In a Dark Time…


News of yet another wolf poaching in Oregon creates a profound feeling of despair and helplessness. What can we do? It feels as if the people with the guns are holding all the cards, doing what they want with no repercussions. But a deeper look at the situation reveals an unassailable truth. These people, the ones with the guns, are the ones being held hostage, not by us, but by the crippling effects of their own fear.

Imagine the fear inside a man who would shoot a wolf at 27 yards and then claim self defense. Imagine the fear inside an individual who would kill an endangered species for no reason except the possibility that the animal might kill something of his. Feel the fear that is running rampant in this country right now, fueled on by an administration that attempts to hide its cowardice through insults and prejudices. And the effects of this fear, both internal and collective, is destroying much more than wildlife, as the now common mass shootings reveal.

Answers–I have none. But there is no longer any doubt that firearms, the weapon of choice for most of these crimes, are an issue. As are the leniency of the laws that allow perpetrators to escape penalty for their actions, even when they are caught. And as for the fear, one can only do so much to absolve this in others, although we can try. Perhaps the poachers, hunters, and other damaged souls need to find the courage to fall, then rise above and climb out of their fear, as poet Theodore Roethke so eloquently describes:


In a Dark Time

By Theodore Roethke


In a dark time, the eye begins to see,

I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;

I hear my echo in the echoing wood—

A lord of nature weeping to a tree.

I live between the heron and the wren,

Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.


What’s madness but nobility of soul

At odds with circumstance? The day’s on fire!

I know the purity of pure despair,

My shadow pinned against a sweating wall.

That place among the rocks—is it a cave,

Or winding path? The edge is what I have.


A steady storm of correspondences!

A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,

And in broad day the midnight come again!

A man goes far to find out what he is—

Death of the self in a long, tearless night,

All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.


Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.

My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly.

Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?

A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.

The mind enters itself, and God the mind.

And one is One, free in the tearing wind.


OR 25

OR 25, found poached 10/29/17 near Fort Klamath, Oregon. ODFW photo


7 thoughts on “In a Dark Time…

  1. Roethke is my favorite poet, and this poem one of my favorites. It resonates.

    Attributing the hunter’s actions to fear may be charitable. My own biases make me think he did it because dominance is his thing, along with the intoxicating power of life and death over other beings. There seems to be disagreement over what really happened, as some accounts indicate the path of the bullet is not consistent with the wolf’s supposed approach towards the hunter.

    In any case, the suggestion that shooters are damaged souls and are motivated by fear rather than bravado and rancor makes me pity them and perhaps despise them a little less. So thank you, Becky, for injecting a dose of compassion into what has become a depressingly relentless flood of violent episodes claiming human and non-human victims.


  2. You probably wont€’t get this but I am sending it anyway. The people who shoot wolves are not terrified of the wolf. They are just low life, trash who feel like they are big and brave to have killed a wolf. That is the reality of the whole thing. I know this because of having sent emails to the wolf killers who are pictured with their kills, all smiles and bravado. I have invited them down to Florida to visit me, but so far none have taken me up on the invite. These are just what we would call red neck jack asses. The states are just the handmaidens of the cattle and“ farming industry, so they are no help. Sadly, you cannot educate them because of their limited brain power and red neck ways. OR 25 was not poached, he was murdered.

    Justus W. Reid

    CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: This electronic mail transmission is intended for the use of the individual or entity to which it is addressed and may contain confidential and privileged material. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any unauthorized review, disclosure, copying, distribution, or the taking of any action in reliance on the contents of this information is strictly prohibited. If you have received this transmission in error, please notify the sender immediately by reply e-mail and destroy all copies of the original message. Thank you for your cooperation.


  3. I don’t think we need to spend too much time empathizing with sociopath murderers. They need to empathize with wildlife. And please call it what it is: Bloody slaughter.


  4. It makes me so sad to see the photo of the beautiful wolf who is no longer living, killed on a fearful whim by a man who happened to have a gun.


  5. Wolf killers are a shame for human society! The wolf is a wonderful animal, doing a great service to nature, it has been proved in Yellowstone, there can be no healthy ecosystem without predators like wolves! And eventually human kind depends on a a healthy ecosystem, unless we want to become a species living in underground bunkers eating artificial “food”! Not for me, thanks!


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