Keeping the wolf at the door


01.02.16  When the Millers were here, John, our favorite biologist and naturalist, took walks in the woods to listen to the trees and study the signs of animals.  I’ve been curious about the canine tracks down to the water.  After the mountain lion lived with us for several days in the Fall, I had sent a photo of the tracks to John for identification.   He said they were canine, and since we are alone in the woods, and there are no wandering pets, it was his opinion that a coyote had taken a walk down to drink at the lake.

I had thought about wolves.  But, in looking at photos of their prints online, I saw that a large coyote’s print in the snow could be almost as big, but, the tell-tale imprint of wolf claws was missing from our simple footprints.  I didn’t tell him I’d considered a wolf.  But, yesterday at twilight, when the house was empty once again, I went for a walk in the silent woods.  For many days, we’ve been under a frigid inversion and it is absolutely still in the black and white world of the trees.  Big clumps of snow flock all the pines and bushes and tiny scattered snowflakes occasionally drifted slowly down from the cloud cover.   It was so quiet that all I could hear was the blood rushing in my ears.  So immense is this darkness and quiet and cold as we start a new year.  I thought about how, in January, if we are listening, one can be aware of the wolf at our door–whatever clothing that wolf might be wearing.  I could so feel its presence, out there in the dark, amidst the trees.  Perhaps our New Year’s house-cleaning and clearing, resolutions and intentions, are just ways in which we keep the wolf at bay.

It felt so good to be back on the inside of my front door with the golden lamp light and a crackling fire, and the smell of dinner on the gas stove.  I’m reading Northern Farm, A Chronicle of Maine, written by Henry Beston in the early 1930’s.  How wonderfully he writes about the beauty of hearing snow against glass–“that curious, fleecy pat and delicate whisper of touch which language cannot convey or scarce suggest.”  He talks about leaving a kerosene lantern, wick very low, burning all night long on his living room table, as he “puts the house to bed.”  Keeping the wolf at bay.

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