Women Who Run With the Wolves

I was going to tell you all about my travels but I’m still getting my life and household back in order. After our 10-day trip, I took my kids on a weekend camping trip with a group from our UU church, then had my parents visit for an overnight, followed the next day by my husband’s cousins from Chicago. The sink is still full of dirty dishes and I can’t even find our camera to upload our Monticello pics!

So I’ll talk to you about a book I’ve been reading on and off this summer: WOMEN WHO RUN WITH THE WOLVES: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I first read about it on a writers’ listserve and recently my friend Therese Walsh urged me to read it.

Having been a sensitive girl, raised full of Catholic guilt, I used to try hard to be “good”, to not make waves, to not seem too different, yet the mold that was prepared for me never quite fit. Over the years, and especially with motherhood, I’ve grown stronger and more assertive. This book is a powerful aid, an exploration of myths regarding the Wild Woman archetype and an exhortation to transcend the boundaries imposed by a judgmental society and dark elements in one’s own psyche.

One chapter that especially spoke to me at this point was 9, on “Homing: Returning to Oneself”. Estes writes that all women need to occasionally return to themselves and practice intentional solitude.

“There are many ways to go home… My clients tell me these mundane endeavors constitute a return to home for them… Rereading passages of books and single poems that have touched them. Spending even a few minutes near a river, a stream, a creek. Lying on the ground in dappled light… praying. A special friend. Sitting on a bridge with legs dangling over. Holding an infant. Sitting by a window in a cafe and writing. Sitting in a circle of trees… Beholding beauty, grace, the touching frailty of human beings.”

Through a summer spent with kids and visiting with friends and family, I’ve managed a few stolen moments to “go home.” I’m feeling the need for a longer stay there, though, along with a bit of guilt for wanting to be alone. I know it’s good for me, but it’s nice to read Estes’s reassurance.

“It is preferable to go home for a while, even if it causes others to be irritated, rather than to stay and deteriorate, and then finally crawl away in tatters.”
“It is right and proper that women eke out, liberate, take, make, connive to get, assert their right to go home. Home is a sustained mood or sense that allows us to experience feelings not necessarily sustained in the mundane world: wonder, vision, peace, freedom from worry, freedom from demands, freedom from constant clacking. All these treasures from home are meant to be cached in the psyche for later use in the topside world.”
“It is better to teach your people that you will be more and also different when you return, that you are not abandoning them but learning yourself anew and bringing yourself back to your real life.”

For me, going home includes walking, journaling, swimming and writing. How about you? How do you go home? Has anyone else read this book? If so, what did you think?


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14 years ago

I haven’t read the book, but it sounds interesting. I know that I need quite a bit of time alone. That feeling of settling with myself is more difficult for me to find now. It came easily whenever I was with my horse or my dog. With both of them on the other side of the veil, it’s a bit of a struggle. I agree that favorite readings, walks (if I take the time to notice the beauty around me), certain songs, and cooking sometimes. Some friends bring that sense of being home. Thank you for sharing those snippets; I found myself pausing and considering.
~Judy T

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

I have that book! I’ll have to FIND it.

I do believe that there have been strong women in every age, even in societies that tried to keep women down.

How do I go home? I go home by writing. It is my retreat, the place I rejuvenate myself!

Louisa Cornell
14 years ago

I have read the book and found it contained some very interesting points and truths. I was so fortunate to have my Dad in my life. I am the firstborn, the only daughter. He always made me feel as if I could do anything. He challenged me to try everything in which I was interested. He said “Life is as fair as you make it.” He was most proud of those times I exceeded people’s expectations and did those things people told me I couldn’t do. He would just get this grin on his face like “I told you she could.” That is the greatest gift a man can give his daughter – belief in her endless range of possibilities and confidence in her ability to do it all.

Writing is my home coming. It gives me peace. Even when it is frustrating!! Ladyhawk, I understad completely about the feeling of settling and centering to be found with a long-loved animal. My horse has crossed the bridge, but I walk this five acres that were his last home and will be mine and somehow he walks it with me.

Actually attending RWA centered me in a very new and different place. Surrounded by people who understand writing – the compulsion and the frustration – made me feel like I as coming home after a long journey at night.

14 years ago

I go home by a combination of shuttle bus and train. (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)

I like some quiet time to read and relax or my nerves start to fray. It doesn’t really have to be solitary, though–my wife and I often end the evening sitting on the bed together, both reading. I love my work, and enjoy my life, but I do need to withdraw to someplace else from time to time.


Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

I haven’t read the book, but I have felt like I was running with the wolves this week! 🙂 It’s been inspiring to meet so many strong, vital women (and men) who have overcome some incredible odds.

And quiet time is essential to me! It probably is to most creative people–time to refill the well. But non-writer people sometimes seem to think sitting and staring out the window is NOT working at all. Strange. 🙂

Cara King
14 years ago

But non-writer people sometimes seem to think sitting and staring out the window is NOT working at all.

How silly they are, Amanda!

Louisa, your father sounds so wonderful…

Quiet reading can refresh me, or hanging out with trees or something — but, oddly enough, movies can often refresh me too. Don’t know why.


Tessa McDermid
14 years ago

I’ll have to find this book. I have another one I’ve read until the pages are getting frayed: “Why Good Girls Don’t Get Ahead and Gutsy Girls Do” by Jane White. I’ve always tried to find time for myself, walking, going to the movies, visiting our art center, my weekly Artist’s Date.

And, yes, writing is one of my favorite ways to go home. If I’m not writing, I’m not centered. And my family has learned that over the years 🙂

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