Shaun White's Wolves
The wolves began howling during the women's downhill. Right after Lindsey Vonn won my husband let the dogs out and said to mute the TV and come stand by the door. Across the Chilkat River a whole pack was crying and howling. Although howl is not an adequate word. The longer we listened the more the wolf voices sang with a kind of chorus of lament and yearning, except that every now and then one yodeled with a crazy joy. The pitches, range, and tones reminded me of brass horns in a Charles Mingus inspired piece.
By the time Shaun White was sailing down and back up that half pipe, our neighbor Greg, who has a small farm, called to ask if we heard the wolves, and if so, how close were they? It sounded like they were in our backyard. And in a way they were. Three miles of tide flats separated us from the wolf pack at the base of the mountains on the opposite shore. My husband assured Greg they were a safe distance across the inlet by Pyramid Harbor. If you saw Olympic snowboarder Seth Wescott's "up close and personal" or whatever they call those feature segments on the athletes these days, then you might recognize the place the wolves had gathered. Wescott was filmed snowboarding on the ridge high above that harbor, with the nearby Pyramid Island, which it is named for, in the background. In the voice-over, he said being able to ride in wilderness mountains like ours is why he loves his sport.
I thought about that, as we watched Shaun White sail and roll in our living room while we listened to the wolf chorus complete their vocal acrobatics in the dark foothills beyond the lights of our windows. Shaun had already won the gold when he completed that last run, spinning and twirling for pure joy, as his heart carried him someplace only he has been before. When he finally dropped back to earth and chattered to a stop, the show was over and it was time to turn off the TV for the night. I opened the bedroom window, hoping to hear the wolves before I fell asleep, but they too had stopped their singing. I do know this, that there is a spirit in the winter mountains that makes some wolves sing and some boys to fly. Last night it gave me the the good kind of chills.