CANINE COMPANION

Comforting dream about wolf preceded surreal live encounter

“… So I take a few steps to the side to get a better look, and sure enough, a wolf is standing there looking back at me.”

Story and photo by Jude Holloway
I have been walking this road and its surrounding woods and fields for some 42 years now. It’s been my home stomping grounds. I’ve walked it in many moods, both its and mine. The area has always been a spiritual sanctuary for me, especially the fields. They have absorbed a lot of both my tears and joys. Their skies have blanketed me with comfort and wonder. Their ground has been soft to my steps and a cushion to my body when I have collapsed from the weight of life and death. The small groves of trees within them have given me shelter and have been my spiritual elders. They have been a gateway for me into spiritual realms few have ever known. These fields have been my go-to place. Often, I find comfort and healing here.
These past months have been a very intense time. All around me, many of the people I love most are going through very tough life and death experiences. And I am very affected by them. My two brothers out in Oregon are waiting impatiently for a liver donation. My sister and her husband have been in and out of hospitals and operating rooms. My dad’s health is failing. My daughter and her children have been walking with her husband to his death. And I’m searching to fill the hole left in my life by my own husband’s passing. So much. So intense. My brain is working overtime tying to accept all these facets of life on planet Earth and trying to know how to bring peace into them.
So, I go to the field.
I leave my car behind and start walking down the two track into the woods. It is a kaleidoscope of fiery colors—reds, oranges and yellows drawing my gaze from one tree to another. This road is so familiar and yet never the same. My eyes drink in all the colors, and my head swirls with all the smells. I become intoxicated with nature’s perfumes. I feel numb. I have no sense of my body. I am propelled along by sights and smells. No thoughts. No sounds. Just the color-lined dirt road drawing me forward on this misty day.
As I emerge from the woods and step into the vast openness of the field, all the colors go dim and soft. The excitement of the colorful road is behind me. Ahead all is muted in a dreamy mist and intense silence. I stop and let my brain switch gears. The bold clarity of the day has changed. In just those few steps out from the woods, I’ve entered a whole new atmosphere. Instead of the sky opening over me, it gently lays on top of me, pressing me to the earth. Far across the field, the trees—though dressed in bright fall colors—stand quiet within a haze. Still, with no particular thought, I walk on. My rubber boots press softly into the moist sand road. I see tracks. They are either from a very large coyote or a wolf. I lay my hand down on one of the tracks, and it is more than four knuckles wide. This is the way I measure; two to three knuckles are coyote. Four or more knuckles are wolf. We often share this field, and once, I even got to see one rise up from sitting and walk over and disappear into the woods. Mostly, we just see each other’s tracks.
Today, I decide to walk to the small pond and wetland beyond the field and trees. A few ducks flush just as I approach the water’s edge. It is so peaceful and serene back here. After a while, I make my way back through the trees to the edge of the field. There are several bare clumps of bushes in the field nearby. Oftentimes I find birds hiding in them. So I focus on a couple to see what might be hiding. I don’t see birds. But in the one closest to me, I have to squint to see if my eyes are deceiving me. Am I seeing what I think I’m seeing? There is a huge wide face with ears coming into focus behind the bush. I think to myself, this can’t be real. It can’t just appear out of nowhere. So I take a few steps to the side to get a better look, and sure enough, a wolf is standing there looking back at me.
My mind starts swirling. What is he doing there? What is he thinking? Why isn’t he running away, or at least backing away into the field? But no. He just stands there looking at me looking at him. I’m not sure what to do. If I move, will he run? Or will he feel threatened and become aggressive? He is so close. We stand, kind of analyzing each other for what seems like an awful long time. Then, the thought occurs to me that, though I hadn’t been aware of his presence and approach, he had to have known for a while about me being out there. It was probably he who had approached me. Why?
Earlier this morning, I had woken from a dream of a wolf. Normally, my dreams evaporate within a minute or two of my waking. But not this one. I don’t remember a lot about the dream except that I was confronted by a wolf. In my dream, my first reaction was to fear it. But then the wolf came over to where I was sitting on the ground and laid next to me. He put his head on my thigh, and I began reluctantly to pet him. When I started rubbing his ears, I found myself comforted by the soft and silky feel of them. I hadn’t thought of it until just now, how the feel of hair has always comforted me—whether twisting my own or running my fingers through my daughters’. I don’t know why it is, but there is just something about it that soothes and comforts me. I know I am not alone in this. Anyway, stroking this wolf calmed my fears. And I knew, somehow, that this was something he was offering, and he was comforted by it, too. Like making peace. So as I woke from what started out feeling like a scary dream, I instead woke peaceful and relaxed and somehow reconciled to something that I had been afraid of.
So here I am now, hours later, going for a walk and finding myself confronted by a real wolf in the middle of nowhere, with no one around. Just me and him. The whole scene seems surreal. Am I hallucinating? Had I fallen asleep somewhere and started dreaming? Yes, I’ve seen wolves before in the woods and actually in this very field before. But they were all at a distance, and they’d always left upon seeing me. This guy doesn’t seem to have any intentions of leaving quickly, though I keep thinking any moment now he will and I will have a story of a close encounter to tell. The way he looks at me and his posture seem so relaxed. He makes no jerky motions or any signs of aggression or fear. It is almost like he is waiting for me to say something. So, finally, I do.
I have my camera in my jacket pocket. I ask him, “Can I take your picture?” I think I want proof that he and this are real. He gives no response to my voice. I am hesitant to make a move, but I take his silence as an “okay,” take out my camera and hit the on button. I wonder if the sound of it will spook him. It doesn’t. He doesn’t so much as flinch. I raise the camera and quickly snap a couple photos. I don’t feel comfortable looking at him through a camera, though, so I quickly tuck it back into my pocket. I want to make sure I am very aware of him and everything around us. That’s when it dawns on me, and so I ask him as I glance around the field, “Are you alone?” I don’t see any others. All I see is the openness of this big field muted by the moisture in the air and the colorful tree lines far in the distance. Then the reality of the situation comes to me. I am totally vulnerable and defenseless. I can’t say I am scared. But I am acutely aware of how volatile this situation is.
I don’t know how long we stand there, but at some point, I decide to start walking back to where I left my car, which is about a mile away through the woods beyond this field. I hardly take my eyes off him, nor he me, as I start walking. The ground is far from being smooth or level, so I do have to look where I am stepping. I glance at the ground and then back to him, curious to see what he will do. To my surprise, he starts walking too, in the same direction as me. I start talking to him. Mostly, I ask him what he is thinking. He just watches me as we walk. Most of the time, he keeps about 50 feet between us. But as we walk, several times he veers in closer, and I tell him, “Hey, you’re making me nervous. You need to back off.” And surprisingly, he does. We walk together for a half hour or more. I keep stopping every once in a while just to look at him. I cannot believe this is actually happening. When I walk, he walks. When I stop, he stops. He never walks ahead or behind me. He always walks with me. It is as though he is letting me know that he is giving me the lead in all this. I’m not really afraid, and neither is he. Although I am apprehensive and, when he gets too close, I do feel intimidated. But when I tell him that, he backs off, which reassures me it is okay.
At one point when he first got too close, I carefully reached down and picked up a soggy dead stick. It certainly would not have been any defense, as it would have broken with any impact. But I thought if he did decide to be aggressive, I could at least wave it around and try to seem formidable. But after seeing the look on his face and his demeanor after my having picked it up, I realized it was an unnecessary gesture, so I dropped it.
When we eventually get to where the field meets the wood, he stops. When I notice he has, I stop, too. We just stand looking at each other. I have quit questioning him and am just letting it be whatever it was. I take a couple more steps toward the wood, then stop and look back at him. He hasn’t moved. He just stands looking at me. I guess his escort and accompanying me is done. So I give him my last look, nod a couple times, and say, “Good-bye.”
I enter the thick woods. All the colors come back to brilliance being so close again now. I walk around the puddles and potholes dotting the road back. Some have floating or submerged leaves adorning them, and some mirror the reflections of the leaves still on the trees above. Every once in a while, I look into the woods beside me, wondering if the wolf is secretly still with me. But I never see him. And the only noise I hear is the mist dripping off the leaves and branches.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email

No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.