Friday, January 28, 2011

Layers of Wolves, Ice Sculptures, & Soup

Last Saturday, Mom, Gus, and I headed to Tenino, WA -- outside Olympia -- to visit Wolf Haven International, a wolf sanctuary:

Mom heard about the sanctuary from a co-worker, and Gus had been sweet and suggested we spoil Mom with a road trip. So we jumped in Chloe, my Saturn, and headed out under a blue sky and lots of sun. In some ways, the three of us were quiet, at least on the outside. Talking with both of them after the fact, I know that were we were all going through our own internal storms. I was lost in a world of my writing and the conversation the day before with my father. Mom was filled with insecurities and doubts about certain people in her life and the strange rituals of dating (or lack thereof). Gus was lost in thoughts of work.

The tour guide through the sanctuary couldn't have been nicer. She educated us on different wolf populations: Great Gray Wolves, White Wolves, Mexican Red Wolves, and many more. We learned about eating habits, which wolves are endangered and where, how the sanctuary workers & volunteers take care of them, and details on the quirks and personalities of each of the individual wolves (whom all live in pairs, as mates, and get a third to half an acre of land per "couple" on the property). We even got to watch the wolves eat lunch, since we were on the noon-hour tour; fascinating to watch the woman throw the dead de-feathered chickens over the fences, then watch the wolves bit into them, crunching past bone, swallowing everything. One of my favorite wolves, of course, was Ladyhawk because of the film Ladyhawke. (Don't get the reference? Well, folks, run out and rent this '80s classic starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Rutger Hauer, and Matthew Broderick).

I felt very present and grounded that day. The sun and gentle cold couldn't have been more perfect against my cheeks, that mix between crispness and warmth. Plus, after the tour we walked through the Wolf Cemetery in a different part of the sanctuary. I loved reading the names of all the wolves on the tombstones. There was this huge Douglas Fir tree -- one of the most majestic and humongous trees I've seen -- and it was a delight to stand underneath it and stare up through the branches to the glimpses of blue sky above.

Still, something nagged at me all day. It nagged at me on the drive home, in the '50s-style diner where we grabbed lunch, all the next day as gray clouds rolled into Portland and Meagan and I watched Blue Valentine and ate popcorn together. What was I missing? Why did I feel a sense of restlessness, like I'd misplaced my car keys or wallet? Gus and I had discussed our feelings about the sanctuary, and I thought this might be part of a sadness I felt. After all, it was hard to hear about the abuse some of these wolves had endured before they were rescued. One wolf was kept in a small cage underneath a porch for several years, and his paws had never felt grass before he was rescued and taken to Wolf Haven International. So, yes, this certainly added to my malaise.

But then it hit me Monday morning, that extra level that had been eluding me:

Back when I was in seventh or eighth grade and living in Lake Geneva, WI, while Mom, Jordan, Aaron, and I were licking our wounds after my dad left, Mom loaded us up in the car one winter day and shuffled us off to the Milwaukee zoo. There was an ice sculpture contest, and I want to say (though I'm not sure) that the contest was held in the zoo's parking lot. I remember being in awe of the ice sculptures -- and how Lake Geneva itself held a world-famous ice sculpture contest each year -- and then heading into the zoo. There was a special "wolf exhibit" that winter. I remember walking down wooden paths, through groves of trees, and catching sight of the wolves. The day stood out so much to me. It was this day filled with love and family and sun. We even stopped at this cute diner on the way home, and I ate some yummy chicken-and-rice soup. I can picture the tables and curtains in the diner, what table we sat at. Over the years I've gone back to this memory, enveloped myself in its perfectness, but the memory always held melancholy too, because under the perfect day was the loss of a father, the sadness of a mother, the fretting about money and paying bills. So all the good stuff and the sad stuff got mixed together.

So I have this theory. I think, subconsciously, as Mom and Gus and I spent the day together there was this layer of me that was dropping back to that teenage memory and connecting the past and present. My heart was being opened to beautiful and sad things then and now. It all got mixed and stirred into this unique experience this past Saturday. And isn't it interesting how memories are like doors in a maze in some carnival? You open one door, and then it leads to another door, and then another. Because I can keep connecting these memories and sensations like spiderwebs. Take the Lake Geneva ice sculpture contests, for instance. I often return to those world-famous contests, Mom and I bundling up and heading to the lakefront and weaving in and out of the masterpieces and commenting on them. Seriously, my heart aches and breaks with those memories sometimes. So here you have it: a day with my mother and boyfriend that also is about my father, and about me as a kid, and about my mom and I huddling together against literal and metaphorical blizzards. Maybe I'm overanalyzing this; maybe I think too much. Gosh, I've certainly been accused of that and there's truth to it, I'm sure! But I do think it's important to be true to ourselves and be present with why certain emotions are flooding over us.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

quote of the day

"The fact is, that to do anything in the world worth doing, we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in and scramble through as well as we can."

-- Richard Cushing

Thursday, January 20, 2011

can't wait

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

quote of the day

"Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past."

--Comedian Lily Tomlin