Twelve Ways to See a Wolf

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TWELVE WAYS TO SEE A WOLF

I An Old Friend On Facebook

Hey, Hiram, I don’t know if you remember mebut we went to elementary school together.

Hey! You’re the wolf girl right?

…Yes. Yes I am.


II An Old Alliance

            In our earliest histories, in the very beginning of humanity, we were hunters. We had to be, to feed our young, to survive the winter. We were a toothless, clawless mammal in a world filled with dangers, and we were alone. 

           Until the wolf. 

            Not a single historian can tell you how this alliance came to pass, not for certain. Could it have been an orphaned litter of pups, discovered by a young explorer in need of a hunting partner? Could it have been the wolves drawn to the scent of cooking meat as we roasted our spoils over the fire? The only certainty is that it happened, and it changed the course of history.

            To find the result of the bond of the man and the wolf, you may only need to look as far as your own home—the dog. We invented the dog, the offspring of our very first interspecies alliance. We, in our infinite curiosities, molded our oldest friend to be better, faster, bigger, sharper—whatever we needed, the wolf could give us, through the dog. 

            And though the friendship might be tamer, better suited to every sort of person, the foundations remain. 

III A Blood Feud 

           The wolf of Western history, of folklore, is our enemy. Little Red Riding Hood,Werewolves, Who is Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?            How did it turn out this way?

            We are predators, after all. And what better way to eliminate competition than to set our entire species against them?

            Fear of wolves is as old as civilization. Perhaps when we learned to live without them, that was when the hunting began—before the first century ended, the first bounty was paid in Greece, five silver drachmas for the body of a male wolf.[1]

            Humans, unlike wolves, are quick to forget their loyalties.

IV Honesty

            I’ve always hated the phrase wolf in sheep’s clothing. It seemed like an insult, to insinuate that a wolf would hide its shining fur behind a sheep’s wool, just to make a kill. That such a regal creature would stoop to such depravity seemed illogical to me. 

           They didn’t know the wolf like I did.

            The Alpha male leads the pack in a hunt. He directs his troops like a general, as they fan out around a herd to spook them into a run. They are a unit, unbreakable. They follow their packmates in trust, knowing that when they are in position, the others will be, too. That’s when they can pick out the old, sickly ones, the easy kills. The Alpha male weeds it out, and as a team, they take down their prey.

             Wolves know no trickery, they have no use for it. They don’t hide behind bushes or disguise themselves, but rather use their presence, their scent and their reputation, as a part of their hunting ritual. Get the herd to run, and dinner soon follows.

             A wolf doesn’t need to hide himself to get what he wants. He is what he is, and he makes sure his enemies never forget him.  

V A Family

A litter of gray wolf pups are born to the Alpha male and female, tucked away inside a den burrowed into the side of a hill. They are coal-black at first, tiny, helpless forms whose eyes won’t open for another two weeks and whose ears still need time to develop. They’ll grow in the comfort of their den amongst their siblings, as predators are wont to do, learning to bite and hunt and growl by practicing on each other. They are the offspring of the leaders, they are privileged, and they know it.

            Wolves learn the ways of the hunt when they are still young and lanky-legged, by watching their parents and their relatives. They hide in the bushes long before they can run with any grace, and watch as their meal is brought down by half a dozen sets of flashing teeth and iron jaws. They hop about with wagging tails when their mother steps away and allows them their turn at the carcass.

VI Normalcy

I was born with jet black hair, set in a curly mass atop my head. Soon after, it lightened considerably, then darkened again.

             As a baby, instead of attempting to communicate using the words I heard coming from the mouths of my parents, I growled at them.[2] My aunt suggested I might be possessed. It was decided that I was probably just weird.I don’t remember the moment I decided I was a wolf. I don’t know that there ever was a conscious decision in the matter. I simply was, always.

I ran around on hands and knees, slept under the table, growled out the window of the car when strangers made eye contact with me. I howled and howled at the moon. Sometimes my dog joined in with me.My poor mother took it all in stride. When I insisted I be fed out of a bowl on the floor, she found dogfood-shaped human food in a plastic bowl and obliged. When I curled up at the end of the bed like a dog, she made room for me. When I ate the grass outside, she put her foot down.[3]

            It’s not a surprise that friends were an anomaly for me—what connections I did make were a direct result of my mother’s attempts at giving me a normal childhood. I didn’t understand why I needed to look outside my own family for companionship. I had my brothers after all, and later, my sister joined the pack. I didn’t need friends, I didn’t want them. I learned how to interact from my family. All of my social queues, I took from my (equally socially-inhibited) siblings.

             This began to work against me when I went to school. My teachers thought I was shy, thought I could be fixed by being forced into groups—if we put her with the outgoing ones, maybe she’ll come out of her shell. It was later decided that I was just weird.

            But I was the best girl in school when it came to chasing games.            

VII A Native American Proverb

An old Cherokee Brave told his grandson, “My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. 

           “One is Evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth.” 

           The boy thought about it, and asked, “Grandfather, which wolf wins?”

            The old man replied quietly, “The one you feed.”                                                

–Author Unknown

VIII A Leader

            I’m the second of four siblings, and a close second, at that. As a result, I helped pave the way through childhood for my younger brother and sister. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand the responsibility of my position or the inevitable aftermath that I would cause.

            When I told my sister, five years my junior, that she couldn’t be half wolf because was half wolf, she chose the unicorn, instead. It was a short-lived passion, followed by years of love for the animal, but as I’d already learned, you can’t change who you are, no matter how much you may want to.

             But she tried. When our mother forbade her from eating the grass outside,[4] she took matters into her own hands by growing a potful on the porch outside. Our parents were so amazed by her ingenuity that they let her keep it. Even I was impressed.

            Looking back, I hate the sister I was to them. I was an angry, selfish kid, and I still regret much of how I acted, how I showed them how to act. But my past has given me a new purpose—to be a good leader to my siblings, and show them through my actions the proper paths to take. It’s too late for many things. But still I hope to make a small amount of difference.

IX A Creature of Contradictions

            An elephant is known for her memory, a snake is known for his wit, a lion is known for her ferocity. What is a wolf known for?

            Loneliness. He was a lone wolf.

            Community. They ran in a pack, like wolves.

            For most of my life, one nagging thought plagued that forever-wolfish corner of my mind. If wolves needed packs, why did I have no friends? Why did I shun the company of acquaintances, willingly give up the prospect of creating a pack of my own?            It wasn’t until recently that I realized I already had one.

             Wolves don’t take to strangers lightly. When a new wolf stumbles into the pack, he must either submit to authority or be chased from the territory, tail between his legs.

             At least I have the added benefit of being human, and have no desire to make my friends submit to authority. On the other hand, I don’t exactly welcome all into my pack with open arms. Upon meeting a prospective friend, I must go through phases like discomfort, suspicion, and overanalyzing before I can ever make it to fondness.

            Maybe the lone wolf is alone because he chooses to be.

X A Freak

            There comes a time in a kid’s life when it’s no longer socially acceptable to think that she’s half wolf. In kindergarten, in the first grade, you’re just one of the crowd: I’m a Pokémon! I’m a princess! I’m a wolf!

            I remember the moment the world left me behind. I was in the lunch line, in front of my mother’s best friend’s daughter. I suppose she should have been my friend. When she came to our house, I’d hide behind the couch. I didn’t know how to be human the way others did.

            I was walking on my toes, because I’d seen on Animal Planet that wolves walk on their toes. She scoffed at me. “You’re not really half wolf, Rachael.”

            I wasn’t angry or sad or anything, really. It didn’t bother me that the rest of the world didn’t understand. I was what I was. She had dark hair—I was half wolf. She wore a bra—I was half wolf. What was the point of being sorry about something I couldn’t change? Something I wouldn’t change?

XI Loyalty

            Sometimes I envy those with the ability to walk into a room full of strangers and walk out of a room full of friends. Those people that spend hours texting, smiles touching their mouths as they tap out their secrets and forge bonds through thin air. I want to make friends, at least I think I do. But a grey wolf’s pack is usually less than a dozen animals, and I find I don’t have the energy for even that many.

            The friends I do have, the ones that somehow battled through my defenses after months and years of showing up at my door, pestering me with questions and sarcastic comments, and putting up with weeks and months of radio silence, they amaze me. I look at them and wonder how they made it to this point without shrugging and walking away. They know everything I’m able to tell them and they accept me anyway.

            The thing about my friends is that I don’t need them and they know it, and they understand because they don’t need me, either. 

            But, oh, if they do, they know where I’ll be.

             A lone wolf in need may always find his pack behind him.


XII A Girl with a Fondness for the Moon

            I don’t know that I could honestly say I’m not half wolf, even today. I have evidence to the contrary—I have no tail, no need for meat, no physical proof of the existence of a wolf inside me.

            And yet.

            I don’t know if my years of wolfish-thinking are to blame, or if my familiar or animal guide or past lives do exist and have a hold of me, but I am who I am because of the wolf, somehow.             My brother and I once had a discussion regarding the Zodiac.

             “Are you who you are because you’re a Pisces? Or because you know you’re a Pisces?” he’d asked.

             “A little of both,” I’d said, shrugging. “Does it matter?”

            I am who I am. 

            We put labels on ourselves and other people. We have to—it’s a need stronger than ourselves. It can be harmful, many times it’s harmful. But sometimes, it can be good. They help us to understand ourselves and the people around us. They help us to decide who we are, and who we want to be.

            Am I gentle because I’m a wolf? Or am I gentle because I think I’m a wolf? Does it matter? I’m gentle.

            Am I aggressively protective of my family because I’m a wolf? Or am I a wolf because I aggressively protect my family? Does it matter? 

           We as a species put too much importance on the labels themselves, and not enough on the characteristics they give us. I am a person, a wolf, a writer, a sister, a daughter, a friend. What I am doesn’t matter. What matters is who I am, and what I do with what I have.

            I am Me. And when I see the moon, I feel an inexplicable longing in me, and an insatiable urge to speak to her. I am who I am.


[1] From The Wild Rockies Alliance’s “The Eradication of the Wolf. Although to be honest most of this stuff I’ve known for so long I couldn’t put a citation on it. [2] In the words of my father: “You couldn’t walk, you couldn’t talk, you just—GRRRR!!”[3] “Wolves don’t eat grass, Rachael. Wolves are carnivores.”[4] “Of course you can’t eat the grass, Melissa,” I’d scoffed, “that’s disgusting.”