When the sun sinks into the turquoise depths of the lake and darkness settles over the hill, the night sounds begin. Always, the wind sings, but there are other songs in the night as well. Often we hear the coyotes cry… more “yip” than “howl” …. a choral nocturne that pierces the night. When they are quiet, and I think about the night sounds, it is wolves I hear in memory, rather than the little coyotes that inhabit our forests. What is it about wolves that haunts my psyche like no other creature? If cats are the wee bits of luxuriant, purring, comfort in my home and in my real life, then wolves are the companions of my dreams… the wild-hearted spirit-guides in solitary moments of contemplation.
The pacing of the timber wolves in a local zoo tugs fiercely at the ribbons of my heart. You can’t see these ties of empathy and kindred-ship, but they hold me entrapped at the cage that confines these restless spirits. Years go by when I cannot force myself to go back to the zoo, fearing the ache that will linger in my heart long after I’ve gone.
When my daughters were small, I read to them the native American story of The Jumping Mouse. This story came to life in my mind, inspiring me to write several simple songs to accompany the story. I then retold the story, in my own words, many times to eager up-turned faces and intently listening ears. Every once in a while, I pull out those sheets of quickly scrawled lyrics and rough chord structures and let my “wild heart” cry with the wolf in the story, who has lost his sense of smell. My sense of smell is intact. I can smell dinner simmering on the stove and the scented candle that flickers on the table… but perhaps my heart cries for some other loss… something I can’t quite define. The wolf in the story has lost a vital sense for a wild creature, but I always imagine that wolves today are crying for the loss of their Wild Places. Am I, as well?
During a long walk with Haiku through the “Enchanted Forest” at the end of our road, I wrote this poem to the rhythm of our footsteps:
I’d like to walk into
one of the deep secret places in the world,
so softly that the wild things could not hear me.
I would sit and breathe their wildness,
into my lungs,
into my being…
so that when I walked back out again,
I would be new and changed,
and something wild would flicker in my eyes.
A few counties over from here, wolves now wander through fields and forests that they have not roamed in many, many years. I try not to wish too hard for their presence in our own county, since these predators would be a hardship for the small farms that still survive here. But can I help it if I hear, mingled in the twilight nocturne of coyote chorus and rushing wind, the sweet keening of a wolf? Though the wolf-song I hear is only imagined, I sing along: “The wild heart of a wolf cries to the night. Senses are alive with sounds of delight. But, oh… my wild heart cries tonight.”
A dear friend, who has a very strong affinity for wolves, recently had a very personal encounter. She wrote about it in her blog: http://rapunzelscastle.blogspot.com/2006/09/laloba.html
One more note: I loved this eNature.com article on “Creatures of the Night” which arrived in my email box just as I was working on this post about wolves: http://enature.com/articles/detail.asp?storyID=379
Sunset photo by Haiku, 2005