Guest Post: Sitting with the Wolves by Wayne Carter

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July 2000: On my way to a Sundance in southern Alberta, I see a red building on my right. Something about the building grabs my attention so intensely that I U-turn on the highway. I must explore what is there. The place is a wolf haven, and I spend time petting wolves through a chain link fence.

July 2000: I am giving a new friend from Alberta a ride back to Seattle. I talk about the place and the wolves. Wolf Haven was closed when we got there.  I am disappointed.

April 2008: I am on spring break from college and meeting a friend in Jackson Hole, Wyoming for a week. One day it is snowing, and we decide to drive out to the country, to watch the snow, share our stories from the past year, and sit in silence staring at the mountains across the way. On our left, we both see a lone wolf, trotting across the snow covered field. As we continue to watch, the wolf stops and stares at us for what seems like 20 minutes. We sit in silence watching back..

April 2015: I am in Yellowstone National Park. Along with lots of snow from a fresh spring storm, I see wolves ‘being’ themselves in their environment. I watch, mouth open catching flies… Well if a fly could live in that temperature, I would have caught multiple. I am in awe of how natural the wolves seem.

June 2016:. I see a Facebook post from a friend and text her, saying  her radiance was showing in the picture and asking where the photo was taken. She responded with a location and shared a bit of the impact of her experience.

November 2016: I booked an hour at Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center, the place my friend had named.

December 31, 2016: It was 5 degrees when I arrived in the mountains, snow and ice on the ground, a clear blue sky and the sun was just starting to make its way over the nearest of the eastern mountains. As I walked up, I did not see any wolves, but could hear them howling in the distance and then the echo of the howl on the hills around me. Somewhat surreal to my experience, my mind started thinking of safety, along with flashes of horror movies and bloody bodies laying in the woods while being torn to shreds by wild animals.

Luckily for me, the walk was a short distance and a nice person greeted me, taking me out of the next Stephen King thriller my mind was creating. Of course there was the paperwork; just in case I was attacked. There were ferrets and a rooster running around greeting people; the building was warm and full of wolf items.

I listened to the staff say to me: the wolves are not dogs, do not hug them, grab their face and kiss them, or rough-house with them; they will react as if you are their size and power and that could be dangerous.

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The first pack: Once I sat down on the ground, face level with the first pack, everything disappeared that did not need to be in my world at that moment. I was fully present to every breath, movement, posture, nudge, or growl from each wolf and each gesture had its meaning. I was not cold or concerned for my safety.

I have to be honest. One thing concerned me, and that was how they greet each other, and that greeting would also include me. The process is the equivalent of a human handshake; the wolves greet each other by sticking their tongues into each others mouths, and trying to touch the tonsils.

It took me three tries before I would let a partially wild animal get that close, i.e tongue in the mouth close. First try, the Alpha male comes over, sniffs my hand and arm, then goes for the tongue action. I keep my lips together and kiss him on the cheek like I would a friend.

The wolf walked off. Being the kind wolf that he is, and with some luck, he came back about 5 minutes later and tried it again. Still, I could only part my lips a tiny bit, and did not let his tongue in. I then notice the wolf seem to make a sigh and sit just far enough away from me that I could not physically connect with him. A few minutes went by, and the same wolf gave me another chance. No other wolves had come close to me.

Internally, I agreed to go for it. I told myself, how bad could it be… maybe just some small raw animal parts, a piece of stick or bone stuck to his tongue, and the possibility of having part of my face taken off by sharp and giant teeth.

Luckily for me, none of that happened. In fact, the wolf’s tongue was not slimy, not gross, no after taste, and he was very gentle so as not to bang teeth. I thought to myself, I have kissed a few women with worse tasting tongues. Somewhere in the faraway distance, I could hear one of the two staff giving instructions, although I somewhat failed to follow them and was guided by intuition.

(Click galleries to enlarge photos.)

When meeting the second pack, I was told not to get down to the level of the alpha male, as he is known for trying to top everyone.

Remember the rules I spoke about earlier, I broke them all. The first thing I did was grab the alpha wolf by the face and kiss him. Then, when he pushed against me, I gave him a big hug and kissed him again. I played with him like I would a regular dog. Sometime after the hug, I could hear the staff telling me, ‘apparently you guys know each other’ and not to worry about being topped.

We, the alpha male and I, rubbed, nudged, and pushed a bit back and forth. Later he allowed me to rub his belly and front legs. That is when I about pissed my pants. The alpha male started growling at me and showing his teeth. I yanked my hands away from him so fast. Even if it were a rattlesnake, I would not have been bitten.

The Wolf and Wildlife Center staff chuckled and informed me, the wolf was letting me know he liked what I was doing. Still shaken a bit, I informed them, that when someone growls and shows their teeth, I typically stop the behavior and move away. I was then encouraged to start rubbing him again in the same way, and he growled and snarled the entire time. Once I understood his communication style, I felt less nervous. Still, it took me a few minutes to relax. Wolves have big teeth and deep growls…. Just saying!

For my last 25 minutes, I had the option of seeing wolf puppies or another pack of adults. Of course I chose puppies. I mean come on, who doesn’t want to see puppies. When we arrived, I found out these were 80-90 pound sister and brother puppies who were eight months old!

The moment I sat down with them, I had two playful wolf puppies kissing me in their traditional way, then stealing my Seahawks hat; by the way, stealing my hat means means the wolves are Seahawks fans…(wink). They then stole my hair tie by gently pulling it out of my hair with their teeth. They tried to try to take anything that was loose on my clothing.

The staff started to get nervous that they might tear my coat, or ruin something. I wasn’t nervous, I was laughing and loving the playfulness of youth, the exploration of boundaries and their trust of me. Here are two kids wanting to play. I chose to wear what I wore, and be involved with them. How could I then get upset? I couldn’t.

Sadly it was time to leave, and my time with these wonderfully loving creatures would be over for now. Once I exited the area and returned to my truck, I started the motor, put the truck in gear and noticed something. I had no energy to leave, to drive, or to converse with others. My mind and body were silent. I had no want. There was no internal voice on either shoulder talking to me. My experience was “I am”.

Once I returned to the world of fast moving cars, Starbucks, and snowy Colorado mountain roads, I realized how similar my experience was to the many times I have received Amma’s darshan (hug).

 

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Shared on Senior Salon and Lets Create a Fine Chain…

Is My Path Taking a Turn?

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My favorite joke, and the only one I ever remember, is: Q: Do you know how to make God laugh? A: Tell him your plans for your life.

I think that is so true. There have been many turns in my life that I would have never predicted. If someone had told me those changes were coming, I would have said they were crazy. The most notable example is my relationship with Amma

At the time I met her, I had described myself as being somewhere between an agnostic and an atheist for 20 years. In those days, even hearing the word God made me feel sick to my stomach. I was a very logical, head based person and had no interest in spirituality or spiritually minded people.

In 1989, a new friend told me there was a woman saint coming to Seattle soon and invited me to attend her programs. My mind said NO but what came out of my mouth was OK.

My whole life changed the night I met Amma. Six weeks later, I was at her New Hampshire retreat and six months later I was in India. I have gone to India 26 times since that first visit. I have had other life plans change in unexpected ways since then, but none were as remarkable as that one.

On May 31 of 2017, I “plan” to retire. That is the time of year that Amma begins her annual North American tour so I have “planned” to attend some of those programs and then go to Amritapuri from mid-August until mid-January. I don’t remember when I developed this “plan”, but I think it has been firmly ingrained in my mind since I was in India this time last year.

One day in August of this year, though, I woke up thinking that I wasn’t going to watch another tree in the lot behind my house die. Al,  my former husband, and I had bought that property in 1973. I sold it in the mid-80’s and it changed hands again about ten years later. When Seattle formed the Cheasty Greenbelt, that owner sold it to the city.

The property was originally beautiful but none of the subsequent owners did anything with it, so blackberries, ivy, morning glories and bamboo took over. Smothered by the invasive plants, many trees died.

After I had that early morning thought, I grabbed my shears and started to work. I enlisted my friend, Ramana, to help clear some of the land. While Ramana worked on the major clearing, I focused on freeing specific trees.

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I found so many beautiful and fascinating things on the land and know that there are many more buried under the remaining blackberries.

One day, it occurred to me that we could make this project a GreenFriends project. (GreenFriends is the environmental arm of Embracing the World, Amma’s network of humanitarian projects.) I called the people in our satsang who have coordinated our tree planting and habitat restoration work in the past. They were very interested in being involved. In October and November, they spent some time working on the lot with me.

We also talked with the Green Seattle Partnership about becoming one of their volunteer groups. In March, we will take the Green Seattle Partnership Forest Steward orientation. Once we do that, we will be able to host larger work parties.

Our project will be supervised by the Seattle Parks Department and the city will provide the saplings and other greenery that we will eventually plant there. The Park Department will do any work that requires power tools. If there is enough interest in the project, we may decide to clear all four lots that are in that strip of Greenbelt!

I feel a great deal of passion about this work and it has been on my mind since I’ve been in Amritapuri. Even before I left Seattle, it occurred to me that August and September would be prime time for working on that land and if I was in Amritapuri, I wouldn’t be available to organize the work.

I have an ever growing sense that I won’t be going to Amritapuri in August and that my path is taking a turn that gives working with nature more priority than spending extra time in India.

Starting last week, I found another thought creeping into my mind. I have kept close track of world events via CNN throughout this trip. I’m beginning to wonder if I will even make it to India next year. It seems like there is so much potential for war.

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My years with Amma have taught me a lot about staying in the moment and not holding on to  plans. They have also taught me that Amma will hold me close to her no matter what comes my way. I trust that my life will unfold as it is supposed to and acknowledge that I have no idea what that will look like. What I do expect is that I will be participating in at least part of the Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu chant for world peace that will be held in the Amritapuri temple from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on January 1.

Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu
May all beings in the world be happy.
Peace, Peace, Peace

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Path

To see all of the posts in this Amritapuri series, click here.

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Rara is one of my most favorite bloggers. She is so creative and her posts are unlike any others. I also love that she is so full of love and that she can go through the most difficult of situations and still “be” love.