Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My wolf, my warning bell

When I was a child, we lived in a house with a big backyard. At the end of the yard stood an old metal slide; the slide ended in a sandpit. To one side was a liquidambar; I could only climb into the first branch. To the other, a small jacaranda; I could climb a few branches higher.

But I was afraid. Sent out to play, I would run from the back door to the slide, scramble up the steps, then sit at the top and watch carefully. I was terrified of the wolf. I could picture its mangy fur, its sinuous muscles, its powerful jaw. It moved like wreathing mist, slinking around the corner of the house. I knew what it looked like, I knew it was coming for me, and I was terrified. So there I sat, waiting, scanning the garden, mouth dry with fear.

I lived in Australia. There are no wolves in Australia. I knew this, but the fear was not rational.

I would tell myself there is no wolf, there is no wolf, even as I watched. Finally, the tension would become unbearable. I’d gather my few shreds of courage, then shoot down the slide, sprint back to the house, slamming the door behind me in what I knew was the wolf’s gaping maw, ready to rip me to pieces. Another near miss.

More than thirty years later, there are still times when I see the wolf run past my peripheral vision. When I see it, I realise that I am feeling threatened, and that I need to stop, take a breath, and reflect on what is going on.

Who would have thought that a middle European mythic symbol could so thoroughly enter the psyche of a little Australian girl, who grew up under wide blue skies and white bright sun? Who would have known that it would continue to intimate danger to that girl thirty years later? And who would have guessed that, in its very threat, the girl now receives it as a gift, and takes it as an invitation to reflection?


  1. Gosh I visualise my lupus as a wolf (because the name comes from wolf). I have worked on befriending it - of perhaps learning to live with it.

    1. Just shows how helpful those fairy tales can be - they've equipped us with powerful imagery which helps us navigate our way.


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