Howling at Wolves

A four-year-old on a snowshoe hike after bedtime? What could go wrong?

I didn’t really think it through when we signed up for the Wolf Howl Hike at Alfred Hole Goose Sanctuary last week. After work and school we drove out into the growing darkness in the Whiteshell, met up with a small group of fellow headlamp-wearing families, strapped on snowshoes, and trekked out into the unknown.

At our first stop I suddenly realized, we were actually going to be howling. Like a little wolf choir. Trying to summon a response for the elusive canines roaming the woods at night.

Fortunately we got quality instruction on howling (there’s a technique, you know), and more fortunately, were asked to turn off our headlamps during the call pattern. I preferred not to have to catch the gaze of a stranger mid-howl.

On this particular night, despite the quality of our howling and the straining of our ears into the night, the wolves decided not to respond. But we had an experience we would not forget.

Talking to animals

Our guide concluded our hike with the following quote, which one of my daughters would recite back to me days later:

“One thing to remember is to talk to the animals. If you do, they will talk back to you. But if you don’t talk to the animals, they won’t talk back to you, then you won’t understand, and when you don’t understand you will fear, and when you fear you will destroy the animals, and if you destroy the animals, you will destroy yourself.”

– Chief Dan George

Destroying something I don’t understand… this idea lingered in the air throughout the last week.

Doctors prescribe the “fix” before listening to the condition. Naive web designers bring a solution before truly understanding the problem. We judge people or give free advice before listening to their perspective.

Do we fear the silence space in between asking the question and hearing the answer?

“What they don’t understand, they destroy.”

– Julie Berry

I don’t often talk to animals. But I wonder if there’s something deeper going on inside when you hike out into the unknown to howl at the stars, and listen for a reply.