Yesterday I read that authorities have found what they suspect is the body of Sherry Arnold. She is the Montana runner who was grabbed off the street for no other reason except that she was a woman and that the men were creeps who thought somehow that it was okay to kill her, throw her clothes in a Dumpster, and bury her in a shelter belt of trees far from her home.
When I am in the wilderness, it is hard to believe that evil exists. All I have to do is lean against the comforting granite shoulder of a mountain, listen to the low chuckle of a river, and it is easy to think that life is essentially good and unspoiled and pure. That to me is the real world, not the one where illiterate bad guys can buy crack and go looking for a woman to kill.
It's not that bad things stay outside of the wilderness boundary, but I have always felt that the benefits outweigh the risks there. I have been scared, mostly of bears cruising the salmon streams, avalanches and a sudden fall to a great emptiness, but it is a different kind of fear, the kind that almost seems acceptable. After all, I am choosing to walk along the ledge. I am pitching my tent where animals live. Everything out there is often predictable. Bears, for example, are more predictable than you may think. Out of the hundreds of coastal grizzly encounters I had living in Alaska, only one bear chose to charge, and it was out of surprise, not maliciousness. Here at the end of the road, some people choose to assign animal behavior, particularly wolf behavior, to human qualities. They are painted as uncaring, insensitive predators, killing livestock for sport. But they are getting it all wrong. Wolves don't care. They are not driven by human emotion but by genetic instinct. People have the capacity to choose.
People are the ones to fear.
Rest in peace, Sherry.