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click for enlarged view of Wolf, Woman and Wilderness

ISBN 0-939165-29-2
156 pages, softcover
$14.95 US
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click to order The wolf, the woman and the wilderness
The Wolf, The Woman and The Wilderness: A True Story of Returning Home

Includes author’s original artwork, plus photographs

Ten years ago Teresa tsimmu Martino helped a young gray wolf return to her homeland in the northern mountains of the Pacific Northwest. As the two made their journey, which took months to accomplish, Martino underwent her own personal transformation. She discovered the richness and strength of her mixed-blood ancestry: Native American (Osage) and Italian. Martino’s roots, particularly as Osage, helped her in the dangerous and unpredictable journey of returning the wolf, McKenzie, to the wilderness. The Wolf, the Woman, the Wilderness is at once an exciting and courageous adventure story and heartfelt reflection of Martino’s inner journey.


Praise for The Wolf, The Woman, The Wilderness

Teresa’s book, The Wolf, the Woman, the Wilderness: A True Story of Returning Home has done an amazing job of helping the reader to journey into the depths of our strongest connections with the natural world. I had to read the whole book in one sitting, as I felt that my own journey was being expressed thorough her experiences! We are already recommending this book to all our students.

--Jon Young, Founder & Lead Instructor of Wilderness Awareness School

When Teresa tsimmu Martino’s book arrived, I glanced at its cover and passed it on. A couple of days later it was back on my desk, without comment. I opened the book to rifle through it quickly, but made a big mistake by reading a few words.

The Wolf The Woman,The Wilderness is an exciting book, it does not let you down anywhere. It is intense, it is action and yet it is gentle. It deals with tradition, love, family, weakness, ecology and strength.

I was amazed by the torrents of words strung together, not always grammatically measured, making the story that much more graphic, understandable and picturesque. Ms. Martino is telling her story, yet her story is my story, but it is not predictable. I still had to find out how the book ended and then, how the story began. Her prose is poetry, her poetry is magic, her art is native, simplistic, yet simplicity is the most difficult to achieve in communications.

She speaks of ancestors, spirits, of heaven and earth, about relationships, emotions and feelings, not easy revelations. “Who are we?” Reading her book, we know who Teresa tsimmu Martino is.

--Dezsoe Steve Nagy,
Latham Letter, Spring 1997


Six years ago the author helped a young gray wolf return to her homeland in the northern mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Previously Martino had raised many exotic wild animals so introducing a wolf pup, she names McKenzie and a fox pup, Kip to live with her wolf hybrid Peter and her weimaraner, Beanie seems perfectly natural at first. McKenzie becomes totally bonded to the author and even sleeps in her bed. In time it becomes apparent that the wolf and the fox must be returned to the wild to fulfill their wild destinies. She releases Kip in a national park where there are other foxes and plenty of food. Finding the right release are for the wolf poses a more serious problem. Eventually, with the secret help of a friend employed by the Forest Service, she discovers the right place in the wild lands near the Canadian border. the adventure shared on the unpredictable journey taken for the return of McKenzie to the wilderness is full of suspense.

This is a fascinating true tale lyrically told as captivating as a story told around the campfire. However, the private release of a pet wolf unknown to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who administer such reintroduction is hardly to be recommended. If every owner of a pet they believed to be pure wolf were to decide to release them in the wild the results spell disaster for the future of the planned recovery efforts by the USFWS for wolves in the U.S.

--Paw Prints, February 27, 1997 Quarterly


When I first met Teresa tsimmu Martino, I knew instantly that I was meeting the real-life version of Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ “LaLoba": wolf-woman. Teresa is a Italian-Osage mixed-blood woman who not only runs with wolves, she eats with them, sleeps with them, and shares her home with them. Somehow, wolves have found her: unwanted hybrids, mixed blood wolves who failed wild-animal school---and sometimes full blooded wolves captured by circumstance in a domestic world.

In her captivating new book, The Wolf, the Woman, the Wilderness, Martino tells the story of one of these wolves, the tiny pup McKenzie, who Martino eventually releases---secretly and illegally---back into the wilderness. Along this incredible journey, Martino finds her own roots, as well. “I know a wolf.” the narrative begins, “She was born captive in the northern mountains, but her grandparents were free. I taught the wolf to return to her people. For a year we traveled between my cabin and the northern wilderness. And in that time, I returned to my people. Now my eyes are bright gold like the wolf’s my pupils narrow to a pin prick".

If Martino’s story were nothing more than a tale of a wolf’s triumphant return home against impossible odds, that would be enough to carry this jewel of a book. In fact, Martino’s lyrical, poetic writing alone would make it more than worth the read. But what Martino has crafted reached far deeper. This is a universal story of homecoming, archetypal in it’s images and moving in it’s brevity. Martino’s journey with McKenzie to her soul’s true home is at once literal, visceral, and mythical.
In her book, Martino speaks passionately for what she calls “the wild": Not only for wild places, but for that ancient, inner howl of freedom and spontaneity that still calls each of us in its own way. As the young wolf McKenzie grows into her wild nature, Teresa, whose Native American ancestry was a taboo subject in her Italian home feels the tug of her own inner wilderness, and finds her way through the elusive veils of her family history. What is wilderness? Writes Martino, “One good word derived from wilderness is ’free’...freedom in a wolf pack doesn’t mean you are not to do your job. Rather it is your right to work with your reasoning instincts intact in peace".

I know Teresa Martino, I have seen her speak with the wolves that live in the cyclone-fenced enclosure she calls home. I have seen the broken road-killed deer she lugs from the highway to feed her wolf family, and the muddy wolf prints tracking across the scarred carpet of her ancient Air stream trailer in the woods. Martino lives what she writes. She is the most honest and artistically gifted woman I have ever known, one who has kept her reasoning instincts intact. In The Wolf, the Woman, the Wilderness, she gives us a deliciously rich and rewarding slice of that are and honesty, and leaves us hungry for more.

--Susan McElroy, Author of Animals as Teachers & Healers


Teresa Tsimmu Martino

Teresa tsimmu Martino is a poet and writer. Her middle name, tsimmu, was given to her as a child, and is derived from the Yumi word that means “dreams of a wolf.” She lives on an island in the Northwest where she writes and makes a living as a horse trainer. Martino also does wolf-rescue through the nonprofit organization she founded and oversees, Wolftown.

Lev, Teresa tsimmu Martino and Peter.
Photo: Nancy Clendaniel

Q: In your book you write about your life with a young gray wolf, and the decision to return her to the wilderness. What did it mean for you to return the gray wolf, Mckenzie, to the homeland of her grandparents?

A: It took more than nine months to prepare Mckenzie to learn to live in the wild, and learn to hunt for herself. During that process, it was hard to tell who was teaching whom. In the end, when Mckenzie went back to the wild, I believe she released me as much as I released her. In my journey with Mckenzie, it was a coming back to the land for me as well as for Mckenzie. I was also very sad when Mckenzie went to the wilderness because our lives would be separate, and I knew that I would miss her terribly.

Q: What was the most difficult part of this journey? The most dangerous?

A: The most difficult part was the ending---leaving Mckenzie, and saying good-bye to her and the life we shared together. The most dangerous part was when I had to search for her after she had been alone in the wilderness for a week. When I returned to the wilderness to find her, I was faced with a fierce storm that resulted in flooding and an avalanche that nearly resulted in my death. I write about this in the chapter of the book called “Hungry Water."

Q: Can you share what has been the most painful part of your experience with Mckenzie and returning her to the wilderness?

A: For me, the most painful part has been thinking about the fact that Mckenzie was risking her life in going back. It was very difficult to think about the possibility that McKenzie could die in the wilderness. But she took the risk, one that we humans also must have to do if we really want to be alive.

Q: What have the wolves taught you?

A: Mostly the wolves have taught me about community with the pack and with the wild land itself. Also, that it takes individuals within the pack to make community work. The wolves have to work together to live. And the wolves have to be individuals within the pack. It’s like the body---each part of the body is needed for the whole to work.

Q: What is it like living with wolves?

A: The wolves are loyal, and very, very intelligent. They also have incredible senses of humor and are playful. They like to pull on my clothing a lot, chase me around the wolf pen, and do just about anything to get me to play with them.
The wolves also take up a lot of my time, and it is hard work caring for them. I enjoy this lifestyle but it is a struggle. Wolves don’t really belong in captivity so they are harder to take care of. For instance, their requirements for food are very demanding. Wolves eat a lot of food and have a very high metabolism. The community on the island where I live is always letting me know when they see fresh road kill. And if that’s not available, I have to buy high protein meal.
I also have to be careful about the fencing for the wolf pen. It has to be really good so they don’t get out. The fence is eight-foot high, chain link fence buried in the ground with an overhang.

Wolves are also very intelligent and they need creative things to do. They are interested in exploring---anything from objects around the wolf pen to my personal belongings inside my trailer. One of their favorites is rolls of toilet paper. Great for shredding! I also buy them interesting toys and objects at the local secondhand store that they love to explore, chew on, and rip apart.

Q: In your experiences, what do you think is the difference between wildness and the wilderness?

A: Wildness is doing what is innately natural to your being. Wildness is instinctive, it’s being true to yourself. Wildness is not doing whatever you please.
For Mckenzie, returning her to the wilderness meant returning her to the natural environment of a wolf. To a place fairly untouched by the modern world where wolves can live as they were meant to.

For me personally, to protect my own wildness means that I try to find a way to live closer to the land. I keep my life simple. I don’t own a lot of things, I eat very simply. Fortunately, my work and my lifestyle keep me close to animals. They help me stay close to the land. However, it’s frustrating because it’s very difficult to live close to the land in this society. Wildness with others is the key. I watch how people who live slower and closer to the land seem happier. I also see how we need community to be whole. We need the village, but where is it? We must create it again.

Wilderness has many meanings to everyone: It can be a dangerous dark place filled with trees and animals. It can mean Home the way it once did to all humans. It can also mean a protected place for the natural world far from the civilized, concrete places of the modern world.

Q: What do you think is happening to the wilderness today? What can individuals do to save and protect the remaining wild animals and the wilderness?

A: The wilderness is shrinking and becoming islands with civilization caging it in. Unfortunately, this is unhealthy for the world.

Each of us can help protect what wildness we have left. It always is helpful to start at home with simple things, like recycling and not buying into a throwaway lifestyle. Preserve wilderness around your home by planting indigenous trees and shrubs. Keep wilderness in your heart by sitting for one whole day watching the clouds and birds and insects where you live. Act like the wolves and get involved with your community land trusts and wildlife sanctuaries. Then donate to reputable organizations that help preserve wild lands and the animals and plants.

Q: How do you view animals in the larger scheme of life? Do you see animals as people?

A: Animals are other nations trying to learn and grow. Animals are doing it in ways other than the way humanity has chosen. We must realize that the human way is not the only way. We must open ourselves up to the lessons we can learn by watching them. We must learn to live with them and our world in balance.

Q: What is your spiritual experience? You talk about the “Mystery” in your book. What does the “Mystery” mean to you?

A: The Mystery is a way of putting a name on the creative force that binds the universe together. It is called the Mystery because no one knows for sure exactly what it is. There are many paths to what some people would call God.

Q: What was it like learning more about your Native American roots as an Osage? How did this aid you in your journey to return Mckenzie to the wild?

A: I think this was the arrow that pointed the way for me. Many native nations use the wolf as an example of teacher and protector. I was lucky enough to have my guide in person---the gray wolf Mckenzie---who took me through the Mystery.

Q: What about your Italian ancestry, do you draw on?

A: I love the mixture of my blood, Italian and Osage, with a little bit of Scottish. The Italians have some wonderful wolf legends. Romulus and Remus, and St. Francis and the wolf. Italians are also creative and family oriented people.

Q: Do you think that all human beings are natives of the land, or only those of Native American ancestry?

A: All people are natives of the land. People need to stop being orphans I THINK THAT THIS DISCONNECTS US FROM THE EARTH.

Q: How have your life experiences as well as your experiences with Mckenzie influenced your attitude about death?

A: I have witnessed death close up---both human and animal. One time Mckenzie caught a rabbit who gave itself up to death in her jaws and died peacefully. Watching that was profound for me. We all kill to live. For example, the wood in your house, the oil in your car, the rubber in your shoes were all created from living things. We cannot escape this fact.

The way I live with the reality of death is that in my mind I have humbleness and respect, realizing that one day I, too, will go down that long dark road. Death has also taught me to live each moment and love those around me. For nothing lasts forever and the Mystery must love change. Yet, I also understand that nothing will soften the grief of losing someone you love. I have learned that you can laugh through your tears.

Q: In your book you talk about the “Give-Away” in the wild. What does this mean? Explain how you see it working in nature.

A: The give-away is when you ask for something to give its life so that you can live, be it plant or animal. I see life working in nature---there is a waxing and waning balance of all life working with all life with the bigger picture in mind. And we humans are a part of this.

Q: What do you think about the gray wolf re-introduction program in Yellowstone National Park?

A: I think it is a good idea. Especially when humans reintroduce wolves as gently as possible.



Copyright © 1998