Mountain Mama: Howl

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This rainy weekend, I curled up with Howl of Woman and Wolf, the story of how studying wolves helped one woman throw back her head and howl.

Susan Imhoff Bird seamlessly weaves the story of the wolf with her own narrative. From interviews with ranchers, hunters, wolf watchers and biologists, she writes about the complex ecology and politics behind wolf management. Susan reveals difficult personal experiences, from parenting a special needs child to letting go of failed marriages to a bone-smashing cycling accident.

Susan delves into her desire to live close to the truest version of herself. “I sat quietly by myself and felt my own being – I’d squished her for a long time and I was lettering her fill back-up, be who she really was. Is.”

She identifies herself as a people-pleaser and nice. Her transformative journey, digging herself out from under a mound of nice, respectful, and reticent to become a wild women who runs with wolves and howls with abandon, doesn’t happen all at once.

While following the Yellowstone packs, she learns of a wolf with a broken leg who goes hunting. Being broken doesn’t define the wolf. Even though the wolf is hurt, she keeps hunting.

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All the heartache that life dishes up – divorce, death, and accidents – leave Susan feeling split, cracked, and halved by life. She demonstrates the same tenacity and grit of the wolf, showing up again and again with a willingness to get uncomfortable. Whether it’s driving on icy roads or tracking wolves in sub-zero temperatures Susan doesn’t give up.

The more Susan gets out in nature, the more she notices, transporting the reader to her beloved high deserts and canyons with her gorgeous prose. She finds the places and wild animals that help her be more present. “I reach down into the earth and into the sky,” she writes. In the process of documenting the story of the wolf, she discovers another way of being. “It’s awe that saves us.”

Susan’s transformation, much like the survival of the wolf in American West, require reaching and failing, searching and doubting, arguing and listening. If Susan has her way, we’ll all learn from wolves.

“Wolves only give up when the only thing to do is give up.”

To buy a copy of Howl, go to AmazonBarnes and Noble or Indiebound (which directs purchasers to independent bookstores’ websites by zip code).

To learn more about the Susan, visit her website.

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