Wolves on My Mind

We had an interesting “wolf event” towards the end of January.  The wolves started howling early in the evening (and it was neither a full moon, nor a clear night), kept going all night, and only stopped sometime after dawn the next morning.  Poor Brennan didn’t know whether to be eager or frightened by all this.  I’m not sure what was up with the wolves.  At first, I thought they might be gathering for a pack hunt, especially after the cold spell that we’d just been through, which may have left them hungry.  But the howling went on for a long, long time, and was mostly concentrated in one location across the inlet from us.  Now I’m wondering if one of the pack members was killed or had died, and what we heard was pack mourning.  In any case, very strange!

Wolves have always been creatures that I have admired greatly.  Even as a kid, I really liked wolves, although where I lived in the southern interior, there were no wolves to be found.  Later, when I moved to Prince Rupert, I saw my first wolves.  But I never heard them.  Coastal wolves in general seem to be a quiet lot, and the wolves around Rupert were totally silent.  I had to move out to Port Neville to finally hear the quintessential Canadian song, the howling of the wolf pack.  Even here, we don’t hear them often, or for long, maybe a couple times a year for an hour or two. 

I’ve always thought that wolves had a sense of humor.  Even though I lived in Prince Rupert for twenty years, my first encounters with wolves were out on wilderness treks.  The first time I saw one up close and friendly, I was on a kayaking trip on the Northcoast, traveling between Campania Island and Kitkatla.  We were packing up camp early in the morning, and the fellow I was with at the time had a morning ritual around putting out the fire that involved some level of personal exposure.  While he was engaged in this activity, a big reddish-yellow wolf pogo-sticked out of the bush, gave him a look which I was sure translated into something like a grin, and then pogo-sticked back into the brush.  I’ve never seen anyone zip their pants up in such record time!

Some years later, on trip down the Nahanni River with the same fellow, I woke up in the middle of the night to some very loud cracking sounds.  The evening before, my companion was convinced that he’d seen a large, blackish moose calf, although careful searching around the camp site had not discovered any tracks.  Well, we stuck our heads out of the tent, wondering what was going on, and there was a huge black wolf, less than 50 feet away, just nonchalantly chewing on a bone, obviously watching us.  I never felt any sense of fear, just awe at the size and casual curiosity of the creature.

Finally, a few years before we left Rupert, I actually saw a wolf in the city.  They had always been around, occasionally attacking and eating people’s dogs, but mostly invisible to the average Rupertite.  Rupert is built on a bunch of rocky ridges rising up from the harbor.  Our house was located at the top of one of these ridges, and from there a set of stairs led down to the next level of town.  We often took those stairs, as they were the shortest route into the city center.  One day, after Ken and I had reached the bottom of the stairs, I saw a big “dog” come loping down the center of the street towards us from about a block away.  As it got closer, I realized that it wasn’t any sort of dog at all, but rather a long lanky wolf.  The wolf got to within 20 feet of us, then sat down and watched us.  Ken talked to it, and it moved its ears and cocked its head as if it was paying rapt attention to all he said.  After a little while, it got back up and headed off on its way.  All in a day at Rupert!

Throughout my life, I have always been fascinated by canines, and wolves specifically.  They have worked their way into my artwork and my life.  Indeed, my amusing encounters with real wolves have been very unlike the terrible fairy tales that tell about big bad wolves eating peoples’ grandmothers!  It seems to me that the wolf is my spirit guide*, and this is why the wolf is featured in so much of my artwork.  So, I guess you could say that I have wolves on my mind!

*In the Celtic legends, some Celts appeared to have a personal spirit guide that provided protection, guidance and inspiration.  Spirit guides were usually animals that appeared to the person at times of need or during important decisions, or were animals to which the person was particularly drawn.  Common Celtic totems included the deer, bear, badger, raven, eagle, swan, otter, mouse, boar, cat, horse, wolf, hound, eel and salmon.