Moon Madness

The night had been dead quiet, but as soon as the full moon rose, so did the noise level. I was sleeping under the stars on a crisp summer night in the Eastern Cascades–or at least I had been sleeping, until the din of what seemed like thousands of chattering creatures woke me up.  I lay curled in my sleeping bag for hours, listening to the echoing chorus and watching the silvery moonlight play across the meadow.

A watercolor sketch of Camas Meadow, a forest-ringed meadow just east of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.


I tried to identify the animals I was hearing, but it was all a-jumble. If I had to guess I would say frogs, toads, crickets, coyotes, and owls. Possibly others, but who knows?

It was a crazy sound—hooting, yelping, buzzing—animals driven into a frenzy by the glare of the moonlight. Were they glad to have the light…or frustrated by it?

The moon dropped slowly behind the snowy peaks and the sky grew darker. Then, the instant the moon disappeared, everything fell silent—as suddenly as if someone had flipped a switch. No moon, no chattering.

I stayed awake for a few more minutes marveling at the lunar effect on animal life. It made me think of wolves—an animal I’ve yet to hear—or see—in the wild. I’ve read that wolves howling is unlike any other sound…soulful, magical and frighteningly beautiful.

I wondered if there were wolves mixed into that chorus of wildsong. It’s not impossible…they’ve started to come back into these lands they once inhabited. Slowly. Tentatively. Carefully. Not without casualties.

I’ve been thinking about wolves lately—they’ve been in the news a lot recently. Last year, California got its first wolf in nearly a century—a lone wolf from the Imnaha pack in Oregon; in Washington, an entire pack was recently killed by the state for depredation of livestock; several western states and most recently Wisconsin and Minnesota now allow wolf hunting and trapping.

Wolves are symbolic in many ways—of struggle to survive, of decline or recovery of natural systems, and of difficulties we have as Americans to understand each other and to live together in an increasingly “hot, flat and crowded” world.

These days, it seems like everybody is mad about something. Maybe we’re not unlike the creatures of the night—mad at the moon for making it too hard to be nocturnal. Maybe if we quieted down and listened for a change—to each other and to Nature and what it’s trying to tell us…we’d all have a better chance of survival.



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