and WOLVES seen from my trilogy of Rankin watercolors, hung on my bedroom wall. Yes, there are 2 Loons (the couple, / an expression of monogamy) and a Grizzly mom with cubs and ..one Lone Howling Wolf.
I recall that Chuck, the guide for Sundog Bus Tours, is taking time out to tell me about an encounter he’d had with the wolves of Pyramid Lake, near Jasper.
He interrupted his talk, citing that the overpass was an expensive endeavor by government-funded environmentalists to allow for wildlife migratory activity, activity that had been obstructed by the Trans-Canada Highway; he spoke about the Yellowhead Pass, that we were passing, named after a meti guide with blond hair who lead white fur traders through the continental divide. There was an enthusiastic bit about the Canadian Rockies being the only axis, (Columbia Icefield Snow dome), for river systems that lead to the 3 oceans on the planet: The Pacific Ocean, the Arctic Ocean, The Atlantic Ocean.
Then he mellowed and became gentle; this big Chuck, even became endearing as he spoke about his experience with wolves at Pyramid Lake, near Jasper. Clearly he was not a fan of LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD AND THE 3 LITTLE PIGS.
“When I was jogging on a lone path beside Pyramid Lake last summer, I had a wonderful encounter with a lone wolf who’d been basking in the sun, sleeping on a rock, next to the trail.”
He goes on to say that they eventually, rested within the circle of light together, eying each other at intervals and on leaving, the wolf walked away, stopped, turned, arched his head and howled.
He recalled that this sound was like a distillation of grief. “In that one note, that howl, I heard the soul of a saxophone, a poignant breaking- your -heart sound. ”
“Let me show you.” He put his hands on my shoulders from behind. “Breath in.” he coached “Breath out. in ..out. in…ready? Leaning forward he said “Let go.”
I closed my eyes and all the air in my lungs poured forward on a vibration that started in my center and filled my body…It was primal, guttural.
There are 3 types of howls that a wolf makes.
1.) The locating howl..to family and rival packs
2.) The defensive howl..deeper and means stay away, a protecting your territory howl.
3.) The mournful melancholy rallying howl used when a pack member is lost…it’s a vocal beacon, a way for a missing family member to find it’s way back home.
Wolves have different roles and functions within their pack.
The Alpha male is the valuable decision maker(who from 10 feet away, hears the change of rhythm in a prey animal’s heart rate).
The Alpha male is protected, and kept out of harms way by the brute-like enforcer, the beta wolf.
The tester wolf is very wary and suspicious, his skittishness is integral to the safety of the pack.
The diffuser wolf has been called the joker, the one who is a peacemaker.
“This pecking order holds true down to who eats what at the kill. The kill’s goal is to only take a monitored prey source, only enough meat is taken down to sustain the pack.
(Organ meats first on the list and down to, muscle meats, intestines.).
In the wolf world, it is in everyone’s best interests to fill a pack vacancy. Most packs will be prowling between dusk and dawn, if you move in the daytime you are more vulnerable and more easily seen; you walk a precarious tightrope urinating in streams to disguise your scent….every animal you meet is a danger, the best chance of survival is to belong to a group, safety in numbers.
I asked Chuck why he would want to live in the wilds of the Rockies, out in the back country, away from civilization. He was quick to respond. He loved the basics of survival, and found this life challenging and rewarding. ” Everyday for me is a perk.”
I do not miss soap, knowing that it will make it harder for your pack to recognize you by scent.
I don’t miss coffee when my senses are on full alert all the time without it.
I find my own family connections with the surrounding animals.
He offered that he’d been aware of the recent 50th Birthday Party held for Survivorman,Les Stroud at the Jasper Park Lodge saying that Stroud referred to society as living in a constant state of nature deficit disorder. Robert Bateman,81 years old, an invited guest, a noted Canadian painter & proactive teacher was seen as a mentor in the highest order. The passion that this man still feels for his connectedness to nature is inspiring, Stroud had said. (I was listening to Chuck, talk about Stroud who talked about Bateman, & I quietly thought that this must be true of Rankin, the guy in my bedroom). Rankin, a prolific painter of Canadian landscape and wildlife, must have also acquired this artistic integrity, an integrity that goes hand in hand with nature. Chuck has a mission: to teach what he knows, and so he goes on, talking. He adds two more anecdotal stories.
One clearly reveals his respect for on Alpha male, whom he was cognizant of, whom he was challenged by. He knew to roll on his back and show complete subordination. Still this wolf lingered, gripping Chuck with his jaws, the muzzle and hot boullion breath, sealing over his face.
He was saying “you know what I am capable of.” And yet this is all I’m going to do to you. This is why you can trust me.
The highest-ranking wolf in the pack isn’t the one that uses brute force. It’s the one who can, and chooses not to. We all have similar scenarios in our human lives.
The other observation was made by his biologist friend who had observed with hidden cameras, the methodical patient ambush of a nearby pack. It was in the depths of the frozen north, not far from Moose Factory. There was a rogue wind. There had been a chase, and the deer was approaching a valley studded with poplars. A few wolves were nestled, hidden in the snow-covered brush.
His friend observed an interesting phenomena: all 4 wolves began in sequence, burying their muzzles in the snow, and one wolf reached for an icicle hanging from a tree branch. He started sucking.. Were they thirsty?
It became apparent to the cameraman/biologist that this was a clever way of masking breath, something that would alert their prey.
“So getting back to wolves, because, if you get anything out of our time together, I truly hope that you revisit old ideas, myths that need to be revised.”
That’s when …. I told him that my grandson’s name was ZEV. It means wolf and honor, in Hebrew.
That’s when… he told me that there was hope for this new generation.
CONNECTION is NB: be it through any medium: the vocal beacon of howling or talking or writing or singing or visual arts