I go north for a winter visit to Yellowstone to hear the lullaby of the Lamar Valley under a blanket of snow.
Yellowstone is where rivers begin and alight. A primordial landscape. A hunting ground for many.
Near dusk, Wolf, you begin a winter evening hunt. As my car rolls up beside you, I fumble to grab my camera, but you look away, resisting my lens.
Carefully, you make your way through the elk and buffalo tracks. Determined, I lean through my window and make a picture of your flawless silhouette against a blank canvas of white snow. Tail pointing east, eyes gazing west.
From this stillness, you leap into your hunt. Jumping through hoof prints, you track a scent for minutes that feel like hours. I get out of the car so I can watch you dance along the trail.
At one point, you pick up a mouse and carry it briefly before dropping it. Was it rotten? Perhaps frozen? You go on making time, leaping and bounding, keeping your nose close to the ground. In this small window of the hour, you have covered a vast swath of land.
Wolf. Despised and outlawed, you are the finest hunter of the forest.
Deftly tracking, I watch you pause, leap, pounce, and dive into a field of white. Come up empty.
Scents hide, scatter, confuse. They disperse, then return with ferocity, moving straight to the gut, the head, the heart, the hands, all over. Shake me up. Feel like stars in my veins. Bang around until it feels like I might pop.
Wolf, have you ever carved a heart out?
I move through new and old tracks of Yellowstone. Many happy returns. But on this trip, I am alone, hunting ghosts, hunting things I cannot name, hunting elusive silhouettes with a steady knock on the inside of my heart drumming a low beat.
The scent becomes muddy. A heavy heart threatens to slow me down. The weight of love’s memory. The heart could rupture, give me away.
I think of ley lines—telluric pathways, magnetic energy currents flowing around the earth. They can become routes, highways of information that lead us through invisible trails of the universe. I hear they can help us arrive at our uncharted destinations.
Wolf, I watch you stab at something, both paws suspended, diving down with exposed teeth. But just as your nose brushes over fur, your prey disappears.
Ley lines. A string of light surrounding the earth. Some say this is how geese return to the same spring each year.
Can you feel it, Wolf, that strong pull? Or is it a push?
That night, I go to the pool bar at the old hot springs hotel, have a beer, and try to talk to some guys sitting next to me. The scent isn’t there, but I want it to be, so I stay a while and hope the music will get better, that it will become real jukebox music, the kind that makes you sway and lean into the one next to you for a kiss. But this is one of the new digital jukeboxes, the kind that display their wares on a blinking neon screen. I want the kind of jukebox where you can hear the clicking of the album jackets flipping from side to side, turning the browning edges of playlists over and over to your delight. I want the kind of jukebox that will help me remember that thing, that thing that left my heart, remember the scent I’m supposed to be following.
So, I go out to the pool and swim to the deep end beneath the winking moon and stars, no longer believing they will guide me, but still intimidated by their potency. The painter was taken on a full moon night. What else can they do? By tracking the tail of desire, listening to ley lines, I resist a fate divined by stars.
Where are you, Wolf? Did you catch it?
They often call you lone wolf, but really you are alone only while hunting. When night comes, you circle up with your pack. And yet, sometimes, even when you’re with them—rolling around, playing, caressing, jostling, sparring—you are still alone in your heart.•
Excerpted from The Spring by Annie Connole, with the permission of Chin Music Press. Copyright © 2021 by Annie Connole.