Kathleen Stocking (copy)


There’s a faint bluish cast to the day, a Delft blue like the blue sky in Vermeer’s paintings, blue like moonlight but in the day.

In my mind I see footprints through the snow, across the ice to an island. I think they’re wolf tracks, but how would I know? My mind works, most days, by what poet Walt Whitman calls “the law of divine indirections.”

The first wolf I saw was in the line outside the Vermeer exhibit in Washington, D. C. in 1996, the boon companion of a male scientist. The man told me once he’d gone away and left her with his mother and his companion stopped eating while he was gone and was near death when he came home. He never left her again.

We don’t understand love, except to know that it’s real. It seems to be the mysterious core of us. But what is its purpose?

Throughout COVID, I read about wolves. Wolves in myth. Wolves becoming extinct. The wolf pack on Isle Royale. The female wolf written about in the Smithsonian magazine who traveled 3,000 miles to find a mate.

Wolves sit deep in the human subconscious. Some men want to kill them for the trophy. Others want to study them because in wolves’ ways of working together and loving each other, they’re like us.

They live and die for each other.

Death. Five million people died from the coronavirus. In Journal of the Plague Year, Daniel Defoe writes about the wooden cart wheels on the cobblestone roads, the man calling, “Bring out your dead.”

My friend’s mother died. A schoolmate’s wife died. Five million. We all know someone. It isn’t just deaths from the pandemic. It’s the pilot who drives a bus. It’s the woman who had a stroke and is in adult foster care.

It’s the migrants and their children in the forests of Belarus, freezing. It’s Haitians and their children drowning in the river. It’s wildfires, droughts, floods, famines.

You think you’re reading Revelations, but it’s the daily newspaper. We’re all going through the stages of grief all the time: shock, anger, depression denial, bargaining, acceptance. That’s how grief comes. In waves.

One rainy evening a friend and I escape to a concert at Interlochen. The student singers are in masks. How can they sing in masks? They do. Their youth is a song. They sing “Heaven Unfolding,” “Our Light in Our Night” and “Veni Sancte Spiritus” — songs to give us hope. Hope is a form of love.

“It is an unnamable boon love hauls down, that people rightly prize as the best of life,” Annie Dillard writes in a story set on the shores of the Atlantic in winter. “Not only will a cave-dwelling pair cull food and kill so kids thrive, but their feeling for each other, not to mention for the kids, brings something beyond food people need.”

We are smarter because someone loves us, like wolves, a little. But we live longer.

Love makes the brain work better. Love is good: brotherly love, God’s love, romantic love, love of beauty. Out of love we make music, art, poetry, make what is best in us.

Trending Video

Recommended for you