“Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf.”
— Aldo Leopold, Thinking Like a Mountain
Soda Butte Creek rises on the slopes of the Absaroka Mountains just outside Yellowstone National Park. It wends its way south and west, past the towns of Cooke City and Silver Gate, into the Lamar Valley. Anyone interested in wildlife watching in North America is well-advised to visit the Lamar, tucked into the northeast corner of the Park. Also known as the American Serengeti, the Lamar teems with bison and elk; coyotes and black bears; grizzlies and pronghorn.
Look up there: follow the flank of the snow-covered mountain down and to the right. You’ll see a copse of cottonwood trees, denuded of leaves. There is a little shrub–do you see it? It’s an ocher color. Maybe a willow? It’s hard to say from this distance. No matter. Train your binocs on that shrub and then straight up, up to the middle flat.
And then they rise, emerging onto the flat and moving onward. One, two … six. Keep watching. There are more. Trotting up the slope. That one looks black; did you see those two tussle? What a wonder to watch them play! To see them here again, to stand in their presence.
A conscious amendment of a historic wrong.
No creature as misunderstood or reviled. I wish I could say the enmity was an artifact, the days of persecution gone. That would be a lie. But here, within Park boundaries, these members of the Junction Butte pack are largely safe. And also gracious enough to allow us to stand (albeit at a distance) among them.
“We all strive for safety, prosperity, comfort, long life, and dullness. … A measure of success in this is all well enough, and perhaps is a requisite to objective thinking, but too much safety seems to yield only danger in the long run. Perhaps this is behind Thoreau’s dictum: In wildness is the salvation of the world. Perhaps this is the hidden meaning in the howl of the wolf, long known among mountains, but seldom perceived among men.” — Aldo Leopold, Thinking Like a Mountain
It’s been over a week now since this wolf encounter, and still I find myself getting lost in thought over it. Seeing them, in my mind’s eye, trot up and away. Marveling at how far we’ve come in terms of tolerance for other living souls–and how far yet we have to go.
Winter has arrived some weeks early and a thick blanket of snow covers the ground. I sit here and type, sipping a chai-spiced turmeric latte, and wonder what the members of the Junction Butte pack are doing now. Playing in the snow. Rendezvousing for a hunt. Taking a well-deserved rest. I imagine the chorus of howls sent up each night to the stars whirling overhead. The hidden meanings.
And the ones we know.
Chai-Spiced Turmeric Latte
12 oz milk of choice
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 – 1 tsp maple syrup
- Pour the milk into a heavy-bottomed saucepan or electric frother fitted with latte attachment.
- Heat the milk over medium heat until steaming (or to 145-50 degrees F in frother), whisking to make sure it doesn’t scorch.
- As the milk heats, whisk in the spices and maple syrup. They won’t dissolve completely, but you want to make sure they are well-incorporated into the milk.
- Pour into a mug and dust with additional spices if you’d like.