The Life Enthusiast Chronicles with Kate

What would life even be without the wild? The beautifully real wild. Animals are a big part of my life as they are for many of you out there. These creatures are something for us to marvel at and to learn from. They teach us how to be humble, how to care deeply, and how to coexist. Every time I see an animal, I think…wow. How amazing is it for us all to live together in one place? Pretty damn amazing.

Last month blogger buddy Chris Stocking delivered a deeply enthusiastic message. Often what makes us excited is not a priority in the world, but the vitality of our happiness is rooted in our personal enthusiasm. In my series, The Life Enthusiast Chronicles, fine humans from across the map unveil what makes them passionate about life.

Today I’m overjoyed to show off the always lovely, Kate Johnston of 4am Writer. I hardly know where to begin when it comes to gushing about this gal. We’ve been writer friends for some time, always there for each other through thick and thin. What astounds me about Kate’s writing is her quiet grace. Her intellect, humor, and heart are finely woven throughout her work. I never miss one of her posts, because they are guaranteed to make me feel inspired in some way. She’s quite the Life Enthusiast.

Connect with Kate on Twitter and Facebook.

Without further ado, here is the lovely Kate…

The first stories that captured my imagination were fairy tales. I loved the idea of a world where good trumped evil, magic ruled, and mythical creatures lurked.

But one thing I didn’t like about fairy tales was that wolves were always portrayed as evil characters. It really bothered me, an avid animal lover, that they always got a bad rap in books.

This is when I first started writing. I saw something I wanted to change, and I had the power to do so with story.

I made the wolf the good guy in my own fairy tales. A heroic wolf felt like such the natural order of things that I’m sure I’d have been shocked to know that, in reality, human beings had been pushing the wolf population toward extinction for the past century and more.

In 1926, the last wolf pack had been killed in Yellowstone (though there were ongoing reports of lone wolves). In 1974, the grey wolf had been listed as an endangered species, and in 1975 recovery was mandated under the Endangered Species Act.

Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995—20 years after they were first listed as endangered. They have had a hell of a roller coaster ride overcoming the odds.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every single person on this planet fought for something wild? Imagine how much we would save.

I don’t care if it’s a wolf, a river, a flower, or a mollusk. If we all chose one wild thing that mattered to us and fought for it, this world would be a healthier, happier place.

There are some amazing people who have given their lives to wildlife. I would love to meet them all, tell them thank you.

Denali, a pure gray wolf
Denali, a pure gray wolf

One such woman, Brenda, runs a wolf rescue and education center, Runs with Wolves Sanctuary.

The pure wolves that come to her are usually born in captivity, kept as “pets,” mismanaged and abused, or abandoned. She also takes care of wolf-dogs (half-wolf, half-dog), who were generally kept as pets but ultimately abandoned or mistreated.

Brenda, and others like her, give wolves and wolf-dogs a second chance at life. Maybe these animals can’t exactly live on the wild side like they are meant, but their survival is a clear indication of how much one human being can do to help.

Tazlina “Taz”, a pure gray wolf
Tazlina “Taz”, a pure gray wolf

I’m far from being able to run a sanctuary like Runs with Wolves, but I know I can help in other ways. I write about them. I talk about them. I share their stories through stories of my own.

Giving wolves a voice is the least I can do, when they were the ones who first gave me mine.

*A version of this essay is published in Wolf Warriors, The National Wolfwatcher Coalition Charity Anthology.

**For more information on Runs with Wolves sanctuary, please visit

Kate with Wolves-2008 003
Timber, a pure gray wolf


71 thoughts on “The Life Enthusiast Chronicles with Kate

  1. We really do need to give a voice to all those that don’t have one. It’s so true that we’re the ones encroaching on them – whether you’re talking about wolves or deer or really any other living thing. I agree it would be wonderful if everyone fought for something wild. I’d love to see that world. That’s so great that you even tried to save an eel!

    1. When I read about people who get angry about coyotes or deer or bear wandering around town, I scratch my head. Of course, yes, there is a danger, but shooting them doesn’t solve the problem. We need to stop taking up so much land to satisfy our greedy ways.

      I’d love to see the world where we each signed up to defend something wild. I actually think it would be neat to see the choices people make. I bet some would be very surprising.

      The eel is kind of a funny story. My brother-in-law caught it while fishing for bass, and he was so freaked out he couldn’t take it off the hook. Meanwhile, it’s flapping around on the dock and suffering. My husband tried to do it, but he got grossed out because it was so slimy. So, I, the GIRL, took care of it. Got the hook out–which wasn’t easy–and put it back in the water. It swam off, and of course, the guys could never admit the truth about what really happened. 😉

  2. Another cosmic link, Kate—I wanted to be a vet, too, but couldn’t do it for exactly the same reasons as you! Visiting those wolves looks like it was an amazing experience. I would love to see more wild animals “left alone” to do what they and we humans all strive to do—to live our lives.

    1. That is so “wild,” JM! 🙂

      Back when I was a kid, our vet made house calls and gave our dogs and cats the shots and exams they needed. I got to follow him around as he did his stuff, and he explained everything he was doing. I was fascinated. Until we took our sick dog to him, and he had to put her down. I was traumatized.

      I wish we could figure out a better way to co-exist, especially with the animals some people consider a threat. How can we expect wild animals to stay on “their” side of the imaginary line when we keep taking land and trees from them?

  3. Spirit is gorgeous!
    Kate, have you read Brenda Peterson? She is a personal essayist who writes about her connection to the wild. A couple of her well-known books are Living By Water and Nature and Other Mothers. She’s a terrific writer and I think you’d like her. She also happens to have been one of my writing teachers. She’s written extensively about wolves, their re-introduction to Yellowstone in the 1990’s and their continued plight.
    BTW–about an hour from where I live (south of Seattle, WA) there’s a wolf rescue place called Wolf Haven. Similar story.
    It was fun reading about this aspect of your writing life and passion.

    1. I haven’t read Brenda Peterson, but I will right away! I love books like that, and I bet I’d really enjoy what she has to say. Thank you for the tip.

      I like the name ‘Wolf Haven’. I am fascinated with centers that protect and rehabilitate wild animals. The people who go to these lengths are obviously 100% committed to the cause, because maintaining something like that isn’t easy. Very expensive, not enough help, and too many animals that need a safe place to go.

      Thanks for swinging by, Jagoda. This was a fun post to write. Made me feel like I ought to post a little more often about wolves and endangered wildlife. I have resisted in the past because not everyone wants to hear about it. This issue is fairly political and controversial, and I try to avoid those issues on my blog! 🙂

      1. I know what you mean about wanting to avoid political and controversial issues. Important for my blog too. It’s good there are other places to express ourselves this way too. I’d love to write more about endangered wildlife myself. I’m backing into it by starting a mystery series about an environmental conflict mediator. On the back burner for now but not forgotten.

    1. Thanks, V. I’m glad to hear that it isn’t a boring subject. There are a few people I know that look at me funny when I talk about the latest situation involving wolves, or any endangered wildlife, as if I should have more important things to worry about. I don’t know. I guess I have learned to tread carefully. As I mentioned to Jagoda above, I would like to talk more about it on my blog but because it is a political and controversial issue I have avoided it. But, I got such joy out of writing just this one piece that I may reconsider…

      Thanks for swinging by!

      1. If you had the time, you could set up a whole separate blog just to talk about the wolves and wildlife issues, so that if people follow it, it’s because they’re interested! But I know that’s not practical for you at the moment. Ooh, and you could source various animal welfare people to do guest posts on there! Maybe one day 😉

      2. That’s something to consider, and maybe wouldn’t be all that much time depending on how often I post. Also, like you suggest, if I did have guest authors, they’d be responsible for replying to comments. It would be a lot of fun. Perhaps, when things settle down on the fiction side of things I will look into it further. Thanks for the tip!

  4. Kate is truly a life enthusiast, as you say, Britt. She’s got a great voice, and that she uses it for the good of others – all kinds of others, including our wilder cohabitants – always makes me feel that there *are* people in the world bridging gaps and distances, and bringing all of us closer together. 🙂

    1. What a sweet comment, Mayumi. Thank you. I love having opportunities to help others, even when it’s a small gesture, because I know how I feel when someone goes to bat for me. And, every time I think of people like Brenda or anyone else who works for the benefit of someone or something that can’t help themselves — I feel a wave of gratitude toward them. We would be in a much sorrier place without people who care enough to truly fight for what’s right.

  5. Those are amazing pictures Kate. I love wolves so I salute your work to help protect them. I loved the video you posted about how they’d changed the river, so would love to read more. Britt – another great example of a life enthusiast in Kate!

    1. There were a lot of pics to choose from, but I didn’t want to crash Britt’s site with them all! 🙂 I had a lot of fun writing this and then reading the responses from all of you. After reading so many stories about people who would rather destroy than help, I was rejuvenated to see that there are a lot of people who care.

  6. Beautiful animals. I love the idea of each person fighting for one thing in the wild–plant, animal, waterbody–just taking a stance for one part of nature. Beautifully said Kate!

    1. My mother-in-law believes that every person should perform one civic duty for their country when they turn eighteen, not necessarily joining the armed forces but something that aids our country. (She’s very patriotic. 😉 ) Along those lines, I think it would be great if we all did something to aid earth. Even better if we didn’t need laws to enforce it, but that people did it because they sincerely cared. Earth Day is a great start, but I think we really need to go further than that.

      1. That’s a fantastic idea your mom in law has. Seriously, I hate how laws are needed to motivate people, where common sense and an internal moral compass used to suffice. Being invested in the world around us is important and doing something, anything, to help matters.

        1. I agree. I think that’s why it’s important to involve kids in things like fundraisers and volunteering, so that they can see how we all can positively impact another life.

    1. Oh, me too. When we did make our effort to help them, they rebounded well. I just wish that people would stop resorting to killing them over working around them. I think this world is big enough for all of us.

      Thanks for commenting.

  7. What a beautiful story, Kate! I love to hear how a writer’s research and passions come together. So cool. And I consider myself just a little more educated about the wolves. Thanks!

    1. Wolves have a job to do, just like we do. If we can figure out a way to live alongside each other, it is a win-win. Writing about them is truly invigorating. If I was a little bit younger, and free to roam, I wouldn’t mind doing the research a little closer to them.

      Thanks for swinging by.

    1. I don’t understand why it is so easy for some people to hate first. I would be absolutely miserable if I led that kind of life. Kudos to those who have given their lives to protecting wolves, and any other creature or natural specimen that is in trouble.

  8. Phenomenal post ladies!!! We had no idea how badly Wolves had been killed off!! What a disgrace! These are such beautiful creatures that add so much to the wild! As for you Kate, that was the cutest thing we’ve ever read! Though the spirit & heart was willing, the flesh was weak! No worries, Inion & I come close to fainting at the sight of blood!!! lol 😉 Sharing this post now in hopes of making people aware!! 😉

    1. Haha, thank you. Even as a mom I get a little grossed out with those bodily fluids. But, I persevere. I guess I could have been okay as a vet if I had given it a chance. Maybe. 😉

      Thanks for the awesome comment!

  9. I love Kate too! I’ve always been fascinated with her fascination with wolves 🙂 They are beautiful creatures and all the more so when Kate writes about them.

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