On Tuesday it was rainy, cold and a wind whipped up the waves of my emotions as I traveled down highway 416 towards Brockville. My feelings waxed and waned from intense to nonexistent. Was this a hormone day or was I hiding from my fear of losing my dad? Visits these days are both joyful and hard. I bask in the bounty of my lineage, my home, and my family but I also must face the hard facts: the uncertainty and finiteness of life.
I had begun the morning in front my sacred objects. I asked if any would be willing to help support my dad’s failing health. Immediately the wolf necklace caught my eye. Not questioning the quick response, I picked it up to bring with me.
As I drove along the highway I listened to my thoughts sorting themselves out, organizing and contemplating. Suddenly I saw a wolf running through the woods –he raced across the left two lanes and into the ditch. Quickly I looked in my rear view mirror to see how much traffic there was and slowed down, forcing cars behind to do the same. He stumbled in the ditch but kept going, now crossing in front of my car. His tail shot out straight behind him. He briefly looked over his shoulder before disappearing into the bush.
It all took about twenty seconds. He was safe – that’s what mattered. No accidents – no one skidded. Only then did I realize it was a wolf and how rare it was to see one out in the open. The necklace came to mind and I thought, “Yes, I must give the necklace to my dad.” The wolf is reminding me.
The spirit of the wolf epitomizes family and teacher in earth-based instruction. My dad is definitely an alpha male and a family man. When I was a little girl I followed him like a shadow. We ran the dogs, walked in the woods, went fishing and built cement retaining walls. He always had a little job to do, and we did it together. As I got a bit older, we went horseback riding together. Eventually I took on my own projects, and he would always say, “What are you building today?” One of the best attributes of a teacher is that they spend time with you. They show by doing and are there to answer questions. They also let you grow and experiment while keeping a quiet presence in the background.
My dad is an elder, a teacher, a hunter and a family man. Family is happiness, playful, and a responsibility he takes seriously. He picked up that bundle at eighteen when the second of his two fathers died. He became the only male provider for his mother and sister.
In his life he also spent a lot of time in nature: sitting waiting for a deer to offer itself or seeking just the right kind of bait for the right fishing spot in the right season. I asked him recently what mom did while he was frogging or moon fishing, and he replied, “She was making dresses for you girls.” Each one of them was busy contributing to the family in his or her own way.
My dad is also a storyteller. These days I ask for stories as often as he’ll tell them –as if an hourglass is running out and I only have so much time. When I was younger, I dreaded hearing the phrase “did I ever tell you about the time ..?” Now, I can’t get enough. My dad was such a good storyteller that he won a “bull” award several years in a row. A group at his work, called the Liar’s Club, had a yearly competition. A member from each department was selected to tell a whopper and the best whopper won. The trophy was a brass statue of a bull. It sat on our television set for about four years in a row. I wonder if my mother got tired of dusting it.
Sometimes I think that storytelling is in my blood, and sometimes I think it’s just a way of letting out steam or clutter. It doesn’t matter either way – it just is.
I gave my dad the necklace, and told him about the wolf crossing the highway. He thinks it must have been scared out of the forest by hunters and panicked. In any event he took the necklace and put it on. Some part of him recognized the wolf’s presence. It looked good on him – one alpha male to another.
One thing about wolves – they really love their children, and although things were not always easy for us, I feel blessed, truly blessed to be in my pack. The wolf is walking – walking with my dad -- and the presence of teacher surrounds us.