26 November 2012

The Wolf and the Voice

A wolf sat resting in the illuminating beams of a bright moon. It was the most peaceful moment in the young wolf’s life. Everything was at ease, at peace. There was no fear or rush. As he sat there, his eyes began to grow heavy and his head to slouch down on his paws that he gently stretched out in front of him. What a grin slowly stretched out on his face. A single deep sign escaped from him into the night air. Just when he was about to tiptoe into dreams hard-earned during a day’s work, he heard a howling. For a wolf, hearing howling is not particularly unusual. This howl was not the sound of anyone he recognized though, certainly not anyone in his pack, and it sounded different in a way that he could not fully perceive.

Heart pounding and mind in a haze of panic, he sprang to all fours ready to pounce if an assailant presented himself. His whole body was on edge, filled with adrenaline and suspense. But, everything was normal; there was not even the faintest indication that there was anyone around, certainly no danger lurking nearby.
There were no cries from anyone else in the pack to indicate that anything was happening. Trusting the pack and their ability to sense danger, he shrugged it off as an imaginary sound, probably a dream. Reclining once more on the rock where he was a seated king, reigning above a valley that stretched out far into the distance and eventually losing itself in the dark, he resumed rather quickly his previously at-ease state of mind. Before a few minutes passed, he found himself once more knocking on the door to his dreams. Just before he stepped though the doors, he heard the call again. The same howling uncharacterizeable voice.

Again, he sprang to all fours crouching and ready to attack whoever was assaulting the peace and the calm. Hearing the howl but once could have been a dream, but twice, now he was sure there was someone or someone out there. Whispering under his breath, he inquired of the night, “where are you?” It had been a rhetorical question, neither warranting nor expecting a reply, yet that is just what he heard.

The reply came from all around, seeming to emanate not from a source but from everywhere around, perhaps even the rocks beneath him. The reply was spoken by a voice as unfamiliar as the howl and had been. It rang out in a mocking tone that evoked anger in the young wolf. It said, “I’m surprised that with all your howling and prowling and sense of hunting that I was able to catch you so off-guard. Are you new to being a wolf?” Shooting searching, frantic glances every which way, the young wolf could not catch even a glimpse of the  voice’s owner.

Half from fear, half from anger, he intended to rend in two whoever dared speak to him in such tones at such hours. “Show yourself, and I’ll show you the reward for your insolence!” he shouted at the top of his voice. Several long moments of silence rife with tension passed, and the young wolf spoke out again, “Well? Are you afraid to show yourself?,” but before he could finish speaking, his sentence was cut short by a query from behind him. This time the voice came from a familiar face. “What has gotten into you?! It’s nearly the end of night. Have you gone mad?” It was the young wolf’s mentor and the pack leader, strong and fearless, cunning and crafty, and no one to antagonize at any hour, especially not at the end of a long night of hunting.
The young wolf replied in fearful humility, “I’m sorry sir, I had a terrible dream,” pausing to invent the latter half of the lie, “I was confronting the fear, rooting it out of me like you taught me to.” The lie was an appealing one, playing in tune with the ears of the pack leader and his ego very pleasingly. “Well, I laude you for your loyalty and commitment to becoming a warrior, but keep it down.” With that he turned and left the young wolf alone once more.

An unsettling nervousness eventuated itself among the many folds of silence that now ruled the night air in the quite of the pack leader’s voice. Separated from the rest of the pack, he felt the urge to seek the security he knew he could find in the pack’s numbers, but realizing the urge was born of fear he shamed himself from taking any action on the fear. “I’m a wolf,” he growled, “Wolves don’t cringe in fear or cling to one another when an enemy even as strong as a bear attacks. We are strong individually and together invincible. I won’t budge. I won’t move, not an inch from this rock,” he uttered the whole pep-talk in a passionate, but markedly hushed voice to himself.

No sooner did he speak the thought than the voice spoke yet again. This time hearing the voice, being wide awake and on edge, the young wolf shrieked piteously a muffled shriek. “That is a good self-talk you gave yourself, better than some coaches I know. Am I all that scary. There, there, don’t fret yourself little wolf.”
Snarling in a burning rage, the young wolf combusted into a frenzy of rage. Leaping into the air, he attacked every direction. After a few desperate minutes of exhausting, aimless attacks his strength crumpled beneath him.

There he sat, unable to do more than rest on his haunches. He was still very much a pup, resting on the transient line between adulthood and childhood. He wanted the comfort—the consolation of his parents—the assurance of their strength. But equally he wanted to feel the wind beneath his wings, to lift himself from dependence and to feel the excitement of independence.
“Little wolf is tired. Doesn’t know what to do.” The voice spoke again. Leveling out, the young wolf thought to ask for answers instead of war. “What do you want?”
“What do I want? What do I want! Just to have a little fun, that’s all.”
“This isn’t fun—not for me.”
“Why not? Too old to play?”
“I’m a wolf. I am a warrior. I don’t have time for games. If you want to fight me, then fight me. If you want to play games, go elsewhere.”
The young wolf was surprised to hear the confidence in his own voice. To hear the stability and strength in his voice, a voice no longer fearful, no longer weak, but that of a wolf. The voice, too, seemed taken back and a pause followed.
“You speak as though you control what I say and do. I can do whatever I want.” The voice had taken on a different quality than before. It spoke similar words, but lacked the sense of command that it had.
“You are afraid to even show yourself. If you were as mighty as you try to seem, you would have shown yourself before now. Only those with a need to hide take refuge in doing so,” the wolf again said with command and courage.
Another pause fragmented time before the voice answered. “Look up.” Looking up, the young wolf saw nothing.
“What is this, are you trying to distract me?”
“No. Look up. I’m in the sky.”
Looking up, the young wolf saw no one. The moon, the stars, that was all that there was above.
“I don’t see you.”
“Oh, but you do. I’m the moon.” Startled by the statement, the young wolf focused his keen eyes fully on the moon.
The moon spoke once more, “It’s my job to teach you to howl. Most wolves naturally learn to howl by just seeing me, but I saw you struggling and wanted to help. No one but you can hear me, but I’m real.”
The young wolf looked at the ground in shame, “I try to, but I can’t. I can’t howl. All my brothers and sisters can, but not me.”
“Yes you can!,” said the moon with a tone strangely encouraging.
“How?”
“Do what I do. Many years ago, I taught the first wolf to howl. There is something in the heart of wolves. Every wolf must learn to howl or an emptiness will consume their courage. A wolf gets strength from howling.”
“Why are you doing this. Why were you mocking me earlier?”
“I was testing to see if you are ready to become a wolf. I now know you are.”
The moon then let out a simple howl. The young wolf tried to follow the moon’s example, but let out a soft yelp instead.
“Try again.”
The young wolf tried again with little improvement.
“I don’t understand. What is wrong with me?”
“Nothing is wrong with you. In fact, it is weakness that drives a wolf to howl. They don’t really understand why they howl, but there is an emptiness inside them. When they see me, they just naturally cry out. There was a time when wolves knew that one of my jobs is to help wolves with their emptiness. That was so very long ago. Over time, wolves have forgotten why they howl at all. It has just become part of their identity. You see, you are different than the rest though, you are stronger than others.”
“If I am so strong why can’t I do something as simple as howl?”
“You are strong enough to get-by without howling. But if you ever want to be everything you should be, you must learn to howl. Now try again. It comes from your heart though. Not your throat. Feel it deep within, there is something missing. Cry out the loneliness you feel for the thing that is missing, what you must become.”
Closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, it suddenly made sense.
*              *              *
Years later, the young wolf, older now, remembers that night each day. When he leads the pack through a battle, it’s a source of strength. In time, the moon and the wolf became close friends. 

Sociable

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