Wolves have fascinated me and I have been captivated by their wildness and beauty for as long as I can remember.
When the opportunity to meet some arose, I jumped at it.
We were staying in Svolvær, in the Lofoten Islands in Northern Norway and had a 4 hour drive to Polar Park, which is near Bardu, about and hour north of Narvik. The drive was beautiful, as is anywhere in Norway and as we got closer to the park the snowier and icier it got. There was no snow on the roads but we drove through snow covered mountains, snow next to the roads and frozen lakes. For these two Australian women, this Norwegian summer was a bit laughable.
Arriving at and exploring the park felt like we were in an arctic Jurassic Park. It was in the middle of no where amongst snow capped mountains with acres and acres of land. The enclosures were large and had these high fences, just like in Jurassic Park.
We were given instructions on how to explore the park before our arranged Wolf Visit. The wolf enclosures where pointed at and the one we would be going into was highlighted. You see, wolves remember you and we needed to make a good impression or they may simply ignore us when we met then, because they call the shots. So, no loud noises, no laughing loudly (this might prove difficult for us) and just generally no mucking around. We didn’t see the wolves that we were going to meet later but we saw some others and we had to stifle our squeals of joy – because, holy shit there were magnificent.
When it was time, we met the handlers we’d be going in with and listened to the strict instructions on how to act around the wolves and what to do and when. These were ‘socialised’ wolves, but first and foremost: they were wolves.
The five of them greeted us at the gate and we noticed the handlers weren’t exaggerating, they looked totally happy to see us. We were led to the meeting spot in single file and this is where we all kneeled down and would get to finally meet them if they allowed that. I was the furthest away from them and they approached me last, coming up to Malina and the other person in the tour and greeting their handlers first. One of the first things that struck me about them when I saw them interact, was how much they loved their handlers as much as you see any domesticated dog loves its human parents. They looked just as excited to see them, cuddled, licked and muzzled just the same, and obviously shared the same love.
I dont think I’ll ever be able to articulate just how it felt when one of the wolves (I think it was Freya) came to me for the first time.
It was powerfully overwhelming.
I felt an instant love.
You know that feeling you get when something is so beautiful that its overwhelming. You feel love in every atom of your being and every part of you is in complete gratitude that you, this mere human, gets to bear witness to something this magnificent.
This is how it felt.
And I’ll be totally honest too, part of me was scared as well. I mean, holy fffffing shit that’s a wolf. A goddamn wolf. And there was another four of them.
With a quivering hand, I reached out and touched it’s back and nervously started stroking her fur. Fur that suprisingly felt rough kinda like brush brissles. She stopped, craned her head towards the sky a little and half closed her eyes like she ws enjoying it. Then she left, and a few others came over – more pats and licks while Malina and I exchanged these “holy shit is this really happening” looks. Then one of the wolves started muzzling me a little more than usual. Started rubbing its glorious head on my lap and then rolling it’s head, shoulders and upper back over my lap. Then two more wolves joined in and started muzzling me and rubbing up against me til I was literally in the middle of a wolf group hug. It was amazing and a little terrifying all at the same time. The Handler informed me that they must like my smell and that’s why they are getting so fresh with me. Ahh trusty essential oils, now wolf approved.
But then they started getting a little too fresh, nibbling on my clothes and almost knocking me over with their rough muzzling so the male handler who was quite tall and broad came over and gently started plying them off me and putting himself between me and them to disrupt the shenanigans. Probably for the best hey?
We were then led to another spot, further into the enclosure up on a hill with 360 views of the snow covered mountains around us. We got more muzzling, cuddling and patting time up there before the wolves seemed to get a bit tired and all started to ly down for a bit of a rest – four of them making an almost perfect row between Malina and the other participant. Then the handlers announced that they were going to encourage the wolves to howl for us – Malina and I gave eachother one those holy shit looks again.
One by one the wolves started howling.
Singing such beautiful songs.
“Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!”
It felt so primal, so wild.
I felt things I dont have the words for and the tears flowed a little. It was so completely humbling watching the shape of their bodies with their heads pointed upwards, contrasted against the snowy hills and hearing them literally howling at the heavens. I had to laugh though. Freya, had decided that she was too tired to get up was lying down still with only her head held up while she howled too. It was like she though “hmm I could get up, orrrr I could just stay lying down and also howl = win/win”. Sometimes we can all relate to Freya.
Leaving the enclosure, the wolves all followed us up to the gate to say goodbye and I can only equate the feeling of walking away from them to watching someone you love get on a plane and fly miles and miles away from you. Those furry, glorious creatures had gotten into my heart and werent going to leave. I still feel their energy with me now, and its kinda funny to say (or write) outloud that I felt like I joined a club that day. Or a more apropriately, a pack. And sometimes when I’m not feeling very brave all I have to do I remember that their impression is still with me. That meeting them helped me tear off another layer from myself and I cant go revert to who I was pre-wolf. I was braver and stronger now.
I miss them though.
As we walked away from the enclosure, Malina said to me “that was actually a bit emotional, hey?”