Wisdom of Wolves

I often find myself looking forward to finishing a book so that I can put it on the shelf and move on to something else. It’s not that I’m not enjoying what I’m reading when this happens – I’ve often just finished getting what I want out of it. I’ve got the point. I’ve moved on – but because I hate not seeing things through, I’ll plough on till the last word is read, excited to close the book and make it a piece of furniture on my shelf.

There are some books however, that I wish would go on forever, that leave me fascinated beyond me finishing it. These are the books that are unputdownable, that really move me and touch new bits of my brain or my subconscious in weird and indescribable ways. The Wisdom of Wolves: Lessons from the Sawtooth Pack, was such a book. I finished reading it last week and I’ve thought about it often since.

The Wisdom of Wolves tells the story of Jim and Jamie Dutcher and the Sawtooth Pack, a pack of wolves that the couple lived with for six years. The story of how they came to live with this wolf pack is interesting in itself, and it’s well told by the couple in the book. To cut a long (and interesting) story short – Jim, a wildlife cinematographer wanted to create a study of wolves, finds land, creates large enclosure, raises wolf pups, introduces more wolf pups thus creating wolf pack. Jamie moves in to study wolf language, lives on and off in an enclosure within the wolves enclosure for 6 years, makes film, wolves move to permanent home, they write book, Andrew reads book. They tell that story much better than I just did.

The story of them doing the living with wolves was fascinating, but it’s not really that bit of the book that I found so compelling – it’s the portraits of the wolves themselves that I found remarkable. Each wolf in the pack, its unique personality and its role in the pack is described with a detail that made me feel close to the wolves, like I knew them. It is both skilfully written but also has a clear and deep respect for the wolves. Kamots the alpha, the pack’s leader who inspires trust and who leads with firmness but by example, his brother Lakota, the lowest ranking member of the pack, the Omega, who keeps the pack light by instigating play and Amani, the often playful and occasional bully of the pack.

Each wolf plays its role perfectly. Each adds value and is essential in some way to the health and wellbeing of the group. The wolves mourned loss, celebrated and played together, respected the knowledge of their elders and taught the young the important lessons of life. Just like I do. I also noticed similarities with the values that I admire in people – I think that’s kind of the point of the book, but it was a point well made – and important and valuable elements that are both present or missing from my own relationships in the story of the Sawtooth Pack.

I found myself deeply moved, at times almost to tears, by how clearly the story of the wolves made me see the values in people that I admire. I recognised the people in my life that play certain roles – the Alphas, the elders, the Omegas and how valuable each role is. And also my role, and how it might add value, too.

The Wisdom of Wolves is a short and inexpensive book, and I’m glad I bought it. I’ve recommended it several times now (and this definitely counts as a recommendation) but I worry, now that I have, whether or not anyone will take what I’ve taken from it. Maybe it was the right book and just the right time for where I am in my life right now and the things that are on my mind.

I’m a quarter of the way through Be More Pirate currently, the next book in the pile of books on my desk after Wisdom of Wolves, and starting to feel quite piratey so maybe I’m just on a hot streak of book picking. Who knows?

-Andrew

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