Howling in the Night, an Eerie Wonder

170px-HowlsnowWouldn’t you like to leap, and spin around and over your friends, and end up out of breath in a mush pile, a laughing heap of beings? That’s what wolf pups do. The wolf is one of the animals that call to me, one of my Tla Twein.  (see my earlier post on the Tla Twein) 

I notice that many people love wolves. For some of my piano students, the stickers of wolves that I receive in the mail from conservation organizations are the first choice to put on a finished song.

Two conflicting ideas about wolves are prevalent: One is of the “lone wolf”, solitary, strong, but alone; the other about the close warm ties between the members of a wolf pack, working together to gather their food and raise their babies. Different members of the pack help out by babysitting the cubs while the mother is out hunting.

But when we think of what draws us to the wolves, perhaps these two images are not so conflicting. Perhaps we yearn for the camaraderie, the playful closeness of the pack, and yet feel like the lone wolf who is seeking a pack. On the other hand, sometimes we need the solitary aloneness (but not lonely) of the “lone wolf”.  Sometimes we need to move away from the pull toward compliance of the pack. We need to find our own path.

The lone wolf doesn’t stay completely alone. Sometimes in the night the lone wolf howls. If others can hear them, they respond, and the song echoes back and forth across the miles. This howling in the night is an eerie wonder – wolves singing together reaching with their songs across long distances to lone wolves and other packs (and all the other species that can hear them). Strange dissonances send thrills up our spine, bring new ideas of harmony, new possibilities.

Solitary singing is good, but when we sing in a group there is something so powerful and breathtaking that happens that I, at least, can hardly contain the joy. And when a human composer brings in the forbidden dissonances we hear in the wolf songs, I tremble with some combination of fear and delight. It’s clear, when we watch videos of wolves howling, that this power of harmony and dissonance happens for the wolves, too.

I confess, when the husky down the street howls in her yard as my dogs and I go past, I cannot restrain myself from howling back. Sometimes if she isn’t howling, I’ll give a little howl and she joins me. What a thrill! I wish I dared throw my head back and howl with all my might. My little dogs don’t howl with the husky, only with the fire sirens. But when they howl, they sit up so straight, so earnest, so involved in the howl, that I know it’s a spiritual ritual, a solemn invocation of….?

What is it that I need to learn from the wolf as my Tla Twei? Perhaps it’s the cooperative bonding of the pack for the serious business of the hunt – in my case to take on the serious problems of the world – and the restful dance of playtime ending in the physical closeness of the mush pile.

And in the night, the ritual of singing in strange harmonies, reaching joyfully to my fellow humans on the other side of the valley or the world.


In my book, The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet, the Tla Twein are trying to bring humans back into the sacred Dance of Life, the Tsin Twei.  You can purchase print and ebook versions at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and order print versions from your local independent bookstore.

Want to explore your own Tla Twein? If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area you can attend a three hour workshop on April 28th in Oakland where we will move and sing, write and create art work in search of the reason our particular Tla Twein call us. The fee is “pay what you can”. Contact me at for more information.  Put Tla Twein Workshop in the subject line.

On attending an Art Response to Japanese Internment:

cranes on branch
The dancing, the poems carried the message,
In our muscles, our bones.

letters from the interned.
A connection –
tenuous but important
to those left behind.

A thousand tiny red origami cranes
moving with the hands of the dancers,
forming shapes,
a heart.

The presence of people
black, brown, white
so warm and right.
All one

Japanese Internment.
Immigrant Detention.
Incarceration of minor drug offenders.
Genocide of Jews, of Armenians,
Indigenous Peoples,
Africans on slave ships.

The pain of separation
one group from the rest
is a ripping pain,
our Selves
No longer whole.

For the oppressed side
their very lives threatened.

The oppressors
numb themselves
to the pain
eating them
from the inside out,
killing them, too,
soul dead.

We cannot be whole without all of us present.
When I left the Art Response I carried with me a desire to never again be in a gathering without everyone there, every race, religion, culture, age, gender.

All the living and non-living things in the Universe are One Being emerging from one singularity. All pain belongs to all of us. When we hide ourselves from the ugliness of the pain we have caused, deny the pain, it becomes a disease eating us from the inside.

We are oblivious to it and it will destroy us all.

Never again.  Never again.  NEVER AGAIN!


Moments That Hum

The Starling… cocked his head on one side and gazed at [the new baby] Annabel, with his round bright eye. “I hope,” he remarked politely, “you are not too tired after your journey.”…

“Where has she come from – out of an egg?” cheeped the Fledgling….

Annabel moved her hands inside the blanket. “I am earth and air and fire and water,” she said softly. “I come from the Dark where all things have their beginning… I come from the sea and its tides… I come from the sky and its stars, I come from the sun and its brightness… Slowly I moved at first, … always sleeping and dreaming. I remembered all I had been and I thought of all I shall be. And when I had dreamed my dream I awoke and came swiftly… I heard the stars singing as I came…”
(Travers, Mary Poppins Comes Back, 140-142)

When writing my book, Dancing the Deep Hum, One woman’s ideas about how to live in a dancing, singing universe! I came up with eleven principles that I thought were important to hold to in living my life.

The first is, “To keep a listening ear open for the moments that hum.” (The whole list can be found at Deep_Hum_Dancers)

As children we come across “deep hum moments” quite easily.  We don’t have the words to define them, but we know they’re special.  Why did my childhood friend and I set up an altar on a rock at the top of a little hill in the nearby woods?  We both went to church, albeit different churches, so we understood that altars were to be built at places where we felt – something.  (In Dancing the Deep Hum I say, “something so still and so deep in pitch you couldn’t hear it.” p. 7)  We recognized it as a place to listen.

As adults we can become so embroiled in our daily lives that often the places and moments that “hum” go flying by without our noticing them.  We often feel we need to get away somewhere in the wilderness to find these moments, and surely that works!  But these moments are all around us if we keep our eyes and ears, and our kinesthetic selves, open to them.

How about smiling and saying hello to a homeless man as we walk down the street.  The “humming” moment comes when he looks up, smiles back, and says, “Have a blessed day.”  Or noticing the squirrel crossing the street in front of you, a prize “find” stuffed in his mouth.  The wagging tail of a little dog who’s glad to see you.

I often find deep hum moments on facebook!

The daily, almost hourly messages, from a friend who’s mother is dying, telling her feelings, her anguish, her love, and connecting to all of us who are listening.  And the caring responses.

A beautiful sunset picture posted by a friend.

The delight expressed by a musician who is having such a good time sharing his music.

Another friend’s plea for rain.

The heated political discussion about health care.

Why are these deep hum moments?  I think that the important factor in each deep hum moment is “connection”.   We are connecting with something or someone.  All those somethings and someones are part of the universe, and so are we!

To be open to the moments of connection, to keep ourselves from withdrawing back behind whatever barriers we build to protect ourselves from the pain that sometimes comes with connection, that is real joy!  That is the experience of the “deep hum moment”.