She didn’t walk every day. Only when she had time and they didn’t need her. Only when her weary body could force itself out the door to walk below the ridgeline. She told herself she walked for fitness. She knew she really walked for the fitness of her mind. She would often walk for a short distance, but when he was there, on top of the ridge, she would walk for an hour or more. He fascinated her. Somehow she knew the big, gray wolf was male. She didn’t know how.
She would glance up at the top of the ridge after she had walked away from the house. Most days, she saw him standing there. Facing her. High up on the ridge. As she walked, his walk paralleled hers. She walked the path at the base of the ridge while he walked the top of the ridge. Walking at the same pace she did.
They carried out this ritual for months, the woman and the wolf. Through the summer and into the late fall. She couldn’t imagine why he walked with her, though some distance away. She wasn’t afraid. On the contrary, he made her feel calm. She knew he wouldn’t hurt her. She started sitting down and resting halfway through her walk. He stopped and rested when she did.
One day, early in the winter, she was resting halfway through her walk and she heard the leaves crunch behind her. She sensed it might be him, so she sat very still. The crunching stopped. She sat for a few more moments. Then she got up to walk and saw him mere feet from her. She knew not to meet his eyes. She just started walking. He followed her, this time on the path right behind her. When she turned to go home, he also turned and followed her home. He waited for her to go in the house, then he walked off into the woods.
The wolf and the woman became walking companions. He started walking in front of her and led her up the hill to the ridgeline. When they stopped and she looked down the other side, she saw the men. Men were logging the woods and logging was prohibited in those woods. It dawned on her that this was what the wolf had wanted her to see. He wanted her help.
She reported the logging to the authorities and it stopped. During her next walk, the wolf was waiting for her. When she got to the path, he did the most surprising thing. He leaned his big body against her. Very gingerly, she reached over and took a handful of the ruff around his neck. They stood for a long time like that. Then, he walked off into the woods.
After that day, the wolf didn’t walk with her anymore although she saw him occasionally watching her from the ridgeline. She thinks he accomplished his mission — to get her help in reporting the loggers. He probably had a den, a mate, and pups nearby. She missed his company.
What she didn’t know is that he had become her watcher. She could walk the woods in safety because he will watch out for her as long as he lives.
Thanks to Sue Vincent for the lovely photo and writing prompt!