I’ve been going through an existential crisis, and last week was at breaking point. After twenty-odd years of first-hand experience with mental breakdowns, I’ve finally, in my 36th year, come to accept when I need to say to myself, ‘I’M DOING SOMETHING ABOUT THIS RIGHT FUCKING NOW.’
The first thing I did was call my doctor and arrange to speak with someone about the fuckedupness of a considerable percentage of my life and how I’m (naturally) feeling anxious about it all.
The second thing I did was book a holistic massage with a masseuse specialising in psychological trauma.
The third thing I did was accept I needed more physical interaction with other living, breathing things. I didn’t know it would be an interaction with a wolfdog that would pave the way for my healing.
When my mood is low and my anxiety high, I lose faith in my work. I struggle to be productive. I convince myself that everything I do manage to create is terrible. I also avoid taking photographs. Or, better put, I want to take pictures but can’t muster the energy or locate inspiration.
But then a wolfdog called Humphrey and his owner Nathan turned up in my village, and within moments, my crisis mode switched off. I was relaxed, excited, awestruck and humbled. I’m sure you know the line from the late, great Barry Lopez* about looking into the eyes of a wolf, ‘It takes your stare and turns it back on you.’ The same goes for when you look into the eyes of a wolfdog.
As we took off for the hills, I was fizzing with bliss. I snapped away at Humphrey with my camera, and felt drunk on the delight of enjoying photography again, on observing my subject loping through the countryside and on the wisdom I was being fed by Nathan who’s knowledge on wolfdogs (and nature as a whole) was deliciously moreish.
Humphrey is 30% grey wolf and what’s called an F5. This means he’s five generations from the original parent wolf. An F1, where one parent is a wolf, is considered ‘a dangerous wild animal,’ and the owner must be in possession of a license. F3 is the legal limit without a license.
I felt much the same euphoria around Humphrey as when I met with wolves for the first time more than a decade ago.
Walking the woods and moors where his ancestors would have loped before being hunted to extinction felt profound. I fantasized that he could detect a distant scent of wolf, that the twitch of his ear was him catching a long-lost howl, that his scanning of the land was him seeing ghosts of his ancestors moving swiftly through the heather.
When I skimmed my fingers across his fur, I felt in touch with his wildness, my wildness and the wildness that was all around us before.
The hours we wandered were sacred in a way I wish everyone could feel. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a highly sensitive person that I feel so intensely and that this experience affected me in such a way. But it’s almost impossible for me to fathom that others wouldn’t experience it with a similar intensity.
I didn’t think I’d be able to adequately put the experience of walking with a wolfdog into words. I don’t think I’ve done it justice, but that’s also because wolves are something ‘other.’ Thus the experience of walking with one is also something ‘other’ and not, I believe, something that can be effectively worded, only felt, alone, in the meat of the heart and in the cave of the soul.
If you interact with Instagram and want more wolfdog to swoon over, you can find Humphrey and Nathan at Wandering With Wolfdog.
*Barry Lopez wrote one of my all-time favourite books Of Wolves & Men.
One Hundred Days Of Blogging
For the next one hundred days I aim to blog every day. This endeavour has been inspired by Humphrey and Nathan and my friends Giorgia Sottotetti (a vegan food extraordinaire, model and scholar. You’ll have seen her in many of my photographs.) Giorgia’s partner Kári Pálsson (a brilliant folklorist, scholar and musician), Logan Smith-Salmon (a multifaceted creative with more strings to her bow than I can count) and Daria Endresen (a photographer in a whole other realm and a visionary in her own right.)