Theme/Story ’15

The Songs of the Wolf and the Mountain: a Trophic Cascade

Preface

Our story begins in a time of disruption.

We all know disruption.  We, creatures of these days, live and breathe crisis.  Look to the darkening skies churning with carbon and poisons. Listen to the lands soaked with blood and oil. Feel on all sides the countless displacements and diasporas, the onslaught of enclosures, the genocides and extinctions, ecosystemic collapse, and the evisceration of all that is sacred.

Beset by cultural amnesia, we search for meaning, for stories that will ground us in our ecological bodies and guide us towards wholeness. In this seeking, it is tempting to turn to the  myths of other peoples and other times, to adopt their stories in lieu of unearthing our own.  While there is much wisdom held by these stories, they are not born of this moment and this place. We of Theme & Story believe it is important to respect the myths of others and let them belong to those whom they serve and have served.

While we yearn for a whole and woven world, human society has irrevocably shaped the earth. There is no going back to a time of mythological purity. We, the children of global crisis, must find stories rooted in the moment we inhabit, of displaced beings finding their way home, and what happens when they get there.

For this reason, we have chosen to ground this year’s camp in the story of the reintegration of wolves to their ancestral ranges. Wolves are powerful creatures, and have been vilified and near exterminated in these lands. Their return to the mountains has had a swift and decisive effect, causing a cascading series of events which have increased biodiversity and ecosystem resilience. We turn towards these stories as models for myths of today.

Each wolfstep echoes into the mountainside, resonating with the song of the land.  By following the wolf tracks we seek to learn how to restore harmony to our discordant times, to hear a way in which that which is broken can become whole.

Our story begins in a time of disruption, and wends its slow way towards Home.

Story

Once wolfpacks roamed the mountains and forests, rivers and valleys.
Now a wolf could walk 700 miles and not see another.

Once the deer lived as prey, their range steered by the wolfsong.
Now they have the run of the mountain.

Once trees blanketed the mountain and valley sides, majestic and ubiquitous.
Now they are stripped bare and stunted.

Once the beaver, otter, eagle, owl, bear worked, played and filled the mountain with their song.
Now they have retreated; their songs lay silent.

Once the rivers ran clear and true through the mountain’s valleys.
Now they lag, muddy, and spread.

But! Deep in the ancient mountain’s belly, the bones of the ancestors beat arhythm in time with the song of the land. One must be silent to hear, but once having heard, all are drawn home.

The wolves return.
The deer quiet.
The trees renew.
The creatures gather.
The river quickens.

Footnote

After starting to work with the songs of the wolf and the mountain, we found the below video that sparked a connection and inspired the story that unfolded:

Within scientific communities it is still debated if there is enough evidence to claim Yellowstone National Park as a true “trophic cascade.” However, the reintroduction of wolves has had similar effects elsewhere, and we see the same pattern repeating in many regions.  Only time will clarify the important role of the wolf as a predator that shapes the landscape it inhabits.

Here are other examples of trophic cascades involving Gray Wolves in North America.

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