How Wolves Change Rivers is a four and a half minute clip about the unexpected effects of reintroducing wolves into Yellowstone National Park in the early nineties. Wolves are incredibly powerful and beautiful creatures but the real reason I’m sharing this video is that it explains the trophic cascade, or trickle down effect, that happens in all food chains which happens to be an incredible metaphor for our own human lives.
Of course everyone expects that wolves would hunt and kill deer, decreasing their population in what would appear to be a simple act of death; deer die so wolves can live, seems pretty negative on the surface. But when scientists looked into the more long term effects of the hunting, a plethora of positive side effects begin to emerge: increased bald eagle populations, stabilized river banks, reforestation, increased vegetation, and more. Because one deer dies, wolves, bears, beavers, birds and nature in general flourish.
Watching this little clip, I couldn’t help but marvel at the perfect metaphor for the influence negative life experiences have in the long term on our own lives. Traumatic and seemingly one-sided events like losing a job, being scolded by a loved one, or painful medical procedures are always hard to deal with. They leave behind carnage which we are undeniably forced to reckon with and which we sometimes struggle for years to recover from. The beauty in this is that we can make these things easier to deal with by recognizing the benefits of the carnage left behind.
Wolves kill deer, leaving behind mangled carcasses on which other animals feed, this is a fact. This is the perfect metaphor for how traumatic events can destroy our life structure, laying waste to our plans but ultimately liberating energy that can feed some other passion in our lives. Like the deer who change their daily path to escape persecution by the wolves, we learn from hard times and become more resilient to life’s inevitable negative experiences. Like the rivers whose banks were stabilized by less grazing and new plant growth, we grow more steadfast and confident in the direction our lives flow each time we bounce back from a painful experience.
We all know wolves kill but do we notice that perhaps to an even greater degree they also give life? Nothing in the entire universe happens for no reason. There is always an equal and opposite reaction, science has proven that is true in a laboratory, so why shouldn’t it be true in our lives? I think the practice of yoga is founded on this understanding. A yogi practices on the mat because she knows that it will have a lasting effect off the mat. She knows that the tension released in her hips has an effect on the tension in her relationships and that opening her heart in a back bend is opening her heart to the love in her life.
Noticing that negativity is just one half of the whole experience of life elevates moments of despair and depression, promoting them to truly important events as valuable as the ones we already cherish that are full of positivity and joy. I humbly submit that we should be just as grateful for the carnage and despair of the hard days as we are for the elation and revelation of the good days. Truly, one could not exist without the other.