It is said that the caribou is one who longs to constantly travel, who has great stamina and can survive through the harshest of circumstances. And so it was with one in particular, for long ago, when she was quite young, this she-caribou had lost her herd. Initially she had spent all her time searching for them but as the days and months passed her desperation transformed with the acknowledgment of a current reality and so she settled for this new barren existence.
Her feet continued to carry her across the sprawling tundra, fording cold rivers and vast wide valleys. Always she felt the push to keep moving forward. There were times the loneliness of her heart weighed heavily upon her and she would stop moving. For days or weeks she would simply stay in one small area merely surviving; her head hanging low and soft bellows of sadness emanating from her throat. And then a morning would arrive when the fog would lift from her mind and she’d continue on her life’s journey once again.
She didn’t really have a destination in mind, except always the desire to move forward, to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Onwards she pressed.
There were days she met others along her uncharted path and at times they even joined forces and traveled together. For a long period she roamed alongside an arctic hare. He seemed initially to be a good solution for her emptiness as they were much alike in many ways. For years they remained companions, but it eventually became apparent that the hare wasn’t the kind and gentle animal he first appeared to be. Oh sure, whenever they crossed paths with others he was a soft-spoken gentleman but when it was just the two of them alone, his true coat was shown.
He used every chance he could to belittle and manipulate her. He would hold any misstep she made as a grudge, twisting reality to make it as if she had grievously wronged him. When those moments came in which he genuinely needed her, well, he became kind and saccharine and this almost made their unhealthy relationship worth it. Almost. The day came when she could tolerate his subversive nature no longer and she quietly parted ways with him.
It was not many days beyond this that she came upon another companion who wished to trek with her. He was a large snowy owl and for a good while it seemed the two unlikely travelers were compatible. He was wise beyond his years, careful to always build his caribou friend up and remind her daily how happy he was that they could journey together. He made her smile and that brought a bit of a spring to her step.
But slowly she came to realize that his comings and goings weighed far too heavily upon her heart. For he had a habit of flying off on hunting forays. This was to be expected, sure, but what her heart couldn’t handle was that many times he would not communicate with her when he was leaving and when he would return and most times he would be gone for days at a time. Always he found her again but he simply came and left at his own whims without taking her own feelings of abandonment, desolation and heartache into consideration.
When she finally got the nerve up to mention how this made her feel, he fluffed up his feathers and hooted out his anger, turning the conversation back on her, calling out her many failings and how they made him feel; he became unreasonable and left no room for her to respond. In the end, nothing was resolved but a broken heart and a lonely trail once more.
One quiet moonlit night, the caribou got the distinct feeling she was being followed. It wasn’t frightening really but it did get her curious. She wondered why her hidden companion didn’t make himself known or show himself. She wondered who he was.
Some weeks passed and she felt his presence more and more. There were a few nights when she would wake up and find the grass beside her was matted down and still warm. She became familiar with his scent. The sound of his breathing. She became more curious and even a bit less lonely.
One day she raised her voice and began talking to him. At first, he did not respond. She talked anyway. She told him about her past. About her likes and dislikes and quirks and faults. About her hopes and dreams and mistakes. She sang songs and told stories. She asked him questions and tried to entice him into conversation any way she could think of. Anything to chase the ever-pervasive loneliness away.
Finally the night came when he responded to her. Right in the middle of a one-sided conversation, he just opened his mouth and answered her. She trembled a little. Her smile was huge. She liked his voice and she liked what he had to say. She never pried too much, simply taking in what he shared. He was kind to her but she also sensed a wildness about him that she couldn’t seem to resist.
Since he seemed reluctant to show his face, she figured there must be something wrong with her that kept him away. She would grow quiet with thoughts like this, unable to break out of the self-doubts that had been placed upon her from days past, and would remain so for days on end. He was always there in the background but she would still miss him during these self-imposed periods of isolation. She longed to talk with him even if she couldn’t actually see or touch him. Then he would reach out to her once more, lifting her from her deep moods as their conversations would begin again.
He was mysterious and alluring. She grew ever closer to him with each passing night and day. Eventually she built up the courage to ask him to please show himself to her. He hesitated a bit just beyond her range of vision, before finally stepping out from the shadows. And there before her stood a huge magnificent wolf. His long fur rustled in the evening breeze and she could see that he had scars crossing his muzzle and ears yet remained beautiful in spite of it. There were storms in his eyes.
Naturally the caribou was initially frightened by his appearance. Yet she recognized his scent and the cadence of his breathing and the voice she’d grown to love. She stepped closer. Minutes passed them by as they gazed deeply into one another’s souls. Time seemed to stand still. But it wasn’t time, it was them. The moon gradually traversed the sky, shadows creeping across the landscape. Eventually, as one, they turned and together continued their unspoken journey side by side.
©️tara caribou – 2018