Thursday, 3 March 2016

Black Wolf

His voice caused me to look up from the page. I scanned the big meadow beyond my window. He called a second time. I zeroed in on the little knoll by the old spruce. 

Black wolf standing on snow covered earth. 

His third howl was long and sustained–the tone stretching out over the trees then down into the glacier scraped valley where it settled with the hoarfrost. I put the book down, went to the door. I didn’t want to scare him away so I opened it slowly. When I peeked out the wolf was gone. 

At the knoll I laid my bare hand where Black Wolf had been a few moments before. He left no tracks on the crusty snow but something of him remained–some energetic signature. I felt no fear. The number of documented cases of wolves killing humans could be counted on one hand. Instead, I felt grateful to be so close to a creature such as him. That feeling of gratitude increased as I looked at the northern vastness I had positioned myself within. My life had become progressively more rich and more wild since leaving my home city of Detroit several years before. Following the primeval trail of grizzly bears was what led me north to Alaska. On the edge of the largest protected wilderness on the planet I had built a cabin with a woman who gave up fashion modeling in LA to become a modern hunter/gatherer. Black Wolf’s presence that morning validated every step I had taken on the path back to what was wild and true, leaving me with the feeling that I had chosen a good place to call home.   

Drawing: Stephanie Kellett
I didn’t expect him to return but he did. Same spot on the knoll the next day. Again he howled. Each one followed by a long pause of silence as if waiting for his pack mates to return the call. Just like the previous day, Black Wolf disappeared as soon as I peeked my head out. I didn’t blame him. War had been waged against his kind with poison, dynamite, bludgeon, and the gun since the first colonizers arrived in North America. It continued to the present day with wildlife management agencies using faulty science to justify the eradication of wolves to bolster ungulate populations. Perhaps the worst case in modern history is being carried out right now in British Columbia where the government shoots wolves from the air for the crime of preying on caribou. My stomach turned wondering if Black Wolf was the only survivor of a pack a local trapper had been after that winter. I had a run in with the man one afternoon on the river flats. I asked what had possessed him to kill animals such as these. It was his christian duty, he said. 

To him, wolves were “the devil’s animal.”

Black Wolf came back for five days in a row before I finally stood outside with him. It happened early one morning. I was collecting firewood from the wood pile behind my cabin when I heard the howl. I got excited. I set the bundle of wood down. Quietly, I walked around to the front of the cabin. The wolf’s long nose was already pointed in my direction. For a few moments we both just stood there, two life forms taking each other in, breathing the same air in a landscape of incomprehensible vastness. 

“I love you,” I said out loud at a volume just above a whisper. He howled again, I howled back then he left–disappearing into the spruce. 

Alien Soundtracks
Trumpeter swans began singing from the nearby marsh–their song reminded me of the strange experimental sounds on the second Chrome LP. I closed my eyes. When I did, I could still see his green eyes–how they looked at me. It was as though he read not just my physical form–facial features, posture, and body language–but went way further, reading what was written in my core. I have been eye to eye with animals such as grizzlies, lynx, mountain lion, and humpback whale. These close encounters are the most intimate. I remember each one as though it happened yesterday and I remember the broadcast I received from being in such close proximity. I’m often left wondering if the memory of me stays with them–if in their own way they remember meeting the rare human creature who greeted them with love and welcoming rather than fear and hatred. 

Black Wolf didn’t come back the next day or the day thereafter. I asked the few people who lived on my side of the valley if they had seen him. One man had but he shot the wolf for eating one of his free ranging chickens.