Every other day or so, a new Oh my fucking God, the world will end if you don’t vote Republican! flyer will arrive in our mailbox. They don’t bother sending us the ones that are more like, Yay! We Republicans will do great things for you and your patriotic family, Mrs. Rosenkoetter! Somehow, they know that’s hopeless. Or maybe those flyers don’t exist at all. Instead, we seem to be recipients of a dystopian children’s books series, for which someone somewhere in Trumptown has employed a renegade, failed illustrator of patriarchal teddy bear stories.
The first in the series is, basically, a pop-up book about how, if the Republicans aren’t in charge, Iran is going to detonate nuclear bombs on Lake Winnipesaukee and in Manchester, New Hampshire. On the front is a weird post-industrial-town/lakeside-fishing-village mashup. Inside, Kaplooey! A giant storm cloud of fire envelops all of it, while the Iranians cackle madly, and those pussy Democrats wish they’d only had the good sense to be a little manlier. Their locker rooms have been empty for too long, and now, we all have to pay.
The second installment in this gloom and doom library makes use of the cutout technique used in truly beautiful books, like the one about the baby bunny, the flashlight, and the moon, where strategic holes through the pages let you see something new, depending on how they’re flipped. Except, this designer flunked out of kids’ book world for a reason, and so, the same fucking image is there, no matter what you do. You might say this is a visual analog for the kind of obsessive thought so valued by zealot Republicans. Look at any thing in the universe and see: Lower taxes! Keep the immigrants out! Don't let the women and brown people distract you from greatness!
Anyway. The front of the card features two Caucasian men with large assault rifles, something Republicans are generally quite in favor of. Except, see, instead of regular guys in ski masks, these are white dudes in vaguely Palestinian scarves, pretending to be Iranians, and so now you should be scared. Through a red cross-hair-shaped cutout, you see an Asian family running happily outdoors. Open up, and now there's only one of the gun-dudes, and you can see the whole family, plus a vignette of a mom and daughter, seen from behind. Asian families of New Hampshire! Watch out! Heavily armed white men pretending to be Iranians are coming after your family, unless you vote Republican!
I think the card would work better if on the outside it was the mailman, and on the inside, the Kalashnikovs. Mailman-as-terrorist is what Chloe and Elliot seem to experience every day, so under my plan, at least the card would make sense to dogs?
What I want to know is: who looks at these cards and thinks, Why yes! Nuclear annihilation of New Hampshire mill towns and lakeside pleasure-places is a real concern to me in this election, and so I am very happy to elect a bunch of truth-dodging government-haters to the government. I agree that people in a country halfway across the world, armed with hypothetical weapons that do not exist, are of more concern to me then the total nut jobs right around the corner who, thanks to you, Republicans, have countless ways of arming themselves to the teeth, and slaughtering anyone they don’t like.
Thinking this way, storm clouds roil in my chest, this way and that way. I conjure up idiot Others, and I play into the games these paranoid mailers propose. There's an Us – aware, rational, well in possession of the right solutions for everyone – and there’s a Them – unaware, irrational, bent on the destruction of all that is good in the world.
Recently, a friend brought up that vaguely Native American meme about feeding the Fear-Wolf or feeding the Wolf of Compassion. What I am finding out is that those two are actually the same animal, and his name is sometimes Elliot.
This morning, in the fog, we three round a corner, and Elliot is off. Fast and strong, he is at the bottom of the valley, he is running straight for the highway, he is streaking, loping, galloping, totally free. Nothing I can say with the zapper collar or with my voice makes any difference, and anyway, free, running in unfamiliar woods, potentially near danger, I don’t want to madden him with pain. I stand where I am, with Chloe, who whimpers a little, rolls in pine straw, and stays near me. I call. I send a little pulses from the collar, at intervals, to remind him: You are not just the Running Free Wolf, you are also the Sofa and Kibbles Wolf.
After – I don't know – 15 minutes, he comes back. Ears down, finely soaked in cloud-breath, panting from his race. I push him down gently, tell him he's home, ask him to walk with me. He stays by my side for the rest of the walk. Chloe bites him a little to remind him of what’s what. Elliot is the Fear Wolf, who storms at anything that frightens him. He is the Coming Home Wolf, who curls up with me on the newly-legal couch. He is the Running Free Wolf, whose heart and legs and lungs want nothing more than to compass the whole earth, with its squirrels and skunks and porcupines, its soft leaves underpaw and vast arching trees above.
This morning I see the title, Why Good People Do Bad Things. That about sums it up, doesn’t it? I wish we could all just get in the habit of admitting that we're complicated, and wild, and take responsibility for that.
Yesterday, on my way home from Wonderwell, I went the long way, which is to say that the long way took me, and when I drove past the trailhead, I knew to turn around. Parked, got out, walked over the little wooden bridge, followed my nose. Up, up, up, walking over dried bog and dark grey stones the size of horse-heads. Walking across passages of just-downed maple leaves and just-downed beech leaves, around a marsh and onwards, knowing I was being pulled somewhere. Then – a gap – a mat of boot-worn hemlock roots – a miracle of perfectly flat water ringed in trees, held quiet in the hollow of this high valley. Ah! Here. This place of beauty and balance, born of knowing to trust the world and myself. I was wolfless, on this walk – no dogs to track or to tame – just moving grateful across the land, as part of it. A knowing part, a breathing part, a balancing-on-stones-in-clogs part.
Neither for nor against, is where we are at our deepest, and yet, how much time do most of us spend there? When we are fascinated with the storm clouds and the made-up horror stories, we have no chance to see the sky, or to notice how We, as Good Wolf have a whole lot in common with Them, as Bad Wolf. We can’t even imagine we’re the same species, let alone the same-same animal, eating with the same mouth, and shitting with the same furry butthole.
While I was wandering wolfless and speechless at Cole Pond, Timothy was in other woods, with the dogs. Climbing, on the way home, he looked up to see an enormous she-bear, with two cubs. Immediately, he went to leash the dogs, and yet: the ones we often call our Sweet Bears recognized no danger in these Bears, and likewise with that wild family. They all knew without telling: same-same animals.
Julie Püttgen is an artist and meditation teacher.
108 Names of now