Annotations: Once There Were Wolves

Favorite words.

“There’s no love between Six and Nine yet,” I say. “But they haven’t killed each other, either.” The words fall so casually from my mouth that I am startled. Is that the way of all love? That it should carry the risk of death?

For the first sixteen years of our lives, Aggie and I spent a couple of months each year visiting our father in his forest. Our true home, the place we belonged. A landscape that made sense of me. As a child I believed the trees of this forest our family.
[I love this articulation—the landscape doesn’t make sense “to” her, it makes sense “of” her.]

“It’s out there I’d be more worried about,” Duncan adds, nodding to the trees, the hills, the mountains and moors. “You must know monsters well, wolf girl.”

“I’ve never met one in the wild. They don’t live there.”

Something shifts in the space between us. Or maybe this prickling thing has always lived here. I don’t know but there is something in his regard and I am filled with frustration, with the need to make him see what I see, to make him understand, and I think I want those things because what I actually want is him.

[Throughout, McConaghy delivers so many interesting thoughts about monsters.]

“I think it’s civilization makes us violent. We infect each other.” … “I used to think people were good, too,” I say. “I used to think we were mostly kind, all of us forgivable.”

“And now?”

“Now I know better.”

… I felt a wild creature stuffed into the body of a human. I felt called back. Only alive within the forest. … I didn’t admit that I wanted her life instead of mine, that I wanted to be the one who lived in the body, for touch and taste and desire.

“I’m studying the cognitive maps wolves make of their territories. They pass these geographic and temporal maps down through generations, and know their land so intimately that they go nowhere unless it’s deliberate. Wolves don’t wander. They move with purpose, and they teach their pups how to do the same. They can share the mental images with each other.”

“How do they do that?”

“By howling. Their voices paint pictures.” … “It’s interesting to me that some creatures can pass on memories, and that some memories are so deep they can live in the body instead of only in the mind.”

“Nothing lives in the body, not really, that’s just a trick of your brain.” He traced a finger along my hand, the one holding my gin and tonic. It startled me. “It was your brain that felt that, not your hand.”

The children in us long for monsters to take forms we understand. They want to fear the wolves because they don’t want to fear each other.

He cares deeply; it is the fabric of his life here. I think he must be a good man. But nobody is only one thing.

Some people need wildness in their life.

But the immensity of a will is still nothing, not compared with the body. The body is master os us, and it can only be asked for so much.

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