From the Editor: Two Wolves
A few Januaries ago, I visited Mackinac Island for a story that never materialized. I wanted to visit the island, which is one of my favorite places, during its off-off season from tourists—when Mackinac returns to its natural state, as it were.
Liz Ware, co-owner of Mission Point Resort, put me up in her family’s private boathouse. Liz and I became fast friends, and she lent me her snowmobile, which I used to explore the entirety of the island (during the tourist season, there are essentially no motorized vehicles, save airplanes and a scant stable of emergency vehicles). Temperatures were in the single digits. Basically everything had closed down—Doud’s Market, Island Hardware and the Mustang Lounge remained open to serve the 500 year-round residents (and the incoming construction workers; most of the island’s restoration and construction takes place in the dead of winter).
On my journey back to Minneapolis, I cut north to Marquette, where I spent the night in an off-grid cabin. The cabin was cozy, but tiny: loft bed, sofa, woodstove. The main house had a sauna for guests to use, and I ventured over. Posted on the wall outside the sauna was something that has stayed with me: The Story of the Two Wolves. This is a legend largely attributed to the Cherokee or Lenape people. It is so popular as to render it almost meaningless, dime-store wisdom, and you can buy it on Amazon for $14.99. Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful sentiment, and goes thusly:
An old Native man and his grandson are presumably sitting around a fire. The man tells the boy about the battle that rages inside every one of us—this battle is between two wolves.
One wolf is objectively evil. He represents vices and other negative traits: jealousy, envy, greed, superiority/inferiority, etc.
The other is, without question, good. This wolf represents virtue: peace, love, tolerance, patience, presence, generosity, etc.
The grandson mulls this over. Then he asks, “Which wolf wins the battle?”
Grandpa, with a cinematic shine to his eye, says, “The one you feed.”
I remember sitting outside the sauna, towel draped over my shoulders, staring at this decorative thing on the wall. And then I cried, unexpectedly. Granted, I was exhausted. But, like I said, this story has stuck with me.
And here’s why: If we live in the present moment, which is an extremely difficult thing to do, we can recognize every decision as an opportunity—to feed the virtue and starve the vice.