Dear friends: Just a note to let you know that at last I finished Gandhi’s autobiography (whew!). Good but tedious at times. It does not even cover the latter part of his life when he really drew the most recognition.
I also recently re-read a book I had first read in NY, called the Ninemile Wolves, by Rick Bass. It is an insightful and well-balanced argument for the re-introduction of wolf packs into the northern United States and Yellowstone, written long before (and perhaps actually galvanized support for) the final re-introduction of wolves into Yellowstone. But as well as an engagingly written account of the re-appearance of wolves in northern Montana, almost three decades after they had been driven off by the federal “Predator Control Act”, Ninemile is an example of the new attitude and paradigm shift that needs to take place in how we think of wilderness, bio-diversity, preservation, and our ever-shrinking, truly wild places.
I mention this because of a recent, brief exchange about the Nature Conservancy. For those of you who have seen my painting “Balancing Act” this passage from Rick Bass was part of the creative spark for that image (as well as the cut hill that was the subject theme for the entire series and the Wallace Stevens poem, etc.). He refers to the irrational way in which wolves were demonized and exterminated (hunted, burned, poisoned, trapped, shot at, and beat to death) which will remain a historical fact of the transformation of the west into cattle ranches. The book also features some nice (however small) black and white ink drawings by Russel Chatham.
Is the base of our history unchanging, like some batholith of sin – are we irretrievable killers? – or can we exist with wolves, this time? I believe we are being given another chance, an opportunity to demonstrate our ability to change. This time, we have a chance to let a swaying balance be struck: not just for wolves, but for humans too.
Congratulations on getting through the Gandhi autobiography, Ned. No small feat, one I haven’t braved myself. His early life seems so interesting, as you see his ideas becoming actions, while in South Africa and in his law practice and as he returns to India. All of this I’ve only had from snippets, documentaries, Attonborough’s Gandhi film, and from various museums and places we visited in India last January. But I have not sat down to grapple with the writing as you have.
Ninemile Wolves sounds very interesting, and very formative for you and your painting. I’ve liked what little Rick Bass I have read–essays and a story or two, in the New Yorker, Orion magazine, and the occasional anthology.
I’m heartened mostly by what I hear about wolves being reintroduced successfully, here in Minnesota at least–but I also hear in several northern states. The Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota, is doing some wonderful work in this regard, and the Minnesota photographer Jim Brandenberg is doing a lot to raise awareness of the needed environment for wolves to return.
It’s important to have stories like this one, because–as your quote from Bass suggests–it shows that environmental degradation, deforestation, and loss of wild habitat CAN be restored, and it’s worth the efforts, funding, work, etc. to keep this land clean and inviolate. We’ll see how we fare on this second chance.
Thanks for the post.