Have you ever had a pivotal moment in your life? One event that stands out to you and makes your path in life clear? My moment came to me in the form of a wolf as black as the night, with golden eyes that seemed to peer into my soul.
Not many people can say that they have made direct eye contact with a wolf, a creature that myth and legend has taught us to fear to our very core and walk away completely unscathed. But I have.
I remember the first time I saw her. It was the winter of 2013, in the dead cold of January. My mom had decided to surprise me with a weekend girls’ getaway to Haliburton. She had even pulled me out of school early that Friday, not telling me where we were going before we hit the road.
We had a blast, but the highlight of my trip came on the last day. When our little blue Mazda was all packed up, we headed not south towards home, but northward. I remember almost squealing with surprised delight as we passed a sign for the Haliburton Forest Wolf Centre.
The Wolf Centre was a quaint, cozy looking building. One level, brown siding, with a large portrait of a wolf’s head painted onto the side. By this time, I had no idea what to expect.
I knew there were wolves, sure, I had seen photos of them in the hotel we were staying in that weekend, but how close were they? Would we even be able to see any?
We entered the building and while my mom paid for our admission, I looked around. The main room we were standing in was a museum, full of taxidermy creatures of all kinds that you would find in the area. But through a hallway at the rear of the room was the main attraction. A round observatory in which you could look out into the enclosure and hope for a glimpse of a wolf.
I knew that wolves were shy and timid creatures and most likely wouldn’t be where we would be able to see them, but there was no need for my reservations. The pack was out in full view, pacing well-packed trails through the deep snow.
I stopped fully in awe as I watched them. There were five wolves in total. The man who worked at the centre knew each of the wolves by name, had witnessed their birth and growth while not interacting with them at all.
“They’re a wild pack,” he explained while I stood gaping at the wolves. “They have no interaction with humans.”
Left to right, Onyx, Pepper, Rune, Luna. Photo credit, Stephanie Brown Photography, 2019One wolf in particular caught my eye. While the other four were the traditional grizzled grey, one stood out like the black sheep of the family. She seemed larger than the rest, looming over the wolves with a presence that didn’t seem to be contained by her ebony fur.
While the others were no doubt intelligent, this wolf’s eyes seemed almost cunning. She didn’t walk at the front of the group, but wherever she was, the others were watching.
Her name was Luna. It was suiting, a name for the moon given to the wolf with a coat of night.
As I was contemplating it, she moved. My eyes widened and my jaw dropped as she prowled right up to the observatory with the lethal grace of an apex predator and looked up. Right at me.
The man who worked there had said they can’t see you behind the glass, but there was Luna, her piercing golden eyes digging right into my soul. I felt her gaze sorting through every story, every little bit of bravado I put on for people, until it reached the core of my very being.
Amazingly, my mom managed to snap a photo at that moment. Almost as though startled, Luna suddenly jumped back, tail tucked slightly in alarm, and scurried on her way. I was left in absolute awe after she left.
The wolf centre employee would later explain that she hadn’t seen me, but had smelled and heard me through the wall, but in my private heart, I hold onto the belief that somehow, Luna had felt a soul in need and connected with it.
To this day, I have never had an experience like that one. Unbeknownst to me at that time, Luna would herald in a new era for the Haliburton Forest Wolf Centre. Just weeks before our visit, the wolf enclosure had been criminally cut and several of the pack had been released to their doom, the alpha pair included.
The only wolves who had remained were two-year-old Luna and her yearling sisters. A couple of months after my visit, the Forest would welcome a new wolf to the Wolf Centre. A large white male named Fang would become Luna’s mate.
Little did I know then, that five years later, I would be hired to work at the Haliburton Forest and get the chance to help out at the Wolf Centre myself. It was there that I re-met Luna, now nine years old and white and scarred with age.
Her coat may no longer be ebony, but her eyes still hold the cunning of the alpha female, who had the guts to step up to the challenge of being a leader when there was none, and who ruled strong and unchallenged for seven years.
There is something for everyone to learn from the wolves at the Forest. Whether it’s the strong, calmness of the alpha, the devotion and loyalty of the beta, the playful humility of the omega or even the innocence of the pups, lessons can be learned and adapted to everyday life.
And who knows, perhaps you will find your own pivotal moment here?