Wild things: a naturalist's love story
In her new memoir Shadow Mountain: A Memoir of Wolves, a Woman, and the Wild, Renée Askins, who founded The Wolf Fund in 1986, demonstrates the kind of deep natural wisdom and sense of awe at the wild that has distinguished writers like Edwin Muir, Annie Dillard and Aldo Leopold. Founded with the primary goal of reintroducing wolves into Yellowstone National Park, The Wolf Fund has largely succeeded, but Askins doesn't minimize the animal lives lost or the resounding ironies that emerged in the process. Working to obliterate the "us against them model" she recognizes "human concerns rather than enemy positions."
Askins' clear-eyed understanding of the pressures the organization experienced marks a welcome common-sense approach to conservation issues. She is not afraid to introduce difficult questions about wildlife management that The Wolf Fund experienced (for instance, to what degree should unendangered species be sacrificed to the endangered, and when does "management" morph into "control"?)
Askins relates wonderfully poignant wolf and dog stories. Human relationships take a back seat in the book until the end, as if, perhaps, her intense experiences with animals have opened her up to human beings as well. "In the end," she writes, we are left to "honor and allow the mystery, love the questions and the otherness" and look to the wild unknown for the "resolution to our environmental crisis."