They’re only holding candles
To the sunshine
Why do wolves howl? As a signal to the rest of the pack to say “This is where I am. Find me.”
Sniffing around the forest as a lone wolf has it’s perks. No responsibilities. No drama. No conflict. Just you and the world and all it’s beauty and adventure. But there comes a time when you have to venture out of your solitude and be reunited with your pack. The pack might be the one you were born into or it might not. It could be in some far-off place or right on your doorstep, but you’re not going to find them just by sniffing the ground. You also have to howl; loudly and often. Standing still right where you are and waiting.
This year I’ve had a lot of practice at listening. Listening to others, listening to myself, listening to nature. This is important, especially if you want to learn how to howl for yourself. But if you run in the direction of every howl you hear, you spend all your time chasing and not really living and loving. Too much listening and not enough howling can be a real drain, and there are lessons to be learned from calling out, telling people where you are and rallying up the troops, even if sometimes you have to bark up the wrong tree.
So what do I really mean by howling?
In my final meet-up for the One Year in Transition course, we explored the relationship between love and fear. A big old topic if there ever was one . You might say that love and fear are opposites. One is a sinking feeling of relaxation and bliss, the other is of anxiety and restlessness. One gives life and energy and the other takes life and energy away. One seeks, one runs away.
Now we all know you don’t get one without the other. Love can be like a masseuse with slimy hands; feels good, but you don’t really trust it. It’s that bliss that we’ve finally found something worth having with that fear we’ll have it taken away. In the nauseating words of Phil Collins “’love don’t come easy.” And that doesn’t just go for romantic love but friendships and families and communities also come up against the same challenges. Love and fear are so intrinsically connected that we might easily mistake one for the other. People spend years stuck in relationships out of fear just as much as love.
But the heart is a muscle and like any other muscle in the body it can be made stronger and there is scope for love with pumped-up, beefy muscles. The kind that doesn’t scarper when the other bares it’s ugly yellow teeth and howls loud and strong because you don’t get real love without the scary stuff thrown in.
There are many ways to howl; standing up for what you believe in even if one day you might be wrong, saying I love you when you might not hear it back, crying in front of people, painting, writing, putting time into becoming part of a close-knit community, taking a lead on something you sincerely care about, dancing, making a complete plonker out of yourself, telling a story to a group of strangers, quitting that job you hate, trusting, saying yes and saying no, admitting you’re wrong, asking for what you need. It’s different for everyone.
Howling ultimately is a kind of intimacy and trust, it means coming out from your hiding place and saying where you are. It’s tough but life makes you brawny and you can only get better with time and patience.
My course is complete (actually it finished a couple of months ago). It’s been a massive year for me because it’s been undertaken in the context of me coming back home in search of my pack after a lot of pleasurable sniffing. I’ve learnt a lot about what I want and how to learn from my own life and what’s around me. I’m all prepared for rough waters and the lessons ahead to be learnt. I’ve started storytelling, something I’ve secretly been wanting to do for years but thought wasn’t a very sensible idea and I’m finding my own voice; quite an achievement for a person with chronic shyness. I’ve begun forming a closer relationship with my local community and neighbours, sinking real roots into the ground and deepening my connections. I even have my own set of keys to my beloved community allotment which brings me so much joy.
My wandering alone in the forest has made me strong and curious and the time is coming to stand still for a while and howl. And wait. Watch this space.