It was dusk when I first saw her. I was looking up at the Moon in the sky. Big and bright, even if only half of it was shining. Christmas was in five days. The Moon was whispering secrets. Telling me a few lies, too, as moons do. You cannot trust a jealous Moon, insecure because the only light she has comes from the Sun. But then, I heard, "Danger...," and that was not a lie. A de ja vu moment flashed through my mind: Me, running through the trees ahead, a pack of wolves behind me. Was I the prey? Or was I leading the hunt??? That was not so clear. But the wolf approaching me was.
Big paws, big shoulders, big all around. About 85-90 pounds or so. A large coyote is 40 pounds. Even a coywolf, or coyote-wolf hybrid, only reaches 65. She was not a coyote or a watered-down wolf. She was a true wolf. Like me.
My canines ached when I saw her, as if seeing myself in another lifetime. A lifetime where I danced endlessly in joy with a pack-mate as black as night. He disappeared then, too. But I never stopped searching. Like now. It is the reason I am in the woods. Looking in the thickets, along the edges of the trees, howling out in pain, forever calling him home.
Maybe she was here now to remind me. Like he once did. Teeth sinking into my shoulder. A low growl in approval of my reaction. It was meant for a lifetime, not a moment of intuitive memory. I was lost in mine. She had stopped as if allowing me to regroup before we continued our dance.
Yes, a true wolf....
She'd never seen a human like me before, four legged, standing upwind in the middle of the field on top of the hill, arms outstretched as if about to fly. We stared at one another in shock for a moment or two. I quickly made my phone accessible. I wanted someone to know where I was and what was happening, because the light was fading fast. The temperature was dropping just as quickly. And even with the brightness of the moon, I was at a distinct disadvantage.
Because I was upwind, she was not here to hunt me. She was just here to hunt. I was an opportunistic find. One she was considering when she decided to block my path. I had no fear though, just an awareness of the possible outcomes. One of which included me eating her. But I stopped killing for food 22 years ago. Within me there is a god. She saw it, choosing to disappear into the long grass rather than disappear from the planet.
I was still unsure how to proceed blocked by woods on either side of the field, a drop off at the back and a wolf in front of me. Though I ran cross country in high school, cancer claimed that talent 15-years ago. Running never even entered my mind. While I stood there, thinking, she emerged from the tall grass again and began skulking along the edge of the meadow. She was thinking, too.
Without turning my back, I walked into the woods; I knew there was a foot path there that lead to a secondary field. Beyond that was another. Beyond that was green, manicured soccer fields adjacent to the parking lot where my car waited for me.
She watched me. Walked with me. Matched my steps, though from a distance. I found myself a little lost at one point, acutely aware of the encroaching darkness. And acutely aware of my new shadow, the one shaped like a wolf.
As I found my way to the grassy knolls that came before the soccer fields, I realized I was in a bit of a pickle. Not because it was dark. But because there was a steep descent above the gravel path that led to the soccer fields and the parking lot beyond. Even a person with two healthy legs would run a risk of falling and injuring themselves. On the opposite side, there was a gentler slope. But there was also a wolf, watching me from the treeline. I did not want to get on the ground. Yet, falling and breaking a leg was too great of a risk. Even greater than the wolf.
After safely sliding down the drop off to the path below, losing my phone along the way, I attempted to somehow stand with only one working leg. The attempt ended in pain. The suffering came later and would last for weeks. I can still feel it. A dull ache. Like the memories that fill my once-broken heart.
There I was. In total darkness. On all fours. Like a wolf. But frustrated, like a human.
As I gathered myself for a second try, my nose caught a scent. Earthy. Like swamp water-soaked fur and muddy paws. The marsh was on the other side of the tree line along the soccer fields. So was the wolf. At least, that's what I thought....
I felt her cold nose touch my forehead before I saw her. Carefully lifting my eyes upward without making any sudden movements, the brown eyes of a black lab greeted me. We were nose to nose. Like my wolf, she had never seen a human like me. She nudged me gently as if asking if I were okay. I nudged her back to say yes. Before I knew it, she'd given me a quick lick to communicate her return as her black coat vanished into the thin air of night. My new friend knew there was a wolf in the trees, too. Within moments, her wet nose was back on mine and a voice was calling, "Penny!" in the distance. I yelled back, "She's here with me."
Thanks to Penny, and her human, I was back on my feet in no time. Her human's name is Kelli, an irony only I was aware of. But that's how the Universe works: For every action there is an equal yet opposite reaction....
Miracles happen every day. You just have to look for them. Kelli and I--fast friends--chatted away as we played ball with Penny, and her brother, Samson. Even in the darkness. Even with the wolf watching us nearby. That also felt eerily familiar. Being watched. I told Kelli I saw a coyote a few fields away. If I'd said what I really saw, my wolf would be shot dead by now.
Two miles up the road is a sheep farm with other livestock like chickens and cows. Some of the sheep recently had lambs. Farm cats also laze about all over. I imagined that, along with a small clutch of deer led by the stag who first invited me into what I now regard as magical fairy fields, the easy-pickings the farm offered were at least part of the reason my wolf was here. Nearby construction for a new neighborhood removed an entire quarter mile of wooded thickets, where she may have had a den as well. The fox moved out of hers located in the fields where I hike. Now I knew why.
I hoped our encounter taught my wolf to stay hidden. But four days later, on Christmas Eve, I found part of a deer leg eaten to the bone in the tall grass where my wolf had initially disappeared during our meeting. And the next day, on Christmas, I chanced another sunset hike and found droppings in the middle of the foot path, right where she had stood when she tried to block me from leaving. I took it as a "Do Not Disturb" sign. A sign of warning. A sign a wolf was now living in the fields.
I will not hike up to the fields at dusk now. But I do stay on the path at that hour, walking with strangers, telling them about a coyote I saw. A young woman in a wheelchair was out taking a stroll about an hour from sunset. I was walking back to my car after hiking for two hours in the hillside where my wolf now lives. As tired as I was, I happily walked the lovely girl to almost the corner of her street as the light continued to fade, then, headed back to the trail. And, my car.
A cold day sinking into dusky night, things were quiet as I walked along. Too quiet. I was being stalked again. But it was more out of curiosity this time. She recognized my scent. And I recognized hers. She must have a mate nearby, but luckily, I haven't run into him yet. Perhaps that was the reason my wolf warned me the other day not to go up into the fields when I let time slip by and found myself hiking in the dark again. The warning growl from the tall grass reminded me of my sad, lost pack-mate from another lifetime. The one I still miss with all my heart, and apparently, my soul. But the wolf-shaped shadow moving in the meadow 20-feet away brought me back to the future. She disappeared into the woods from there, but I understood her meaning all-too well. And I politely left in much the same way.
I write this now from the tenth floor of twenty, overlooking the city of Boston and the Charles River. This is where I was born--home--but I find my heart yearning for the fields where I met my wolf, where I remembered another lifetime, where I felt the same longing to run, to hunt, to dance, to call out to another in joy, and be free together once more.
Perhaps my wolf found me to give me hope. To show me how the past is the present. And that, by living for my future, my life can be as limitless as the unconditional love that's branded my soul...a love meant to be lived for lifetimes.