By Twilight Stray
I wake up in the morning and the thick ruff of hair behind my ears doesn’t feel quite the way it should. Thick enough, of course, but far too long and not rooted in the right places. Being a wolf is something about flesh, something about being made of dirt and sinew and just enough starlight to put a glitter in your eyes.
Wolves don’t care about all the accoutrements- my collar and the pictures that adorn my walls are all wolf in translation- wolf coming through a human sieve. There is a dusty bookshelf I frequent on the top floor of our haunted library, somewhere between eating disorders and ecology. It’s where lupine behaviorism is lettered and numbered like an undisplayed specimen in the forgotten maze of a natural history museum. But that isn’t where I find wolf. Wolf is in my body- the way my shoulder blades push against the skin of my back as if they want to break through.
Sometimes it’s the way I notice the movement of a squirrel leaping in arcs across a field hundreds of yards away, tail trailing behind like the ribbon of some hyperactive interpretive dancer. But I don’t notice the large SUV whose way I’m impeding until it’s honking at me and I find myself in a crouch, lips pulled tight in a snarl at the bug-stained grill that takes up most of my vision. In situations like that, I always end up standing quickly and asserting a neutral expression, my cheeks reddening in embarassment. Snarls and other normal expresson tend to look goofy on a human face, so I control them. Some thing are embarassing when put through a human filter. Some things that begin in the human core don’t translate well through a wolf filter. In any event, I don’t trust roads, and stay away from them- the dirt and noise are enough to spook me, but when I’m on them it’s a different story- I’m looking to grass.
Wolf isn’t in the past, or in the three hours from now- nonlinear time is something rooted deep in me, and watches are only for being an annoyance around my wrist and a way to placate my surface human mind. The urge I have to dissect, to chop time and language and mannerisms into peices and put them in neatly labeled boxes is all too human. It’s very immediate to be a wolf.
Yes, I do know you by your scent, and I like it that way. The toxic smell of too much deodorant or perfume will make me shy from you more than sweat will. I pay attention to my nose more- my eyes have never been good, even with contact lenses, and there is so much you miss if you ignore scent. My hearing is geared towards the squabbling chickadees in a nearby tree, or the subtle scratching of the ever present squirrels- I still can’t decide if that are my nemesis or not.
I remember an old squirrel who came up to sniff both my shoes in turn and then sat back on his haunches to look up at my face, as if confused about the information he was getting. He sat like an old man taking in the sunlight, crouched by my left foot, taking in the air. I think I like squirrels for that. I remember the one squirrel I buried. I found it stiff below a tree, blood crusted around her mouth. Some boys threw her in a trashcan, but I fished her out later and buried her by the science center. Wolves know that things are better when you bury them.
Sometimes I think in pictures and don’t feel the need to puzzle together words and phrases. Organic thoughts can’t be written in lines- language is not a sense, and that’s how the memories on the lupine side of my brain manifest. And the wolf in me knows that the more I see the wolf, the more I see the human, and they are one and the same. My instincts are all wolf, and all human-who-is-a-wolf. Beyond the forums and the essays and the soul-searching between classes, there is a girl who is a wolf, and she keeps things simple. Simple as rainwater and spider webs, simple as scratching that itch where your ears should be. Simple as nosing around at bones and howling because it works. It’s something as ancient as pictures on cave walls and drumming around fires. It’s smoke and soot between my paws, between my fingers, and often that’s the same thing.