5 Years

7EB7F853-0F42-44D4-AB08-DEFC3142BB9EThe weather turned good again, here on the borders of Yellowstone.  It turned good enough for me to sit outside and enjoy some of it, as a matter of fact.  Oh, I’m supposed to still be working right now, but I’ve done 10 hours a day for the last seven straight days, so I snuck out a couple of hours early to pursue my third-favorite* past-time…

*Behind writing and, well, you can probably guess what number one is…

2851053C-DA51-4AF5-A93C-B9B3A64EE139This picture, by the way, is the view from the front yard of the condo where I’m staying.  The place where I’m currently staying belongs to the nonprofit I work for in Yellowstone and, well, it doesn’t suck…  A nice drink in my hand, a plate of appetizers at my elbow, and some good reading material to go with the view are just what the doctor ordered at this point.

I’m even trying some new music, for heaven’s sake!  I currently have “Palomino” by Trampled By Turtles blaring in my ears — I’m not sure if I truly like it or not, but that doesn’t mean anything.  It generally takes me five or six sessions listening to a band (and writing while I do so!) to actually make a decision on just how I feel about them.

I do (finally!) have some hope for regular writing thos winter — at least once I get settled into a regular rhythm of life in my new surroundings.  A decent coffee shop, a good (dive-y) local pub, and an interesting cast of characters around me are pretty damned good for my writing-soul.

The park is still open, by the way, and the animals still going nuts.  Every bear and wolf in the place is out eating like mad, and it’s awesome to see.  I watched a wolf pack the other evening.  It’s a fairly new pack, as these things go, which means it is made up mostly of pups that are on the edge of becoming yearlings.  Have you ever watched 3-4 adults trying to supervise and care for 14 1st and 2nd graders?  Yeah, that’s what this pack looked like; the poor adults were freaking exhausted.  They were exhausted, but they had work to do: it is the job of the entire pack to make sure the pups eat and sleep before the adults, so those adults had to get out and hunt no matter how tired they were.

You watch and you admire…then your knowledge of the sad circle of life comes around again, when you study a young pack like that.  It sucks to say — and to know! — but maybe half of those pups will actually survive the winter to become yearlings next spring.

A Yellowstone wolf — all 150ish pounds of it! — could and would live as long as your dog at home…if things went perfectly.   Instead, the wolves live an average of 5 years…

5 years.

The oldest and smartest alphas might make it all the way to 9 or 10.

That’s it.

It’s depressing to think about that — especially when you get to know the packs and the individual animals that make them up — but food and competition/violence and the extremity of the winters here make all the difference when it comes to lifespans.  

Hell, a Yellowstone bison will generally live to be about 20, and a grizzly to about 30 or 35.

But a wolf…an iconic symbol of the freedom of the wilds…

A wolf is blessed to see his or her ninth birthday.

Think about that for a moment; think about the power and the stature and all of the mythology we humans invest in wolves.  Then think about how long (how short!) they live…

Shit, I’m gonna need a lot more sun and booze and cheese if I keep writing about shit like this!

Both David Eddings and Robert Jordan made wolves central to their respective fantasy series…fantasy series on which I grew up, I should explain.  But neither author actually knew a damned thing about the animals, as a matter of fact.  Both wrote based on the mythology and the superstitions, on the almost metaphysical awe and respect in which many humans hold those animals, to make them central to their stories.

Neither talked about the 2-year-old male having to leave his pack to find a mate…

Neither talked about one pack invading another’s territory with the sole aim of killing the ruling alphas in order to take new hunting territory…

Neither talked about the weakness of a wolf alone…

Neither talked about the hopelessness and the all-but-inevitable death of the lone wolf, of the one who cannot find a mate or a new pack in time to save his own life…

2457F1C7-01D2-4AE7-9C36-F60624FC770AIf you have the time, by the way, go watch a NatGeo documentary called “Black Wolf”.  Go watch it, then think about all of the mythology and symbolism and superstition we invest in these animals…

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