Anyone who has read Seldom Come By might get the sense that wolves have a special place in my heart.
Some of my readers have asked how that came to be, given I grew up in rural Queensland, where the closest thing to a wolf was a TV cartoon series called: Cattanooga Cats. Do you know it? It featured a skit called: “It’s the Wolf” better known as “It’s the wool-uff!” For some reason, we – my parents included – had a fascination with this program. I loved the rock star cats; my elder bother, Greg, loved Motormouse and Autocat; and my sister, with her blonde curly hair, was nicknamed, Lambsy, after the frightened yet artful lamb forever chased by the wool-uff. The moniker stayed with her for 10 years.
There were no wolves on the sloping hills of Cedar Pocket that’s for sure. But there were rare sightings of red foxes. And whenever there were, my father would speak about them in gleeful tones: “Hello Mr Foxy Loxy.” As if they were long lost friends. His sister had married a man named Len Fox, so perhaps each time he saw them they reminded him of them. Who knows?
Even though European red foxes were an introduced species to this country they were relatively harmless to stock unless starvation or bravado forced them to raid your chicken coop. But mostly the sighting of a fox was a privilege – like the sighting of an iceberg for one Rebecca Crowe.
Many years later when I lived in Sydney I spent countless weekends in the Blue Mountains, rock-climbing, canyoning, bushwalking or horseriding in the Megalong Valley. One late September afternoon when I was horseriding by myself I came across a vixen and her cubs in a paddock that was dry and over grown with pale tussock grass. She stared at me, sizing me up, knowing instantly I was no threat to her or her young. Still, she decided to veer wide, but rather than duck under the barb-wired fence to make a quick escape, she nimbly climbed up the wooden fence post, perched ever so briefly atop to glance my way before bounding off. I loved that about her: her telling me she was leaving, not sneaking away and that her leaving was on her terms.
A few months after this encounter, I travelled to Sweden, where my partner’s brother and his wife lived about 90 minutes from Gothenburg. It was late January and each morning and afternoon we would crunch through tamped snow as we traipsed through hushed forests of spruce and birch. There, large elk roamed, carefree. So peaceful, so right, so at one with humanity.
In some things, LIKES absolutely attract LIKES. And I have been very fortunate in my life to share the communion of nature with other like-minded souls; to witness, in awe and celebration, the marvels of the animal kingdom.
Leaving Hils and Katsi was bittersweet. Ahead of us was the multi-isled city of Stockholm, with its Vasa Musuem, its Gamla Stan and its Skansen Zoo. It was there I came face to face with my first-ever wolf.
On a cool still morning I stood in front of a woven wire fence and stared at a grey Nordic wolf for so long that the fence disappeared. This wolf’s eyes were like none I had ever seen – not in a human or an animal.
Full of aquamarines and emeralds. Full of life, intrigrue and trust.
I can’t tell you how long I stood there staring at this wolf staring at me. I did not want to move. Neither did she.
That wolf made its way into Seldom Come By.
And so I wanted to share with you this amazing four-minute movie of the wolves of Yellowstone National Park. So you can see why I love wolves.