Wolf in the Woods: Knowledge is power… and responsibility

My eyes snapped open as I heard the low and menacing growl nearby. Even with my eyes as wide as they were, I couldn’t see much. It was late and our campfire was out. Though engulfed in darkness I could still tell that my brother Nicholas and cousin Adam, wrapped in their sleeping bags next to me, were awake now too.

We were kids at the time, sleeping under the stars, a few kilometers from our house. We had set up camp in some woods next to a farmer’s field and spent the warm summer afternoon and evening eating junk food and enjoying the great outdoors.

“What was that?” Adam whispered. Two things crossed my mind. The first was: “Holy crap, there’s some vicious animal ready to rip us to shreds lurking in the woods.”

The second was: “Don’t tell Adam.”

It was probably a squirrel, but this is what I assumed was in the woods.

As a child, Adam had a strange and powerful phobia of wolves. I’m not sure why. I just remember the last time he slept over in the camper we had in our driveway he became convinced there were wolves outside. Strangely, he decided the best tactic was to leave the safety of the camper and run home screaming “WOOOOOOOLF!!!” in the middle of the night.

So, in an effort to keep Adam from getting out of his sleeping bag and run screaming into the woods, I let out a pretty convincing growl of my own. Laughing, I told them it was just me, joking around.

Adam and Nicholas went back to sleep. I did not. I didn’t hear any more growls that night but in my mind we were completely surrounded by wolves, coyotes, sasquatches and ligers. I lay awake and hoped my entrails would survive till morning.

Moral of the story: Like the wolf (or was it a rabid yeti?) in the woods, the world is full of scary things. Climate change, wars, famine, poverty: the woods are full of growling wolves. The question is how do we respond to them? Do we ignore them and pretend we don’t hear anything? Do we run away screaming a la Adam because it’s too scary? Do we change the channel when an upsetting news report comes on TV? Or flip to the Sports section of the newspaper and ignore the rest?

Ignorance may be bliss but it’s also irresponsible. Too much is at stake in our world to pretend that the wolf in the woods is not there at all.

My friend, Rob, recently announced his intention to run for Toronto City Council in 2014. In his announcement video, he says the following in regards to the environment:

“We truly are all interconnected but we prefer to deny our involvement. Some of us say ‘I’m just one person,’ while others prefer to hide from the evidence, call it a socialist conspiracy or drown themselves in reality TV. The challenges we face are complex and overwhelming and we can be forgiven for resorting to these coping mechanisms. But deep down we all know that our current course is not sustainable. And we need to have the courage to face up to our responsibilities to each other and to our planet.”

So keep your ears open for the growls and have the courage to confront them head on, scary though it may be. (Editor’s note: in no way am I encouraging people to go out and pick fights with wolves or bears. And certainly not sasquatches.)

Got a lesson you learned from one of life’s absurd moments that you want to share? Click here to submit your story.

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Funny stories. Good advice. Check out my books, “Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in balance from life’s absurd moments.” and “Balancing Priorities and Prioritizing Balance”. Click here to learn more and to purchase a copy.

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