Eyes of the Wild
Journeys of Transformation with the Animal Powers
The ancient understanding of animals as guides to self-knowledge and the soul comes alive in close encounters with some of the most magnificent creatures of the wild.
From Baja California to the Arctic pack ice, Eyes of the Wild takes the reader on an epic, personal journey to meet whales and wolves, bears and wild horses, guided by outstanding biologists and other observers who are renewing an ancient way of connection with the wild. Their scientific research meets the indigenous wisdom which understands the animals as guides to deeper relationship with life.
REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS
- It has become a cliché to say of books that they are ‘important’ or ‘beautifully written’. Yet this book is truly both. It is one that touches on our deepest bonds with animals, with Life and the Universe. Having had what I call a ‘transcendent moment’ myself with a lyrebird when I was 18 in the Colo wilderness, where we swapped identity for a moment – I do indeed understand why it is so essential to have ‘eyes of the wild’. And Eleanor O’Hanlon communicates this so beautifully. Whether it is grey whales, wolves, brown and polar bears, or horses, O’Hanlon writes deeply of how humans interact with wild, self-willed, life. And it is not a journey of ‘nature red in tooth and claw’ but one of passionate discovery. I found this book rekindled and inspired my own connection with the wild.
In the first chapter, there is a breath-taking description of her encounter with a grey whale, how it came up to her and let it touch her. She tells of how they had suddenly started to come up to fisherman and let them touch them also, even though they never had previously done so and had been called ‘devil fish’. It was almost as if they knew that now was the time when we might listen, when we might see them in their wondrous beauty. It was a time when they also reached out in forgiveness for our past slaughter. O’Hanlon does not preach or bury the reader under scientific fact, rather she draws the reader into the labyrinth of these wild and beautiful beings. The way she expresses her connection to both place and animals, reminds me of Thoreau. She writes of the ‘expansion of open spaces’ and how ‘In that great spaciousness of nature, we find our own expansiveness again’. She notes ‘As the mind falls still, space opens within. And that space is not separate from Eternal Presence, holding all life as one and allowing it to be – growing, blossoming, dying and reemerging in all its manifold diversity and grace.’
Her discussion of shamanism is fascinating, where a shaman is literally ‘One Who Knows’. As she notes ‘Shamanic practice is not a religion. It has no sacred texts, no dogmas and no formal structure. “Shamanism” is simply the collective experience of men and women who live in spiritual relationship with the Earth and the cosmos.’ She is told that ‘all that exists lives’ and ‘everything has a voice’. This resonated deeply with me, given my own life experiences of the wild have meant my favourite phrase is ‘if you listen you will learn’. O’Hanlon tackles the sacredness of the universe as seen by native peoples through engaging stories that bring their myths to life. They let us get in touch again with our own mythic roots.
The book in some ways is also about O’Hanlon’s own journey. One beautiful quote says ‘I have always believed that we would save only what we love; it has taken me a long time to understand that we ourselves are saved by what we love’. In other words, by loving life we ourselves become fully human, become whole. She concludes that ‘Diversity is holy. The dazzling play of relationship within the diversity of form is the expression of the inherent sacredness of life’. And by using the eyes of the wild, we can love that diversity and find our harmony with the Universe.
This book does not preach or lecture one about the environmental crisis. It is full of wonder, of the living stories of native cultures, of the new and surprising stories of her own life experiences, where these animals have offered her the gift of insight into their lives – both physical and spiritual. However, she does draw a conclusion about humanity’s predicament:
I do not believe that the way out of this tragedy can be found through new technologies alone, or by giving wild ecosystems some arbitrary financial value. The transformation that is needed can only come from the depths of our being, in the creative unfolding of new relationship as each person awakens to the light of love and beauty in the heart.
Thus we need to rediscover our sense of wonder in the world. From a life devoted to seeing with eyes of the wild, O’Hanlon sums up why it is so essential for us to reconnect with the wildness we still share this Earth with, even if society’s actions are leading to its drastic decline. She concludes:
If we ourselves are to make the next, and most critical step in our own evolution, we must, I think, begin by turning inwards, and listening, from the pure stillness and silence of our own deepest reality, to all these other voices of the Earth.
~ Dr Haydn Washington, author of Human Dependence on Nature
- This is a truly beautiful book that will touch your heart and your soul.
Eleanor O’Hanlon has captured the inner spirit of the whale, the bear, the wolf and the horse. Her stories are so wonderfully descriptive that you believe you are right there with these amazing creatures whether it is on a boat beside a mother and baby whale or face to face with a polar bear.
Beautifully written, this book will give you insight into how these wonderful creatures live but also transport you across the globe to connect with their true spiritual inner energies.
On reading this book I defy you not to shed a tear or feel the spirit in your heart. ~ Rachel Patterson, http://kitchenwitchuk.blogspot.co.uk
- The book’s cover image comes from a petroglyph on the coastal rocks of
Kodiak Island, Alaska, on the ancestral lands of the Alitak people. Ancient
and indigenous cultures’ perspectives on their animal neighbours and animal
spirits accompany each part of the book, as the author mixes field
researchers’ reports, her own intense observation, and shamanic journey in
her accounts of whales, wolves, bears and wild horses. Each creature has its
own extended part of the overall book, as Eleanor O’Hanlon blends science
and story, field biology and local tradition to immerse the reader in the
rawness of life for these animals, and the raw emotions of people who study
and live alongside them.
In the Book of Horse we are transported to the Ghost Forest, east of the
Canadian Rockies, beside the Stoney Nakoda First Nation people’s land. Here
we watch the wild horses and ride amongst them with the author and her
experienced guide. We are told of riding behaviours which will calm the
strong-willed stallions in view. The horses are technically feral but that
should not de-value the experience of learning from these animals, at one
with their home habitat. “The wild horses are our sacred places” a Stoney
Nakoda member reflects to the author, explaining how he regards the
authentic relationships of life. Deep in the forest the author’s guide
explains the bonds and relationships within the herd. We see how the horses
connect to their ecosystem. They have evolved darker colours to aid
concealment. They protect themselves from wolves and pumas by remaining
still in the woodland shadows, as the deer do. This is an adaptation from
wild horses’ more instilled flight behaviour which evolved in the rangeland
habitats they more commonly occupied across North America. Back to a more
grim reality, the Ghost Forest itself is threatened. The demands for logging
could now destroy this special place, and the freedom of these re-wilded
In the Book of Wolf, O’Hanlon starts in the Georgian Caucasus where local
scientists have rescued and released orphaned wolf cubs, amidst the gross
culling of wolves by Russian hunters. The author meets a biologist who
learnt to live alongside wolves, respecting their space and behaviours,
allowing himself to sleep in the open nearby but undisturbed: “After some
time, they let me take deer meat for myself from their kills – once they had
eaten themselves. Those wolves were my teachers. Before I lived with them, I
had been trying to analyze animal behaviour even though I didn’t know enough
to understand what the behaviour was really about.”
Through her journeys and the powerful connections with the people and
animals she encounters, Eleanor O’Hanlon shows how to find an inner freedom
if we meet the natural world on its own terms. Eyes of the Wild is a rare
and wonderful book. Its treatment of nature is holistic. The author will
take you deeper into wild places on many levels. ~ Richard Minter, http://www.silvanustrust.org.uk/uploads/documents/BANC%20newsletter.pdf
- The beautiful writing perfectly captures the author's sense of wonder as she gazed into their lives of the gray whales.
Without being religious I recognise that feeling of wonder, of connectedness through immersion in the natural world where, at heart, we all belong.
It has never been more essential to have empathy for the other living things with which we share the Earth. By showing us how she, and the other outstanding observers in this book relate to the animals, Eleanor O"Hanlon has made us want to care. ~ John Aitchison, BAFTA award-winning cameraman and director, BBC Frozen Planet and Yellowstone
- A delightful book, with a good mix of personal experience, stories and natural history. ~ Rupert Sheldrake, Author of A New Science of LIfe and the bestselling Dogs Wh
- Eleanor O'Hanlon has written an exquisite insight into the majestic Gray whale.
Mexico's San Ignacio Lagoon is the Sistine Chapel of Nature, where humanity can experience the blessing and miracle of interspecies communication. In her evocative prose, Eleanor takes the reader into that magnificent wilderness, allowsing us to experience the moment of awe when time stands still as humanity and the whale connect.
Her book awakens our responsibility to honour the sacred by recognising the intelligence and wisdom of our animal kin. Eleanor is a voice for Creation. ~ Sue Arnold, CEO, California Gray Whale Coalition
- Eleanor goes to the ends of all the Earth - the Bering Strait. Siberia. The Arctic pack ice. The Caucasus mountains. The deep Russian taiga forest. Her writing is full of knowledge, insight and emotion, telling you things you didn’t know, seeing things you wouldn’t have noticed, even if you were there with her. ~ Staffan Widstrand, Photographer and Director of Wild Wonders of Europe
- The words are beautifully sensitive and expressive, with great poetic clarity in the descriptions of willderness and wildlife.
The succinct descriptions of colors, the way that light creates dimension and visual contrast, the changing weather and sense of place echo the way I see as a photographer and try to express through my imagery.
These words are composed as poetry, as well as delivering the message that there is no separation between humanity and all other living things. ~ Pat O'Hara, Wilderness Photographer, Washington's Mount Rainier. A Centennial Celebration
- In a heartfelt, eloquent tribute to the mysterious connection between human beings and wild animals, Eleanor O'Hanlon takes the reader on a remarkable personal journey of close encounters, including the "friendly" gray whales that migrate to Mexico's Baja peninsula, an account that is both riveting and deeply moving.
- ~ Dick Russell, Author, Eye of the Whale Epic Passage from Baja to Siberia