Monday, December 21, 2009

Dances with Wolves

And I am dancing with the wolves.

Disclaimer: I know this is going to sound a little ridiculous, but know that with every ounce of my being, it is true. No words on paper can fully describe the experience of being with the wolves.

At first, I was skeptical. My brother called me, so excited because he was going to go down to Wolf Creek Habitat and hang out with wolves for a day. I didn’t really understand the appeal, so I turned down his offer to bring me with him. And then he came back and showed me pictures, and I thought it was kind of cool that he had been so close with these wild animals, but I still didn’t get it.

But his excitement was contagious, and I found myself agreeing to go back with him, and our younger sister, the first day of Christmas break.

So we made the four hour drive, starting early in the morning, and arriving around noon. The wolf habitat is set back from the main road, down a winding, narrow road in the mounds, running parallel to a little creek, and surrounded by trees. When we arrived, we stepped into a little cabin with a wood-burning stove which served as the gift shop, to pay our fee to go in and meet the wolves.

At first, all I could think about was how cold my toes were in my ripped up old tennis shoes, and the first words of the woman who owned them wolves were not exactly encouraging.

“I know this sounds weird, but if one of them comes up from behind and grabs you around the neck, just reach back and push them off.”

We held our hands out for them to sniff before we went into the enclosure, and then stood with our backs against the fence door, so they would not knock us over with their enthusiastic greeting. And we carefully made our way to the center where we stood with our backs against a platform so that the wolves could come up from behind and greet us by licking our faces. And at this point, I was no longer thinking about the cold, or about my doubts. I was in a different place.

It is an incredible thing to be that close to something that God created to be wild, and I was on their territory, unfamiliar to me. It was entirely up to them how I would leave it. In a sense, I was powerless, but I was not afraid.

Dyami, the alpha female, was the most enthusiastic of the four. She greeted Sarah and I by nibbling at our noses and chins (which stick out like their snouts – it’s the way they would greet each other), and then she came to Kevin, who I think she must have remembered from his earlier visit. She had taken a special liking to him then, and wolves have very long memories. She at least seemed very pleased to see him again. Then the alpha male, Pejuta, and the beta male, Akki, came to inspect us. These first three teamed up to pull off my hat; they seemed to find it very interesting. I hung onto it though, and got it back. This all happened in a few moments, and just when I thought they were done, in my peripheral vision, I saw one suddenly appear next to my face and sniff at me. This was Tikaani, the omega female, sneaking up from behind after the larger wolves were finished.

Tikaani, though the most timid of the pack, seemed to like me (we think because I am the smallest), and would come to me and let me scratch her belly for long moments, and kept eye contact with me. Staring into those orange eyes was completely unreal. It was like we understood each other. It is so affirming to be chosen as a companion for a few moments by one of these incredible creatures. Each time one of them approached me to lick my face or lean against me to ask for a belly rub or grab the wrist of my sleeve to pull me along somewhere, I felt so privileged to be among them, that they would even want to interact with me.

Each of them had distinct personalities. Each of them had a clear place and order in their structured hierarchical society. Each of them had a sense of family. Each had an aura of intelligence around them.
Toward the end of the visit, each of us were given a piece of peppermint to put in our teeth, and the wolves would grab it out of our mouths with their teeth. They love peppermints! And they were so gentle. Over-enthusiastic Dyami knocked my candy back into my mouth on my tongue, and then Akki reach into my mouth and picked it up, and I barely felt a thing.

I cannot describe in words how incredible this whole experience was. I had been completely used up, at the end of my reserves, emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually, after a far too long semester at school, and I had no idea of how badly in need of healing I was.

But God did. And the wolves did. And I feel completely restored.

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