One summer afternoon, I sat with a dozen other folks in the White Mountains of Arizona, listening to Aldo Leopold speak of witnessing the green fire fade from the eyes of a Mexican gray wolf, after he had shot it on the very spot where we stood. He spoke of that green fire as an image he could never forget, an image that brought him to an epiphany, challenging his belief in the superiority of man over nature. This experience left me with goose bumps and a wish that we all could face that fire (the Light?) within all animals, to become more (less?) human.
My own education into the life and plight of the wolf came as I was teaching at the Grand Canyon, striving to integrate into my classes the importance of healthy ecosystems, to show what is necessary for ecosystems to survive, and in turn, to show how we as humans are part of those ecosystems. It soon became clear to me that what we have done in the name of progress has devastated – and in some cases eliminated – species and their habitats. As a Quaker, I know I must be humble and seek to find equity in the world, for its people and for all living creatures. I vowed to do more work in the field of conservation when I retired from teaching, to help restore what my generation and those before me have done – created an ecological nightmare for our present day world.
The beauty, majesty, and innate survival instincts of the wolf intrigued me. I was drawn to the wolf’s family pack and how similar it is to our human one. The care, the training, and the loyalty of the wolf towards its offspring are to be admired. I found I wanted to learn more, and in doing so, share what I had learned, especially with young children who as yet have no preconceived notions of what “should be.” We have demonized the wolf in many fairy tales and being “like a wolf” conjures up an array of images that are associated with evil.
My Quaker experience has shown me that the greatest gifts we can give ourselves are to help the downtrodden and support those in need. As Lucretia Mott said in 1850, “Those who go forth ministering to the wants and necessities of their fellow beings experience a rich return, their souls being as a watered garden, and as a spring that faileth not.” Our world is filled with an overwhelming array of places and species that require our diligence to restore. I have chosen the wolf for my ministry because the wolf speaks to me. Their “fire in the eyes” awakens in me the spirit of the light within, which Quakers seek to acknowledge and know as the true light of the greater Spirit.
As Jim Corbett wrote in Sanctuary for All Life (2005), “In the biblical tradition, the foundation for human governance is stewardship rather than ownership; we care for life’s homeplace as servants, not as the lords of the earth.” My role as a steward has brought me incredible growth through my journey to educate others about the incredibly important role of the wolf in our world’s ecosystems.
Days, weeks, months, and years have gone by, and then I will meet someone (usually a youngster) who will say, “Aren’t you the wolf lady?” It brings me such joy to know that my leading opens for others knowledge and the possibility for a change in the way they view their place in this world. ~~~
Kay Bordwell is a member of Flagstaff Friends Meeting (IMYM). She is presently the Clerk of Flagstaff Friends Meeting and volunteers with the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project.
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