pay their fare. Perhaps due to the foresight of a Middle Eastern man repeatedly harassed by Mounties, perhaps due to voyeurism, the cabbie had a camera rolling and recorded the entire incident of the four drunken females on his trusty digital video recorder. Not wanting to miss out on an opportunity to take advantage of the sympathies of at least one of four drunk females on the prowl, heroes sprouted wings and halos and cops were called on the offending cabbie. Cops came – when they aren’t scoring donuts and drinking coffee, they’re looking for their next ex-girlfriend or ex-wife, just like the rest of us.
Had Mr. Cabbie not been recording his fares, he would have been screwed for life. Or, most likely, not screwed for life, as no box exists on a personals dating form for “divorced Muslim sex offender and former cab driver.”
What is irritating about this incident is that the cops wouldn’t prosecute in the reverse direction – the movie, obviously raw and unedited, proved the cabbie’s story was true, so the forward-thinking cops were inclined to let the girls go on with their evening, behave irresponsibly, get more drunk, have wild, anonymous sex, get pregnant, have abortions and attend classes the following week.
The cabbie is seeking a civil remedy claiming some sort of harm to his personal reputation, perhaps as a married man and a Muslim. More narcissism in one entry on both sides of this issue than in any of our prior examined entries thus far.
And what really annoys me is the thoughtlessness of these drunken females crying wolf. It is hard enough for women who really have been raped to come forward about their violation and the criminal assault committed against their bodies without fearing that they will be doubly victimized as yet another case of “drunk, horny woman syndrome.”
(For those of you in the pharmaceutical industry with acronyminitis, that would be “DHW Syndrome.” Now go make a pill and ruin what’s left of the sex life of the single North American adult male.)
Wolf medicine isn’t really a part of this week’s number four, but coyote medicine might well be a welcome relief as the city limits sign of Gold Hill, Colorado highlights inappropriate summary math. Year established plus population plus elevation equals a bigger number than your town – so eat me, dude – I suppose. No one in Gold Hill lives below the poverty line, but they do live above a line where the air is sufficient to sustain either common courtesy or a viable sense of humor. I’ve been at Gold Hill’s elevation, and higher (try Gould, CO), and if you don’t acclimate properly (I didn’t), you can end up looking at a sign like this, walking by it and thinking it made enough sense to ignore it on a convulsive search for a place to lay down and take a nap to catch your breath. The hicks of the foothills tried pulling the same trick here, too, but at only 2,000 feet above sea level, it’s not as witty as it is in the mountains just outside of Boulder. Hick towns like to confuse tourists, but New Cuyama could have accomplished the same thing just by offering tourists directions through their sub-one-stoplight town. New Cuyama, gateway to Cuyama – come enjoy a frolic at the Buckhorn Motel, or play a game of Washers with the local folks down at the C&H Market. Due just west of Bakersfield and the final resting place of Country Music legend Buck Owens, the man even Porter Waggoner couldn’t out-twinkle.
Rounding out this week at number five we have a work of artsy humor that was first crafted on November 16, 2007 at 10:12AM. Art isn’t usually that punctual so it’s entirely possibly that this submission was due on November 15th at close-of-business. But it has taken just over eighteen months for this email forwarding decision flowchart to achieve its rightful place between the barbercide-soaked combs and the industrial-strength hot shaving cream dispenser here at the ‘diaries. There were only 8 people in the entire world that, like me, took the time to research where and when this work hit the web before it ever made Digg, and who then bothered to comment on it. This sort of effort is what makes me one of eight special people on the planet – hell, the entire solar system – this week. Doesn’t it just give you chills to witness history in the making? Where else could you go, virtually for free, and experience just this sort of drama and excitement? Never mind, I really don’t want to know….
None of my rattling narcissism, however, could ever come close to the creative mind and comic brilliance of “Brian” over at Shoebox Greetings – a tiny little division of Hallmark. His portfolio of 190+ works of genius can be viewed here. Stop by and enjoy his work and the work of his colleagues: it’s better than snickering in between aisles at the card store.
I suppose this week, like most of life, was a mixed bag of stunning narcissism and human thoughtlessness transforming itself into utter brilliance and a good natured smile of contentment. This is the epitome of the grace inherent in wolf medicine. It’s something we’ve needed in North America for a very long time. For those of us who have an understanding of wolves, we comprehend why we see them depicted everywhere to a highly noticeable degree. When the cycle says it is time, there can be no argument or further equivocation – don the cutting cape and quietly step up and take your seat.
When the shaving cream first goes on the warmth of it soothes the soul as it relaxes the skin and opens the pores. But then the real magic of the barbershop takes over as men nominally trained to draw swords at the drop of a hat to defend honor and beauty, trust one another to utilize sharpened, cold steel to ritually whisk away body hair that probably thought it was doing a fair job for most of the preceding month. The hair never saw it coming, but we did. We always know when it’s time to sit still and trust another man to do the job we do not have the steadiness of hand, nor the drive of desire, to accomplish for ourselves.
Sometimes we pay a price when nicks occur and blood is drawn. And if we find that we’ve trusted the wrong barber or barbershop, there comes a time when trust must take a back seat to setting things aright.