What fuels your creativity?

Being cre­at­ive can be as chal­len­ging as grabbing a hand­ful of fog. The mind and body may be will­ing, but the muse of­ten chooses its own time to ap­pear. Some people seem to be in a con­stant state of cre­at­ive con­scious­ness, while oth­ers grunt and grind their way along as if push­ing a two-ton rock up a steep hill.

But soon­er or later, most cre­at­ives ex­per­i­ence an “aha!” mo­ment that pro­pels them for­ward on a rush of star-stud­ded euphoria.

So, what flips the switch from mundane to innovative?

Sometimes I can write my way into a cre­at­ive flow by play­ing with a vari­ety of words, scen­ari­os and ran­dom com­bin­a­tions. Or a walk in the woods or along the Salish Sea can trans­form neb­u­lous thoughts into a quirky idea.

And, al­though far less en­joy­able, cre­at­ive thoughts also emerge while do­ing some­thing mind­less like wash­ing dishes or vacuuming.

But even when strug­gling, I’m drawn to the craft of story.

Curiosity is the driv­ing force be­hind my cre­ativ­ity. Even as a child I was al­ways ask­ing ques­tions and si­lently watch­ing what people did and the ways oth­ers re­acted. I want to know why some­thing hap­pens and how people be­come who they are.

Inspiration is usu­ally sparked by an ex­tern­al in­cid­ent: rot­ting fish be­ing con­ver­ted into oo­ligan grease, a cou­gar scream­ing in the green­space be­hind my home or feel­ing un­com­fort­able around the home­less in my community.

I’m in­trigued by the reas­ons people live and act the way they do. And of the dark that lies be­low the sur­face some­times swim­ming to the top to wreak hav­oc. What’s the back­story? How do people change? Or even survive?

In pre­vi­ous books, I’ve ex­amined re­la­tion­ships between people and wild­life, the land­scape, and oth­er cul­tures. Now I’m ex­plor­ing a more in­tim­ate re­la­tion­ship, that of a fam­ily shattered by past events, nev­er ac­know­ledged or spoken about.

Switching from non­fic­tion to fic­tion is a chal­lenge, lead­ing to much thought and con­tem­pla­tion. On his web­site, in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned au­thor Michael Connelly says he re­cently cre­ated a new series, “Because you have to write like a shark. You keep mov­ing or you die creatively.”

Now I’m ex­er­cising my cre­at­ive muscles in dif­fer­ent ways and learn­ing new as­pects of the story-telling jour­ney. Writing like a shark in­volves change and step­ping out­side my com­fort zone.

I nev­er know how each dance with the muse will turn out but that’s part of the charm. Every story is an adventure.


Fossilized wolf pup sheds light on wolf migration

When Neil Loveless found a tiny, fos­sil­ized body com­plete with head, tail, fur and skin thaw­ing in per­ma­frost, he thought it was a dog. Although it was not the pre­cious met­al the gold miner was look­ing for, he stored it in a freez­er un­til a pa­le­on­to­lo­gist could check it out.

The re­mains, now iden­ti­fied as a Pleistocene gray wolf pup about sev­en weeks old, were found in the Klondike gold fields of the Canadian Yukon. The fe­male pup lived and died on the an­ces­tral land of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, who have a cul­tur­al and spir­itu­al re­la­tion­ship with wolves. The little pup was named Zhùr, the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in word for wolf.

It’s rare to find fos­sil­ized mam­mals from an­cient times, es­pe­cially one as in­tact as Zhùr. Scientific stud­ies con­duc­ted since the dis­cov­ery in 2016, re­veal that Zhùr ate a diet rich in fish, not the more tra­di­tion­al fare of muskox or cari­bou. The fish were prob­ably caught in the nearby Klondike River by her moth­er or oth­er mem­bers of the pack.

Zhùr was old enough to ven­ture out­side the den, was well nour­ished, showed no sign of dis­ease and her re­mains did not ap­pear to have been dis­turbed by pred­at­ors or scav­engers. Scientists spec­u­late that the young wolf died in­side the den when the roof col­lapsed suddenly.

Other fos­sil­ized wolf re­mains have been found in north­ern climes such as Siberia but Zhùr’s is the most com­plete, miss­ing only the eyes. And the ap­prox­im­ately 56,000-year-old body provides tan­tal­iz­ing clues to the move­ment and evol­u­tion of wolves in North America.

Over the years, there have been nu­mer­ous the­or­ies re­gard­ing the mi­gra­tion of wolves between Europe and North America. Genetic tests show that when alive, Zhùr was closely re­lated to ice age wolves in­hab­it­ing Europe but not with wolves found in North America where she lived. Her mum­mi­fied body provides a vi­tal clue to a sig­ni­fic­ant change in the pop­u­la­tion dy­nam­ic of grey wolves in Canada at the end of the ice age.

Due to its sci­entif­ic and cul­tur­al im­port­ance, Zhùr’s body has been ac­cep­ted by the Canadian Conservation Institute and is now on dis­play in an ex­hib­it at the Beringia Interpretive Centre in Whitehorse.

Feature photo cour­tesy Yukon Government 


When wolves lose their fear of humans

It was 11:00 p.m. and Stanley Russ was only a few steps from Grant and Miranda Moore’s house when a wolf bolted out of the bushes and at­tacked him. Hearing his screams, the Moores raced out­side. The ruck­ous also aler­ted the couple next door, Russ’ son Frank and his wife, Sylvia, to the emergency.

Frank got between the wolf and his dad, while the oth­ers provided first aid. Despite Frank yelling and throw­ing whatever he could find, the wolf re­peatedly at­temp­ted to get to Russ. A neigh­bour set off her car alarm and the wolf dis­ap­peared only to re­appear an hour later.

The sev­enty-two year old Port Edward, BC res­id­ent suffered severe bites to one arm and both legs. He re­ceived emer­gency sur­gery at the Prince Rupert Hospital and was later flown to Vancouver General Hospital for fur­ther treatment.

Russ sur­vived the at­tack, the wolf was killed and, after an in­tens­ive in­vest­ig­a­tion, Conservation Officer Service (COS) deemed the May 29, 2020 at­tack predatory.

Attacks by healthy wolves are ex­tremely rare and usu­ally oc­cur when wolves be­come ha­bitu­ated to hu­mans and are food con­di­tioned. the Port Edward in­cid­ent was a clas­sic case.

A large pop­u­la­tion of fer­al cats in Port Edward and Prince Rupert res­ul­ted in wolves fre­quent­ing both com­munit­ies. The in­vest­ig­a­tion into the at­tack also re­vealed a net­work of trails between Port Edward and a nearby land­fill where wolves ate garbage on a reg­u­lar basis.

As well as sources of food, wolves are also at­trac­ted to hu­man be­long­ings and have been known to keep and play with items for up to a year. COS ob­served a well chewed shoe at the dump that was reg­u­larly moved from one spot to another.

Most people do not real­ize how easy it is for wolves to be­come com­fort­able around people. If wolves re­ceive re­wards such as garbage, food or hu­man be­long­ings, they will be­gin to seek out places where people are rather than avoid them.

In many areas, wolf pop­u­la­tions are in­creas­ing and some wolves are mov­ing through or even oc­cupy­ing space close to hu­mans. It’s up to com­munit­ies and in­di­vidu­als to make sure there are no at­tract­ants to arouse their interest.

Photo cour­tesy Avishag Ayalon