I hear the wolves while I’m working alone in our log cabin.
I have never heard wild wolves before but I am in no doubt about who it is calling outside in the snowy valley.
Wolves are, obviously, far more exciting, than work. This is a once in a lifetime moment, so, it is simply not an option to go stay inside. I stand on the verandah, and wrap my cardigan around me, shivering with cold and excitement.
It is surprisingly easy to track their progress – not just from the howling. The still air is full of them, alive, as if they have a static presence. They’re travelling towards me, along the river which runs just a few hundred yards from our house.
Normal dogs, in a cabin further down river, become apoplectic. Suddenly, their best ‘guard dog’ barks seem a bit pointless, spiky rather than intimidating, and, I would imagine, rather irritating to a wolf.
A group of three Canada Geese fly up from the river, honking in tuneless alarm, as they arrange themselves into the correct flying formation.
Two paddocks away, in the branches of a grey green Aspen tree, crows and magpies gather together in a large group. They caw loudly and peer in the direction of the river. I have never seen them gather together like that. But I have heard that they will follow a wolf pack in the vague hope of snatching a piece of offal from a kill. Does that mean the wolves are hunting. Oh why can’t I see what they can see from the top of that tree?
The wolves howl again, closer now. A moment later, comes a reply, from way over the forested hill. A single howl. A lonesome wolf?
The call is so low in pitch that somehow it fills my heart, swilling around inside, like thick red wine in an empty decanter.
Humans can only howl like that when it comes from deep inside our hearts. I know it I have done it – only once, with the dog – funny, yet sad at the same time.
I rush upstairs to press my eyes into binoculars at the windows, nothing. Back down to ground level and I peer between our neighbours house and the trees, still nothing. Upstairs again, two at a time, to squint at the hills rising from the river. I can’t see one wolf but I can hear they are really close.
So, I return to the deck and just listen, after all that is where the magic is. I don’t need to see them, I can imagine what they are doing, they are travelling away from me now, running swiftly through the valley, towards the forested hill. They are organising each other, making a plan, planning to meet. The sounds begin to lose volume.
Perhaps I should return inside, carry on with the writing I am working on – do what the wolves are doing, just get on with it. After all, you never catch a bunch of wolves sitting around in the woods procrastinating.
When I next stand outside, twenty minutes later, the wolves are gone, I know it, not just because their sounds are gone but because I can feel it in the air. Every other creature is quiet, the air is quite clear – their static gone.