I had been trying to explain men to my daughter.
When she was a young girl within the safety of this room, I told her the gentle cautionary tales.
It was not enough. She grew up.
So this time I took her outside. Into the wild. A cleared area around an unlit fire.
The stories told about them are largely untrue. Experience tells this already, but truth is sometimes too easy to hide, and the lonely keep searching for fictive rather than real creatures. You and your friends tell of mixed experiences – you have experienced part of the reality. But that knowledge serves you well – and is sufficient to ignite a fire.
Here it would be easy to pause, and heap the past all at once into the fire. To bask in the warmth as the fire burns fast and quick, in turn drawing the lonely and others to the dark just out of reach. True, some of the creatures about might make good mates, but some are predators, others are hurt beyond repair and others, perhaps worse, time-wastrels.
I ask that you sit back and consider the fire. A fire is a place to tell stories, to heal, to play, to teach and to sing. A place to watch the sparks climb up into the unseen river of stars just above. It is a place of safety and rest, a place to reflect, where the past can be unraveled slowly, where the present can be woven into plans.
All around you are people of unknown quality. Some hunt for satisfaction, some for company, some for friendship, and some for a mate. In this world, do not simply wait by the fire. It is too easy to become the prize, the person taken by whoever wins the hunt.
Instead, join the hunt, on your terms. As a hunter, free of the fire, the game changes. You chose what you seek - pleasure, company, friendship, a mate. And those that deserve no consideration can be thrown back into the maelstrom from whence they came.
Hunting is not intuitive. It is a skill most people have to relearn, painfully. A long time ago, I wasted time watching the Australian wolf – the dingo. I stayed on a station, bordering the dingo fence and a wonderful wilderness.
A dingo treats all as an intruder until she determines otherwise. When a dingo comes across another, she will follow at a safe distance, frequently backtracking, observing through tracks and spore how the other behaves – is he healthy, fit, smart, and capable. The deeper the proposed engagement, the sharper the enquiry and the greater the evidence required. Too often, we fail at this first step, we do not ask direct questions, we do not seek proof, we make excuses. The questions are simple. Are you married. Are you in a relationship. What is he to you. Are you who you really say you are. How can you prove this. Simple questions, easily discharged with a smile in good faith. But predators and the hurt turn and twist when the questions are asked.
A dingo pack is a close knit group – the members come with a context, friends, a family and a past. Before considering letting another join your pack, these pathways and relationships need to be accessed and tasted. Why did his last relationship fail. When can I meet your parents. Let us run with your friends. Predators and the hurt turn and twist when these questions are asked.
Sometimes a dingo is injured. A paw is twisted during a hunt. A kangaroo slashes a shoulder. The animal becomes a liability, unable to hunt effectively. Before you rejoin the hunt, you must rest and recover. Put the injuries from the past to one side. They have a place. In the future, around your fire, you might want to reflect on those events. To tell a daughter how, for a moment, the role of hunter and hunted reversed, and how easy and hard it is to be snared. And then to tell her how she might run her hunt.
(Attribution: The advice (given to Storm in the book) was inspired by Calarissa Pinkola Estes "Women who run with the Wolves" - advice affirmed by my own observations of dingos in the wild).