I wanted to do something special with my parents while they were here so I went web surfing looking for activities for us. I considered snowshoeing at Glacier National Park, or visiting a hot springs I hadn't been to yet. But then I discovered something that I absolutely couldn't resist. Wolfkeep. The Wolfkeep Wildlife Sanctuary is dedicated to the preservation of the wolf and the study of wolf behavior. Their mission is to educate the public about the wolf and its place in the ecosystem.
Now, the wolf is a subject that carries a lot of emotion in these parts. The environmentalists love them, the ranchers hate them and even though there are only a little over 300 wolves in Montana today, the delisting debate continues. The gray wolf was extirpated (that means to remove or destroy something completely) from the western United States during the 1900s, primarily due to loss of habitat and conflicts with people. Wolves as a self-sustaining, breeding population were probably extinct in Montana by the 1930's.
Since moving to Montana I've had the unique opportunity to see grizzlies, black bears, moose, eagles, hawks, even a bobcat once. But I've never seen a wolf in the wild and it's not likely I will so I jumped at the chance to at least see them in a natural setting.
My mother and I have an affinity for wolves, sharing books about them: The Ninemile Wolves by Rick Bass and Shadow Mountain by Renee' Askins are a couple we have enjoyed reading. Even though they're pack animals, there's something lonely about the wolf. Their eyes hint at something longed for but never found and yet their search goes on. Their midnight howl is the music of this ache, this longing. When I watched the wolves at Wolfkeep I felt that longing in my own soul and I think my mother feels it to. It connects us to these animals and it connects us to each other. And sometimes that's as close as we'll get to understanding another person, or a wild creature, or the nature of the universe.
I leave you with a quote from Clarissa Pinkola Este's' book, Women Who Run With The Wolves:
We are filled with a longing for the wild. There are few culturally sancetioned antidotes for this yearning. We were taught to feel shame for such a desire. We grew our hair long and used it to hide our feelings. But the shadow of the Wild Woman still lurks behind us during our days and in our nights. No matter where we are, the shadow that trots behind us is definitely four-footed.
I love you, mom.