On Being Extinct – By Paleo

Being extinct is… challenging. Frustrating. Sometimes heart-breaking on multiple levels. Honestly, I’d rather not be a walking fossil. Many days I wish I was a “plain ole” grey wolf for the simple reason that they’re still around. I’ve been able to see, hear, touch, smell, and (thanks to an over-enthusiastic greeting) taste them. My life’s passion is animal behavior, and it aggravates…no it *wounds* me that I cannot *know* the the beast that lurks in my soul. Not with objective certainty, that is. I’ll never see it’s gait, hear its howls, chronicle its interactions with its fellows, prey, and enemies.

All I have are bones and “memories”. Thoughts, feelings, knowledge that seems to come from my mind, gut, and soul all at ones. Bones give some clues, and important ones at that. Paired with knowledge of general trends among today’s canine species, they give a rough sketch, just enough to get to know the beast. Just seeing those teeth, those stocky legs, that huge Sagittal crest …it was enough to end seven years of questions and confusion.

Memories, well, those are more tricky. Heck, I don’t even know if “memories” is the correct term for these thoughts and feelings, but until I find out otherwise, it will have to suffice. Dire-wolf-mind doesn’t work like human-mind, doesn’t focus on the same things. It is hard to translate one to the other. And of course, I must always be wary of typical human wishing, delusion, and misunderstanding.

But what else can I do? Dire wolves and there world are gone. Forever. I have to do more than howl longingly over old bones if I am to know myself. To understand why on Earth some part of Dire Wolf lives on in me.

Thus the memories. These memories aren’t concrete. They are often a feeling of “the way things should be”. A form of pattern recognition. A sense of knowing. I can’t explain it. They just are.

I was lead to Dire Wolf through these memories. I learned how to “ask” the beast in my soul questions, like “What would you do if your prey climbed up a tree?” (Answer: just stare up the tree and leave after a while). While viewing things in life and watching nature documentaries, I could sense things that seemed more “right” than others. Certain landscapes, types of prey.

As an example, I have sort of an inner listing of prey potentiality:
Large, slow but heavily armored beasts rank at the top (water buffalo, bison, musk ox, even rhinos and elephants are worth checking out for weakness and wounds, though best to hang around and wait for them to die on their own) Large but swifter animals rank next (moose, elk, zebra). Smaller swifter things like deer and caribou are worth checking out but I “feel” little hope of catching them. Rodents and small birds are rarely worth it, but sometimes you get lucky. Ground birds like turkey or birds that have a slow take off time like vultures are certainly worth the attempt.

Reptiles never register.

Piggy-prey does.

Fish don’t, except for salmon which does seem very important. Perhaps dires benefited from the scraps of bears and trapped fish during salmon runs.

I wish I had finely detailed memories of things, but I don’t. I just know what “should be”. The land should be similar to the alpine belt that cuts through North America, Asia, and Europe. There should be little to no humans around. There should be teaming herds of prey animals, similar to those found in modern Africa.

I should be canine, yet I should also have prey-drives and hunting/scavenging tactic similar to the spotted hyena. Which no modern day canid does. And it all keeps leading to the same conclusion:
My “should be” place is in a bygone era. My “should be” self is an extinct critter.

And my “should be” behavior is practically unverifiable.

Sure, I feel like I should be using ambush tactics and using muddy, snowy, or wet terrain to my advantage. But did dire wolves actually do that? I feel like I should be following vultures to carrion, eating salmon scraps at a river, nipping at and tearing hunks out of huge, weakened prey in the hopes that they bleed to death or fall to their knees so I can begin breaking bones. But is this an accurate portrayal of dire wolf eating habits? I feel that my kind was less socially cohesive than grey wolves, and while there were often snapping-and-snarling fits, dominance displays were fewer and less “political”. But is that the truth?

I can make good guesses, but it doesn’t satisfy my human brain, my ego-need to *know*. To say “yes, that is true” or “no, that is false”. To be human is to question and ask.

But to be dire wolf is to just be. Perhaps I should learn from that.
Still what does it mean to “Be” and to “be extinct” at the same time?
Somehow, I’m the answer even as that answer keep eluding me.

They say extinction is forever, and yet for some reason, my soul seems to disagree, at least in part.

What does that mean? Hell if I know. I’ll let you know as soon as I do.

Until then, I’m back to studying bones and sifting through memories.

-Paleo
© Paleo 2006