Wolf song

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Their howls woke me just before daybreak while moonlight and stars still swept the sky. They always begin the same way. One wolf raises her voice to the heavens and the others soon follow in unison, filling the valley with a most beautiful, haunting wolf song. As I laid in the old, borrowed, pop-up camper listening to their soulful howls, something stirred inside, like cosmic dust shifting deep within my bones, calling for remembrance of a wildness lost long ago. By the time their song quieted and the hush of the valley lifted with first daylight, an intense need lay prominent in the silence, a need for the connection between their ancient, native language and my very own.
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A wolf’s eyes are piercing and penetrating, colored by a depth that can break through any masks draped by ego and fear. Perhaps this is why the wolves draw so many people to the sanctuary. Perhaps this is why people of all kinds come to stay, work and volunteer at Mission: Wolf for months, even years at a time. The wolf embodies raw, primal wildness and holds no pretense, no lies or falseness like the kind our society so readily provides. All kinds of people stay at the sanctuary working for the wolves, many of them seeking healing, truth and integrity, bound by an unspoken desire to be seen as they really are–flawed, yet infinitely wild and free.

“To look into the eyes of a wolf is to see your own soul.” ~ Aldo Leopold

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Wolves, in the Native American tradition, are deeply respected as powerful teachers and guides. They are intelligent, social, and free spirited animals, loyal to their lifelong mates and to their strict, pack order. Most Native American cultures would never think of killing a wolf. A wolf is their kindred spirit, a brother and sister. Having watched these beautiful animals play, nuzzle, and greet humans with friendship, it’s hard to think of them as the terrible predator that they’ve been targeted as. What makes me sorrowfully ill is the existence of people and websites that promote the hunting of wolves for sport, claiming them to be the “top predator of the Northern Rockies”. Oh the irony…I say look again sirs.

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As with most of Earth’s wildness, somehow we have come to believe that if we can tame something, we can possess it, and by possessing it we can do what we want with it. Human affliction is obsession with possession. The pain and repercussions of the lies we tell ourselves is felt by every living thing on this planet. Slowly, the language of our own wildness has been lost, pushed far beyond recognition. The reality of this lies before us every single day. People have been breeding wolf and wolf/dog pups for years, selling them to humans who want to possess them as a pet. The friendly nature of wolf pups can have people fooled. Soon they learn that the independent spirit of a wolf cannot be tamed, contained or owned liked dogs. As the pups grow and mature, problems arise, particularly if genetically they are more wolf than dog. Wolf and hybrid owners eventually lose control of their pets, causing them to be euthanized or shot unless a sanctuary can adopt them. Wolf sanctuaries like Mission: Wolf exist to save these pet wolves and hybrids if they can. More often then not, pet wolves and hybrids are turned away due to lack of space and limited resources. Mission: Wolf, named in reference to the movie title Mission Impossible, has the primary goal to eliminate the need for wolf sanctuaries. People like Kent Weber, the founder, are trying to make amends for human error by making a difference. Healing for our human recklessness in every sense, can begin with just one person–or one animal inspiring us to do the same.

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On the day I met wolves, I didn’t know I would find myself looking into a mirror. I didn’t know that a wolf could reach into my soul and pull pieces I’ve left un-mended, challenge a truth I’ve left un-attended. I walked away from those wolves wanting deeply to change that truth, and become something entirely different, something already coded inside with a divine, primal right to embody my own bold and wild soul.

It was the afternoon of our first day when Kent sat us in a circle before entering the Ambassador wolves’ enclosure. Mission: Wolf trains certain wolves who particularly enjoy human company as Ambassador wolves. Ambassador wolves travel the country educating groups about wolves, allowing people to meet them, touch them, and hopefully understand them better. Currently, there are three, Abraham, Zeab, and Magpie. On this day, we were a group of approximately 15 visitors, some having had the privilege of meeting these wolves before. Kent explained that a wolf’s nature is not like a dog’s. Most dogs seek your attention and approval, needs it even, but not a wolf. In a wild setting, wolves are afraid of humans and will hide from them. In a setting like the the sanctuary, where they see and interact with humans regularly, they do not feel any obligation to humans. In daily relationships with humans, wolves will begin to treat them as another wolf, including disciplining them, seeking order and rank just as they do in a pack. Wolves must earn the respect of another wolf in order to be in their family, their pack, and a human is no different.

Wolves can sense deep fear, insecurity, instability, just as they can sense strength and confidence. In other words, they know immediately how a person feels about him or herself and will treat them accordingly. If you see your self as less than an alpha, so will they. Kent also let us know that wolves love small children and feel protective of them. They often will approach children first, sniff them, inspect them, even lick them. I don’t find this unusual, younger children have little need for self doubt as their wonderful, wild spirits shine through their skin, still unspoiled by the confines of ego. The wolves see this and are drawn to it. So am I….

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Wolves depend fully on a social order that is dynamic all the time. The one they truly need acceptance from is their alpha, their leader. They are drawn to alphas and will look for them in a group of humans such as we were. They greet the young children first, then the alphas, then move down the rank. Kent told us that as we walk in to the enclosure, walk in tall and confident, like we could care less there were wolves among us. He told us to not to appear needy or wanting of their attention because if we do, we will be ignored. In a culture where humans hunger and crave attention, recognition, praise, approval, acceptance and the need to be “chosen” so we can feel our own self worth, it can be difficult to pretend indifference to be chosen by a wolf. What Kent didn’t tell us and what I soon realized, was that pretending was useless. Within minutes of being in that enclosure, acting was utterly unnecessary. The wolves knew, just by walking by, how you felt about yourself. They could sense in an instant if you were trying to be something you were not, or something you weren’t sure you could be. For me, the challenge was just trying to muster authentic, self confidence, it did not come naturally. In that moment, the truth of my insecurities rushed to the surface exposing my weaknesses. I felt naked and I knew, I knew as I walked in grappling with those feelings, a wolf would not find the alpha in me, because I could not find it either.

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In a culture where our worth is based on what we think we own and possess, our titles, and our degrees, and how we think we are perceived, it is easy to confuse what our true worth is with what we acquired both materially and egotistically. Wolves cut through the bull with one look. They can see right through you and leave you exposed and vulnerable with feelings you thought you had buried, or even worse–could live with without repercussion. And herein lies the lifelong journey to answer the questions that surface in all of us. Is it possible to strip away the burden that keeps us weighed heavy and hollow? Can we find the self acceptance, love and forgiveness needed to be the strong, confident, self-assured alphas we all have the capability of being? What keeps us down? What keeps us afflicted? What keeps us from finding the worthy treasures hidden within?

“Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?…The universe buries strange jewels within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert Big Magic

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It’s been nearly three months since our trip to Mission: Wolf and I can tell you that in that time I have accepted the challenge of excavating my raw, authentic voice. Daily, I face unforgiving mirrors and embrace my weaknesses before transforming them into strengths. I continue to climb every edge and stand at high noon, inviting failure to be another badge of courage. I am answering the primal call to seek and unearth the alpha. I can tell you that I have faced fearlessly the parts in me that have kept me tethered to ego and fragility, challenging the need for approval from anyone but my own powerful voice. I can tell you there is little use for coincidence when divine energy knows you want to abolish the shackles that binds the wildness hidden within. I am stepping into the skin that has been waiting for me and I am no longer afraid of my purpose. I am raising my voice to the heavens, answering the wolf’s howl with my own undaunted, gritty, and beautifully wild wolf song.

Much love

XOXO

Tracing tracks

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I know, it’s still summer, but the season’s permissive laze and daze has snuck out quietly and left us. Autumn’s invigorating breath has found her way into our mornings and soon I will don my fuzzy slippers, robe, and plan soups for dinner. Like many, we are into school schedules and events, after school chauffeuring, teacher meetings, Fall trips and volunteering. I look back and remember where we last left the hurry. Tracing the tracks we’ve left behind, I touch with fondness the moments that made these last few months memorable.

I started teaching dance at a beautiful studio a little over a month ago, not traditional dance like tap or ballet, but heart-centered, choreographed dances that pull from all styles to inspire soul, emotion, awareness and freedom. It’s a dance made for anyone and everyone, no formal experience required. This is the manifestation of a dream–to call myself a dancer and share my love of dance by teaching. “Inconceivable” is what I would have told you 10 years ago. Truth: The rules we live by in this world can often feel unyielding, but to challenge them, un-define and re-define them, we can surprise ourselves by becoming something completely unexpected. My choreography now unfolds on a wooden dance floor spilling from a well of creative freedom that I knew existed, but never tapped openly until now. Teaching, leading a class, and exposing my heart and creativity to be judged and used by others has brought me to challenge and question the necessity of old insecurities. I see it now and I find myself peeling again.

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This month, in Issue 5 of Bella Grace Magazine, a piece I wrote was published. For a few weeks now I’ve let this soak in, and thoughts of my father have surfaced again. I am so different from the daughter he knew before he died 17 years ago, before I began healing, before I became wife and mother, before I began my climb out of the many shells that kept my soul hidden. Yet, somehow I know I am the woman he always knew I’d become. I use to resent the goals he once had for me, like the one where I would be an engineer or the one where I would go to military school, but I understand those really weren’t the dreams he had for me. What he wanted more than anything was that I just try for the things I wanted most, that I believe in myself, and find what true happiness is. And those dreams, Dad, have come true. Perhaps this joy is fleeting, perhaps the next big catastrophe is around the corner, but for today these tracks are very real, and they are, gratefully, all my own.

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The last thing I wanted to share just happened this past weekend over Labor Day, our family’s camping and volunteering trip to a wolf sanctuary here in Colorado. I will write an entire post on how deeply this experience affected me. Wolves, truly, are one of the best teachers this earth could have ever graced us with. The problem is that generally wolves are seen as a threat to man and livestock and, by stories, movies, and misconceptions, thought to be mean, menacing, and aggressive animals. This is false and documentaries such as “Living With Wolves” and The Wolves of Yellowstone serve to educate those who will listen about the gentle and social nature of wolves, as well and their importance to our ecosystem. But this is only a micron of what I personally learned from meeting a wolf, and, as I look a little closer, flows not at all surprisingly with the undercurrent of my latest lessons on strength of character and how true we are to our spirit. This, I will share in a new post sooner than later, but for now, a glimpse…meet Zeab.

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Much love to you
XOXO

wide awake and wild

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I took one small step closer, cautious, curious and completely aware that all he had to do was take one powerful leap in my direction to spear me with those handsome antlers of his. His watchful, deep black eyes were on me. Though his munching jaws would seem to say that he could care less about my presence, we both knew better.
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This was the first of three encounters I had with wild animals this past weekend. The second was with the Gray Jay. We were over 9500ft. high having snowshoed nearly 2 hours into the southern heart of the Rocky Mountains. There was no wind, just the blinding whiteness that comes with fresh snowfall. The sound of our feet in deep snow and my breathe from climbing in it provided the haunting rhythm to keep placing one foot in front of the other. It was not an easy climb to Emerald Lake, but when we reached it, I understood wholly the meaning of the phrase “deafening silence”. Surrounded by jagged spears of rock resembling a crown, I would have fallen to my knees in reverence had I not already felt dwarfed in the mountain’s majesty.

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(If it helps to understand scale in this novice photo, please look at the tiny black dot at the base of the mountains on the right. That dot is a person.)

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After a few awe-inspiring minutes of quiet, I was startled by a low swoosh that came from behind and flew directly above my head. She landed on a branch 15 feet from me, looked at me while cocking her fluffy head, imploring me to see her, to be mindful of her. She wanted my attention and she found it. She posed left, then right, then looked at me again to make sure I was still watching. I worked quickly to get my camera out again, but she waited patiently, long enough for me to rattle off at least 10 shots before she flew back in the direction she came from. She, like the Elk, felt tame in ways that didn’t seem plausible. An unspoken language passed between us, one that I had forgotten, one that I might have understood again if I could have stayed there in that space with her just a little longer.

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The last encounter was with two foxes. My husband spotted them first on our return to Rocky Mountain National Park the next morning. They were fast and they were less willing to take chances with a human like the other two. I jumped out of the car with the camera and ran to the edge of the meadow that they had run into. I followed them with my lens, first one, then two, too far to get good details thanks to the autofocus on my camera. There was no time to switch to manual, no time to play with light and catch the glint in their mysterious eyes. They were gray and they were very smart, dancing along and pacing the meadow, watching me to see what I would do next. They never left or ran away too far. As I walked back to the car, they got closer, comfortable with knowing that I was leaving their domain, their protected space that I was invading, that we all invaded long ago.

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These wild animals are medicine to me, a balm to the coldness that comes with our reality and domestication. Once I dip in and wander among the messages these creatures provide, I find myself in the folds of something bigger. I awaken knowing that we are not so different. We are both dependent on the environment that surrounds us, both dependent on the the earth that provides for us, both hungering for a language that connects us all, both free and not free, bound by instinct, duty and limitations, both extremely fragile and weak at the helms of the unknown.

On a crystal clear yet windy morning, on our last snowshoe trail in the tall pines and bare-boned trees, I found a mark on an aspen, a mark left by someone that did not know it would be meant for me. I stopped to pull off my gloves and dug for the cameraphone in my snowpants pocket. A wind gust rushed in lifting the snow off their feet to sparkle and swirl in the air behind, just in time for me to take the shot. And I did take it, all of it. I am not sure when I will be back there again, but I will remember. I will remember how it felt to be wide awake and wild with the spirit of the earth.

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much love to you fellow earthwalkers…
xoxo