Welcome Shadows Pass: Autumn Equinox 2002
By Margaret Pettis
Painting juniper shadows as she rose, Moon entered the glowing sky she sent before her to dapple the jumble of canyons and creek beds running off the west face of the Bear River Range. I stood with four quarter horses who nuzzled my face and hair across the top rail of their corral. I peered over their dark ears into the dark recesses of mountain shadow in which Mullen's Hollow lay concealed. Barbed wire and tin, bullet-perforated signs sealed it from public entrance, which, in this day of rampant 4-wheelers, snowmobiles and a fair shake of poachers, is fine by me. The hollow is a fascinating secret of the meandering Blacksmith's Fork River headwaters.
It is there I rode fifteen years ago with my old neighbor Elmer. Granted permission from the cattle company that owns the land where Elmer rode herd (and shot predators) nearly fifty years before, we reined our horses through country no one but the cowboys or a few trespassing hikers see. We watched hawks circle the pines, wrens flit and sing in the echoes of the dripping amphitheater, and ate our sandwiches in the shade. The horses snoozed as my companion's tales of wild horses, wicked falls, and, yes, bears and lions he had run across (I didn't pursue what happened next) swelled with July thunderclouds.
Looking up the winding creek to that wild place tucked below the ridge, I knew another creature has passed through this place mere months before. Wolf- scouting, searching, surviving- had walked not ten raven-miles from our snug home in the valley. I drew a mental route on a chart of stars; the Uintas are just several days travel time for the Yellowstone Canis lupus. There have been spottings in southern Idaho and now northern Utah. They are here, yes. It is time.
I ducked under the fence in moonlit trespass; the horses and their moon shadows tagged along until I reached a nearby knoll of sagebrush. I cupped my hands around my mouth and drew a great breath, sending a howl deep into the dark canyon. Moonlight filled my eyes. Hope flooded my heart. Pass safely, I sang. Pass safely.
Fifty degrees on February 1. Not the night of past winters when the moisture freezes in your nostrils the moment your scarf slips. But then this was not a normal night of creatures. I walked up the slope, kicking through softening snow and stiff sagebrush, feeling the stars burn through the black sky of infinite heaven. And I could feel the places they had walked the "Morgan wolf" (we have since learned was Druid wolf 253) and possibly his mate, nearly caught weeks later. They may have passed through this very country on their way to what drew them onward. I imagined their dark shapes in the moonlight, their steady trot toward the place they sought for aren't all the things we are so assured we know of wolves as much imagination as fact? Aren't we in love with the dream of their return as we are with the depth of sorrow for their killing by our ancestors? Stars, the mountain and my wolf dreams washed together into a memory I carried back to the valley.
At dawn, blessed snow filled the valley. Black fur so distinct on white. Again, pass safely.
"A deep chesty bawl echoes from rimrock to rimrock, rolls down the mountain, and fades into the far black- ness of the night. It is an outburst of wild defiant sorrow, and of contempt for all the adversities of the world." Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac