Once upon a time, in the midst of a great sadness at losing one dear to me, I spent a good deal of time with a howling in my heart. I channeled that howling into many many stitches and eventually created a quilt to honor not only my own howling heartbreak, but to especially honor those closest to that fiery grief.
This quilt now occupies a special place above my drawing table as a reminder of What Artists Do and why we do it. While my recent posts here have been rather tied to creatures of the sea, I adore all animals, particularly the wild ones. Just today, I received a belated, much looked-forward-to birthday gift from my friend Julie– a chance to spend a few hours at Wolf Creek Habitat, a sanctuary for wolves who now live in captivity for a variety of reasons beyond their control.
And so, on this gorgeous and golden late september morning, we hit the road for the hills of Indiana….
And we arrived to meet our guide Kathy, whose path it is to care for these magnificent creatures and educate visitors about wolves and the cultural misconceptions which plague them. Julie’s gift to me was a private tour, without the company of tourists or school groups, and besides Kathy and the wolves, we were the only other beings there. It was magic.
We were permitted to go into an enclosure which houses a stable pack of wolves with a distinct hierarchy, including some rambunctious juveniles. There are many other enclosures at the sanctuary with other mini-packs and coupled wolves who might not necessarily ‘play well with others’. Upon entering the play yard where we would spend the next couple of hours, we were greeted with much enthusiasm which included nuzzling, sniffing, rubbing, licking, more (enthusiastic!) nuzzling and sniffing. (Especially our hair. Pony tails were discouraged.)
Within a short time, we were deemed by the wolves to be proper company, and were then charged with belly rubs and treated to rolling exercises and photo opps.
I noticed many differences between these wild wolf creatures and my own domestic canines. And many similarities as well. One big difference, is the size of wolf feet. They are BIG paws with webbing between the toes. Much like some puppies have large paws for awhile, these grown wolves’ feet seemed disproportionate to my eyes used to dog-sized feet.
Some wolves seemed more dog-like at times.
But mostly they were very wolf-like.
Soon, it was nap time.
We spent a bit more time surrounded by sleeping wolves, marveling at their wild liminality; so dog-like, but so Other. Like many other majestic wild creatures, wolves have an air of mystery and spirit that surrounds them, even when they run and play together, or roll over for a tummy rub from someone newly trusted among them. Thank you Julie, for one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received.
*a note about the title. Women Who Run With the Wolves is an amazing book by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes. If you haven’t read it, you should.
And here’s another little wolfish tidbit for your enjoyment…