Dawn Again: Tracking the Wisdom of the Wild

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

The most powerful and important book I've read this year? No question. Dawn Again: Tracking the Wisdom of the Wild, by Doniga Markegard, is eloquent, inspiring, and a must-read for any global educator. Markegard's memoir traces her beginnings from wildlife tracking to a more concerted effort of support and practical advice for wilderness education and living wisely on this planet. Through it all, her voice rings clearly for teaching about the earth, about the wildlife on it, and living responsibly and well. There is much to learn from animals and others - and Markegard provides a window to it, and teaches us how to listen. 

Dawn Again: Tracking the Wisdom of the Wild

I have many, many post-its scattered throughout the book, reminding me of passages that I want to revisit again and again. But the words that connected the book, for me, to my life, our planet, and nature, was when Markegard wrote, "...at the Wilderness Awareness School: all studies were entwined, ultimatedly grounded in the understanding of nature." Truly, this interdisciplinary, whole earth, across cultures and species view is one that resonates - and one we should all include in our lifelong education.

Throughout the book, she raises questions about humanity, and how we can live well, tending our earth and ourselves. She asks, "What is this earth where I live? How can I interact and be part of nature? What should I do with my life?" As we all have these questions, the reading of her exploration for answers is illuminating - and leads toward, as Markegard notes, bountiful permanence. From tracking wolves, living in wilderness, the slow food movement, permaculture, family, and cultural explorations (such as the importance of Standing Rock), Markegard beautifully translates her experiences and wisdom into a book we can learn much from - and which inspires us, in turn, to work and think and live toward a better planet for all creatures.

Highly, highly recommended.

We were lucky enough to catch up with Markegard, and ask about the book, inspiration, incorporating the wisdom of the wild into our lives and journeys, and more. Here's what she had to say...

Interview with Doniga Markegard, author of Dawn Again: Tracking the Wisdom of the Wild

Please tell us about your new book, Dawn Again...
Through the Pacific Northwest forests and along the rugged coastal shores of California, Dawn Again: Tracking the Wisdom of the Wild is a memoir of exploration and survival.
Dawn Again takes readers along on Doniga’s journey: the wilderness immersion school where Indigenous elders and wildlife trackers were among her teachers, hitchhiking across the pacific northwest, the moment she first connected with a deer using owl eyes and fox walking techniques, and to Alaska where she fell in love with tracking wolves and the rigor of wilderness survival.

With chapters on food, permaculture, and more, Dawn Again dives into Doniga’s real-life experiences while equipping readers with practical knowledge. When Doniga tracks mountain lions with Erik, a rancher, she finds herself falling in love with more than just nature. She settles down on a cattle ranch on the California coast to start a family, and has to learn how to apply the deep, unshakeable lessons of the wild to her everyday life.

What inspired you to write Dawn Again?
I have always wanted to write a book, yet I had always put it off for “later.” My career, family, and life in general kept me busy, and I never thought I could carve out the time I would need to write. I was on Diana Rodger’s Modern Farm Girls podcast, and even though the podcast was about my life as a regenerative rancher, she was fascinated that I had a background in wildlife tracking. She asked me to tell a story from my days as a tracker. I told the story that is written in the book about trailing a wolf through the Idaho wilderness. Shortly after, I got a message from a publisher, Katy Bowman, asking if I ever thought about writing a book. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up, my heart started racing, and my underarms were sweating. I was so nervous and excited that I knew I had to respond and say, “yes, actually I have started about 10 proposals over the last ten years, but life always got in the way of sending them around.” I knew it was the right time - and shortly after I got the message, I was writing every morning in a passion-driven zone.

What can travelers (and educators, of course) do to incorporate the wisdom of the wild into their journeys and curriculum?
Be curious. Observe nature in ways that you never have before. Smell a plant, look at the intricate patterns, the way the veins travel across the leaves, how the leaves come out from the stem. When you get to a new area, sit in silence and observe with all of your senses. This is called a sense meditation, and I talk about it in the book. Utilize nature as your guide. If you come across an animal trail, follow it. If you see a bird, see how close you can get without that bird flying away, then do it again with the next bird to see if you can get closer. Learn everything you can about your environment. Ask questions from the locals. What types of food comes from the land? Is there a hunting and gathering tradition from that place? Immerse yourself in cultures. Visit a farmer’s market where people are selling food they have grown, or crafts they have made. Ask if you can visit the farm where the food was grown and learn about how they do things. 

Take backroads. There is a story in my book about meeting a couple of Italian dairy farmers as we were following our intuition, traveling down dirt roads in Italy. By visiting these farmers and talking with them, seeing the way they tended the land, the soils, and their animals to make wonderful cheese in the high Alps, I got answers to questions I had about that place. I was seeing cows I had never seen before, and I learned their story and the story of the interconnected food culture of the Aosta Valley. 

Interview with Doniga Markegard, author of Dawn Again: Tracking the Wisdom of the Wild

What might readers be surprised to learn about, from your book?
I think the thing that stands out the most is that a big chunk of my book takes place while I was a teenager. There are many stories of young men going out into the wilderness to survive. Many of the wildlife trackers are men. The fact that I was a teenage girl going on these adventures was unique. Many of my peers were young men, and I did not have any examples of women having the kinds of experiences I was having. In many ways, I was a trail blazer. Part of my intention behind this book was to empower young women to also be trail blazers and make their own path in life. I hope to inspire readers to connect with nature as a guiding force, follow their own inherent intuition, and find and follow their vision. 

Doniga tracking wolves on a creek bank in Idaho. From an interview with Doniga Markegard, author of Dawn Again: Tracking the Wisdom of the Wild
Doniga tracking wolves on a creek bank in Idaho

The last part of your book really resonated with me, with intentional communities/movements to honor sustainable ways of living. Can you please share a few tips or resources for people to learn more about permaculture, slow food, etc.?
I would say start with your own backyard. Are there others in your neighborhood that are practicing and teaching permaculture? If so, find out what they are doing, learn some tips, and apply it to your own backyard, farm, rooftop, or balcony. 

Challenge yourself to produce something for human use that is ecologically beneficial and follows the cycle of nature. For example, get a worm bin, feed it your food scraps, and then use the worm casting to fertilize your garden. 

Look for a Slow Food chapter near you. Look for farmers that are practicing regenerative agriculture by building soil and leaving more life from every life that is taken from the land both plant or animal. If you can’t find any of that in your community, then be the one that organizes a community farm or a Slow Food chapter. People are hungry for community. They are hungry to take part in producing some of what they consume. You don’t need to be a farmer or a rancher to take part in your food system. 

Interview with Doniga Markegard, author of Dawn Again: Tracking the Wisdom of the Wild

What's up next for you?
Well, I am enjoying the fall days here in coastal California when the beaches clear out and the skies are clear. I am enjoying spending time with my family, going on long hikes, and riding horses on the ranch. The book launch party for Dawn Again occurred here on the ranch on October 29th. I am also looking ahead at my next book project. I am thinking it will be a lifestyle cookbook full of beautiful pictures, stories, and recipes of how to incorporate food into your life in a fun, meaningful, and nutritious way.
Interview with Doniga Markegard, author of Dawn Again: Tracking the Wisdom of the Wild

Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Check my website donigamarkegard.com for updates on book signings and speaking events. 


Pin for later:
Tips for conscious, nature-inspired living. From an interview with Doniga Markegard, author of Dawn Again: Tracking the Wisdom of the Wild



All photos courtesy and copyright Doniga Markegard, except word photo creative commons, adapted by Wandering Educators