The Renegade Press

Tales from the mouth of a wolf

In 1995, biologists released fourteen wolves into Yellowstone National Park as a means of managing the critically high number of elk overgrazing within the reserve. It had been more than seventy years since wolves had resided in Yellowstone, and their reintroduction triggered an event known as a trophic cascade within the park’s ecosystem.

Through hunting, the wolves altered the feeding habits of the herds of elk, forcing them to avoid locations where they were easy prey. This divergence in grazing patterns allowed aspen and willow trees to regenerate, attracting bugs, which in turn lead to various bird species moving in. Shortly after the birds arrived, beavers returned to the area, building dams that provided shelter for otters and reptiles.

In addition to hunting elk, the wolves also killed off much of the coyote population, leading to an increase in the number of rabbits and mice who called Yellowstone home. This sudden surplus in rabbits and mice allowed the number of hawks, red foxes, and other species to flourish. The shift in the park’s ecological make up, and the reestablishment of balance between flora and fauna created a reduction in erosion, stabilizing riverbanks and channels. Because the rivers stayed more fixed in their course, the geography of the park was transformed forever.

Impressive, huh?

Depending on the literature you choose to read, the phenomenon brought about by the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone is either a feat of ecological genius on behalf of the biologists involved, or a bunch of fictitious bullshit that fails to consider circumstance and several other equally important occurrences that took place. Thankfully, I’m not trying to validate or disprove the legitimacy of claims that wolves saved Yellowstone National Park. I’m simply acknowledging that the premise that a wolf can be inserted into an ecosystem and redefine its geography appeals to me greatly.

It has been a few months since I posted. So it probably won’t be much of a surprise when I say that I have been struggling to write lately…

After more than five years of blogging I recently found myself feeling as though I had nothing left to say. On this page, I have spoken about love, heartbreak, family, health, suicide, and pretty much anything else that has impacted my life. I have picked fights, buried hatchets, offered advice, psychoanalysed myself, and become a test subject in my own emotionally fuelled experiments. But then around the time that 2017 took its final bow and allowed its name to be written into the history books, I had a crisis of confidence and found myself spending the next few months staring at a blank page without the faintest idea as to what I wanted to produce next.

I hate writer’s block. It’s the worst. When you are so in love with a creative action or process, there are few greater travesties than finding yourself at war with your own lack of imagination. When I don’t write, I become frustrated. When I become frustrated, I start to panic; and if I can’t find a way to break my creative blockage, that panic causes my mind to tear itself apart.

In early January my creative frustrations boiled over and I had a panic attack for the first time in almost three years. It was a horrible experience. My pulse spiked, my hands turned clammy, and a void opened inside the pit of my stomach, swallowing my confidence and ability to create. It wasn’t hard to understand what prompted my meltdown either. Eighteen months prior to the episode I had started writing a manuscript to heal from a broken heart. After unsuccessfully pleading with the universe to give me one final chance with a woman that I had once believed that I would marry, I turned to writing a love story so that I could know what it felt like to experience a happy ending.

I spent almost two years hiding myself from the world, using my dedication to a manuscript that often tore open the wounds it was intended to heal as a reason for not pursing a fresh start. But after the book had received its structural edit in December/January, I started making a few minor revisions as my mind began to ponder its next create endeavour. Until that moment, I hadn’t considered that one day the novel would be complete, and that when it was it would no longer be a shield to hide my vulnerabilities, but a detailed account of a man struggling to come to terms with his reality.

So, I stalled. I started distracting myself, searching for reasons not to move on. I began to edit scenes that I had already finalised, and convinced myself that my urge to write or blog had faded. When I did, I became frustrated, lost sight of why I started writing in the first place, and started having panic attacks.

Then, a few days ago a reader sent me an email and asked why I had spent so much of 2017 writing about love…

Well, kind of. The correspondence started out by asking questions about my compulsions to create, before quickly becoming a fusillade of insults that insinuated that I was a homosexual and a pathetic excuse of a man for exploring my emotions. It’s not the first time that I have received emails like this from a reader, and I doubt that it’ll be the last. If I am to be totally honest, over the course of my writing career I have come to appreciate my detractors. In a world that often celebrates mediocrity, to know that you have pushed someone so far beyond their comfort zone that they feel the need to tear you down or disparage your work is one of the greatest rewards that a writer can experience. It means that you have hit a nerve, stood up for something, or opened an individual’s mind to the possibility that there are ideas and beliefs that run incongruous to their own.

wolf in profile

Which is why I often include the death threats, slurs, and counter articles I have been subjected to as some of my proudest achievements as an author. Despite being a heterosexual male, I take great pride in being the victim of a homophobic slur from someone so socially and intellectually inept that they see an individual’s sexual orientation as a valid reason to vilify or disparage. I would rather that someone incorrectly assume that I am gay than be a closed minded piece of shit who is so inadequate with themselves that they hide behind their keyboard and spread messages of hate.

You’re probably wondering what writer’s block and a misdirected homophobic slur have to do with Yellowstone National Park…

To the average person; there is no correlation. Creative frustrations have absolutely nothing to do with sexuality or wolves roaming a reserve. But to a writer searching to rediscover his creative confidence, the three can easily become intertwined.

I started blogging in 2012 because my cognitive ecosystem was dying. Anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts had overgrazed on my psyche, causing erosion and inhibiting new growth. But when I reintroduced positivity and creative thought into my head and allowed them to feed upon my own insecurities and self-loathing, my internal landscape began to change. Although I never used the specific insult that the reader who inspired this article did, I did used to say some truly horrible things to myself, and the wolves that I unleashed inside my brain gorged upon these anxieties and allowed new saplings of hope to grow.

Changing my mindset hasn’t been an easy process. The heartache that I forced myself to repeatedly relive whilst writing my most recent manuscript is proof of that. There were days when it hurt so fucking much to force myself to write about love because I truly believed that all hope was lost. But through allowing the wolves of change to run rampant inside my head, I have overcome so much that I don’t even recognise my own voice when I glance back at my earlier work. Sure, I still have days where the world seems a little darker than it did the day before, and the scars of a failed romance will always mark my skin. But for the most part I am happy.

When I think back to the end of 2017 I realise that my fear of moving on from a manuscript that quite literally saved my life had nothing to do with a need or desire to continue hiding from the world. I have healed, and I’m in a far better place than I have ever been. Instead, my panic arose because the conclusion of my manuscript, which now only needs a final proof read to be completely finished, meant that the reconstitution of a mind torn apart by self-loathing was almost complete, and I hadn’t yet figured out where I was heading next.

Which brings me to the point of this awfully long post…

Long before I had ever heard the tale of Yellowstone National Park, I had fallen in love with wolves. To me, the wolf has always been a symbol of loyalty, courage and strength. It is something that I have drawn wisdom from during my lower moments, and a symbol that I will continue to strive towards in the future. When I learned the story of how a pack of fourteen wolves supposedly altered Yellowstone’s geography, and saw the similarities with the shift I had undertaken within myself, I found a new purpose; one that reignited my creativity and ultimately stopped me from responding to the detractor noted above with more vulgarity.

There are things within our culture that I hate, and beliefs that I disagree with. I hate that people often still struggle to openly discuss mental health. I hate that a child can feel as though she is an outcast; that suicide rates continue to spiral out of control; and that because our society excuses intolerance and bigotry, some dickhead feels justified in his attempts to belittle a stranger through their blog.

So, I want to change them. I want to continue to evolve and embrace the idea that a wolf can alter an ecosystem, and I want to change the world.

It has been years since I have sat down to write with the intention of producing a bestseller. These days whenever I open up my computer or pick up a pen, I ask myself what I can do as an individual to create a lasting impression on the world, and on my reader as an individual. I aim to create pieces that inspire, expand minds, and that celebrate our vulnerabilities and idiosyncrasies. By doing so, I truly believe that I can create a change in the mindset of my audience that will ultimately contribute to the reconstitution of our society.

It sounds like an unachievable goal, and I’ve often told myself that it would be probably be easier to aim towards producing a bestseller. But nothing worth doing is ever easy, and I’m too damn arrogant to back down from a challenge. If fourteen wolves can theoretically alter the geography of a reserve, and a writer can reshape his own psyche and overcome anxiety and depression; surely he can inspire someone else to embrace the wolves within their mind and reshape their own cognitive ecosystem, creating a more positive world in the process.

72 thoughts on “Fourteen Wolves

  1. Holy mackerel Chris, you have a lot of female followers and readers…I should write more.
    Okay, the wolf thing is cool and all, but it was originally to separate two distinct breeding pairs, allowing for the ones shipped to Yellowstone to survive.
    And did they! By 2003 there were 150 of them. So many that some ventured over the hill into Pinedale WY, where there is now 1800 of the darn things…talk about limiting ELK meat.
    So that took the count down to about 104 at the start the 2014 year, and they are back to 528 at last count.

    But no one is counting them anymore Chris, and Yellowstone is completely closed to public visitation, as geysers are exploding daily. I had been there many times as an adolescent with my parents, and it is customary to have a geyser go off every day…but not 16 simultaneously. One day last month there were 56 of them, and this month a hole opened up that is half the size of a football field. I’m pretty sure the wolves are running for their lives, as should we be.
    When Sandy divorced me in 1998 after 7 years of what I thought was a perfect marriage I was devastated…depressed, and in constant agony. I know your pain. But it was her psychosis that makes her rotate men every 5 years…and she still calls me every time that hour comes around.

    Then I met Karen on Valentines day 2006, and the woman who had been in my dreams all of my life was now within my reach. I had never known this much happiness and bliss, until she died in 2009. I lost my mind literally. My business, my home, my car, and became homeless. After 7 years now I am not as broken as I was back then, because Science never lies. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. For as high as we can soar, so must the depths of our despair be.
    I’m pretty sure you’re going to be just fine, because that’s what we do…we survive. Suicide is too easy, and besides, not many of us are going to make it through the next few cataclysmic events anyway.
    I post a page at a time, because that’s how I read…a page at a time. So some postings which are greatly lengthened because the mind won’t quit spewing words, sometimes do not make it to my reading list. It’s certainly isn’t your writing style, as you are masterful with your words, and your thoughts are quite clear. But if they are going to run a bit long, I set them aside for when I can concentrate on your post more fairly.

    I could still stick another 100 words in here to have a page, but heck, this is a comment, not a post. Good night and good luck. And thanks for the like on one of my posts. I will search back to visit your site as time permits. Rock on.

    1. Seriously the park is closed? … I mean that was beautiful all that other shit you said…. But seriously. I live in the american southwest. I used to have dreams as a child where this guy who looked like the silver surfer sat in the sky and we talked. Maybe it wasnt a dream i dont know. I do know that he told me about some things i would see happen in my life time… And if they have closed dowm the park for real… Please if you live near it RUN! Iam in arizona and i am nervous now… So please just go. I know it isnt that easy but listen to me it can be. Fill up the tank in your car or truck drive till you run out of money… It is better then what is coming when that volcano blows.

      1. It is not guaranteed to blow in the manner of St Helen’s, or the three that are spewing lava right now as we speak. Because it is a caldera type, meaning a hundred mile spread underground, encompassing half of Idaho and Wyoming. It is too hot in AZ for me, I’d melt there too. And if the ash cloud rolls this way, my intention is to grab my guitar and head straight for, perhaps playing some Willie Dixon or Robert Johnson, cause it would be death in a mille-second.

      2. Well im just saying that i had those dreams before i was 10. Im 34 now. So far 4 things i saw in the dream happened. An earch quake in chine like in the 90s i think. Fukushima. New York being blanketed in ash. And people falling out of ash cloud. And New Orleans… things that havent happened yet… An earth quake rips a big trench ocean water rushed in the crack…. Like enough that beaches run dry im some places… Then right after th at a volcano eplodes and takes the guts if the US off the map…
        And while those things may never happen….. If they do i am just goin g to head south. I figure it would end up being a global event. So i am going south till i find a pyramid. Set up there and rule with an iron fist…. If it is good enough for the Aztecs it is good enough for me lol

  2. glennhr says:

    I was half asleep when I started reading your post and my mind was hazily trying to make the link with the story about wolves and what followed when bam! There are so many things I lied about this post and I will read it again so I can properly call them out! More important than liking it for me is that it resonated in me. So many different aspects made me gasp aloud in recognition. Other parts I was nodding away wanting to shout Preach! Thank you so much for liking my post so I could be directed to yours and never stop writing!

  3. sarahtinsley says:

    What a great post. It definitely chimes with why I want to write. The idea that the words you produce will somehow make a difference to someone, anyone, and the impact that will have is so important. And look at you, with your following, you’re already doing it! Impressed that you’re still fighting it out after such a tough time. Keep writing.

  4. crisn says:

    The time you stall yourself and eventually quit is the time you prove your detractors right. There would always be people who will hate your writing style but reading two of your posts later it wouldn’t be me. You write better than some authors on Amazon Kindle. Keep the spirit up, be the wolf that you are.

  5. Mr Nothing says:

    Indeed, Chris, your words resonate, reverberate, rebound, echo and spread in my soul too.

    The dark-days and the sun-days have expanded my inner world to an extent that when a void moves in I think it will never clear.
    A conclusion I too have reached in my six decades is in the second part of tiostib’s comment: ‘I trust you will find happiness and fulfilment, although the forms will likely surprise you.

    Our vivid, creative imagination can still be surprised by what life dishes up even if it is not what we had in mind.

    I cannot say that focusing wholeheartedly to achieve and obtain something is wrong, however, I can say that this pursuit (and stubbornness) has on more than one occasion made me blind and deaf to far better options that I simply shut out in my ‘unawareness’ towards everything else.

    We can only use what we have and at this moment we have the ability to write.

    When writing pairs with the depth of the writer’s soul then it becomes expressive.

    Your writing is impressive in its expressiveness.

    Great appreciation also for your visits to https://nothingcluelesslost.com

    1. Linda says:

      I’m sorry that your feeling all of that. Wolves are beautiful and majestic creatures. Doesn’t Yellowstone have a supervolcano?

  6. Getting over is so hard. Life is so damn hard. Way to get back on the horse. Great post.

  7. I’ve found that the best writing usually stems from moments of anxiety and depression…the words we put down help us crawl back out of our holes. And your words do matter…even if they matter to only one person who reads them, that’s one person who’s been touched.

  8. matt says:

    I love the idea of being insulted as the result of pushing somewhere out of their comfort zone as a rewarding experience. I’ve never thought about it like that, but it reminds me of the poet Robert Wrigley, who once talked with me about the fact there being the writer that everyone likes would be the worst thing in the world. Pushing people out of their comfort zone is a huge part of the process, thank you for sharing your thoughts and story, man!

  9. Sue Das says:

    I don’t normally read posts as long as this one. You kept me interested until the end. I’d love to hear more about “the wolves” you released into your own mind that got things back on track. I relate to your wanting to influence and change the world. Don’t give up writing.

  10. kalanleitch says:

    This reminds me of the cane toads in North Queensland, released to devour an insect but destined to become a much greater ecological threat. “She swallowed a spider to catch the fly…”

  11. Jackson says:

    Wonderful writing, sir. Superb insights that are so well knit together. Before I was diagnosed (and eventually cured of) cancer I often thought of suicide. But once Death knocks on your door and you catch a whiff of his halitosis, you are cured of such ideas. From there you become a wolf thinking thoughts only of what might be, not of the pains of the past. Ditto on lost love: you will never forget but you will also remember the good, and in time, heal. Time is the key.

    By all means keep writing. You have a talent, but talent alone is not enough. Shape it, hone it, polish it.

    Jackson
    http://www.LifeOnTheBlueHighways

  12. Aviva Basin says:

    I always but always loved wolves, they are just so sexy

  13. anne leueen says:

    I have been drawn to the success story of the re-introducing wolves to Yellowstone since I first heard of it. It is a wonderful example of balance and survival. I am saddened to know you have been on the receiving end of cyber bullying and hatred. I just cannot understand why people do this. They must be very sad and insecure in their own lives. I find writing for my blog a cathartic experience. I do not consider myself to be a writer however. This week has been very difficult as my horse has been ill and in the University large animal hospital. He is on the mend now but it has been a huge stress for me as he is such a large part of my life. I found that on one of the most difficult days I came home and sat down and wrote a blog post about driving home from Florida last weekend. It did me the world of good to write that post. It took my mind off my horse and gave me a sense of purpose that was something other than waiting for the phone to ring from the hospital to tell me he had taken a turn for the worse. He did not and is able to come home tomorrow. Thank you for this honest post. And keep on writing!

  14. katiegirl06460 says:

    Clearly you have gotten through your writers block. I think we have all had it. I loved the story about the wolves. Best wishes on your continuing adventures..

  15. Ceelah Joy says:

    This is the first post of yours that I’ve read and as soon as I can figure out how to follow you, I’m following you. It sucks that you receive shitty emails from people who have nothing better to do than insult you for writing but I think it’s great how you take those insults as a positive thing to keep writing and to keep working because your right – if someone is willing to go out of there way to attack you then yeah, maybe you are doing the right thing broadening minds and altering landscapes etc. 😀 anyways this is longer than I intended but you’re dope as far as I’m concerned hehe cheers!

  16. Many, many people have used writing to get themselves out of a hole with good reason. When I was first in the process of getting divorced I could not sleep till I journalled my feelings out each night. Recently (the last few years) as I cared for my mother through to her death, writing and writing groups kept me sane and interested in other people. It has helped me in the last 16 months also. I love being able to sit down and write my books or get the next blog post up and done. My brain is used creatively, I hope I help others also trying to write and when I see more people checking out my blog I am ecstatic. So keep writing. You write good. Forget the detractors as they aren’t out there putting themselves on the line except with their daft trolling. I was caught in the trap of one until I asked him what positive thing he was doing for others in the world and he just disappeared off the feed.

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