The Words of Judith K. Witherow  

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Updated November 5, 2014

 

Wailing With the Wolves

 
Gabriel
The wolves are not outside the door. Over the past few lifetimes, but especially the last two decades, they have crept in one at a time until my house and head are filled with their presence. Sometimes, if the Spirits are in a benevolent mood, I can keep the pack distracted for short shadows of time. The winter causes the days light to quicken, but why didn't anyone give more thought to the length of the nights? Most mornings I brush past my friends with out so much as a word. It hurts too much to talk. I head for coffee, the computer and a fistful of pills. When we start to howl in perfect pitch unison, the written words drop off my outstretched fingers. The shaky one-syllable-at-a-time outpouring is sometimes worth saving. Just like me. There are times when the paranoia of steroids causes me to accuse the pack of turning on me. When this happens they give each other a knowing look and slink silently away. I shout at them to come back and finish their feasting frenzy. It won't happen. It's just another coping game we play. We know they're trying to sort out the confusion of so many muscles tied in sinewy knots. Their magnificent teeth are not equipped to do such painstaking work and neither are mine. It makes it almost impossible to work through clenched teeth. Many humans have suggested a cure, treatment or theory to aid in my recovery. Thanks, but no thanks. The wolves and I have chosen to rely on each other's wisdom. If the pain of muscle wasting and swollen joints outweighs the fear of yet another unknown we will relinquish some of our control.
 
Recently, a decision was made to try something different. Massage therapy. It seemed frightening for us to give power  to yet another person. This form of treatment wasn’t even invasive - other than into privacy - so how could it help? When we arrived at the massage therapist’s home she told me to get undressed, and she would be in shortly. I told the pack to lie under this strange table and pay close attention to what was about to take place. The ruff on the back of their neck was standing straight up. This was not a good omen. It felt like my short hair was doing the same thing. On surveying the room, we noted there was a back door. We looked at it, then at each other. It would be all right. This room would not turn into a large box trap if we were prepared. I was lying on the massage table, lost in thought, when the air suddenly filled with the “cawing” of crows. "What is this?" I said out loud. Crows didn't fly or make that sound at night. It was followed shortly by the sound of splashing waves. There was no body of water of such magnitude in this area. Nevermind the thought of a massage. Nature was totally out of balance. When I heard the musical strain of flutes and whales splashing, insight and another culture collided head on. Quiet laughter and low throaty growls filled the room. I tapped on the side of the wooden table to silence my guardians. We would discuss this in the safety of our home. So, this was massage therapy. I'd file it away to share with my family. Not that they were as brave as I was. It would be done to impress them.

The therapist entered the room and started asking me questions about my health. I tried to concentrate on what she was saying, but the pack kept interrupting me. They think they know more about my condition than I do. To regain control, and to show proper respect, I told her about my friends under the table. Her eyes narrowed like a fox watching a chicken that has escaped from its coop. She must have thought my mind and not my body needed a professional.

Anger at the response that my honesty caused hissed from my lips and pores. Before she had a chance to walk away I said, “If you can’t do this my way, then you are of no help to me. Where is your belief in the whales and little chirping birds I’ve been listening to? Are those sounds coming from your tape player just a distraction, or do you believe they are of benefit to those you massage? I don’t know your type of music. Nor am I totally familiar with the sounds of the other wildlife. Your knowledge of healing through massage is what brought us here today.” I felt the pack rustling as they got to their feet. I also sat up and began dressing. “Wait,” the therapist said. “I didn’t understand. You and your ‘friends’ are welcome to stay.” We cautiously laid back down as the first massage began. The next time we returned everyone knew what to expect. We are now at one with the therapist and her way of doing things. It was decided that we give her a copy of wolves howling, to add to her collection. We present it to her at the next massage appointment.  Many times she asks, “Are you okay Judith? Are you with me?” I have enough trust to tell her, "I'm off running with the pack." Or, "We are curled up in a protective circle. I'm too cold and exhausted to move. Just do what you need to do." Sometimes she asks me to tell her where the pain is the worst. I tell her the pack will let her know when her hands make contact with a sensitive area. Without fail, when she touches a sore spot the room fills with the sound of mournful howling. The wolves have taken on my pain. Dividing it equally causes less suffering to be felt by all of us. During one massage the therapist told me that many people would freak at the sound of my wolves. I reply, "Perhaps they shouldn't listen. The magic is undoubtedly too powerful for what's ailing them. Save it for the ones the little chirping birds can help." The room filled with a mixture of female laughter and the “yips” of the pack.

One morning, while I was busy writing, the pack started pacing back and forth behind my chair. I finished what I was doing before giving them my attention. “We need to discuss the tape recording of the crows”, the second in command said. “The idea that crows are a source of comfort or healing to anyone is causing us to question how others think. How can anyone revere the black feather garbed morticians of roadkill?” Before he could finish his thought another added, “I’ve never seen a dead crow in all of my years of hunting. How can they attend to death, but escape it themselves?” I ask if they have ever seen a flock of crows chase an eagle away from something it had killed for itself and its young ones? Several sleek furred heads nodded “yes” at this question. Not just eagles, but animals and birds of all types fall prey to the cunning of the crow. The questions were many. The answers were few. It was agreed that since we knew so little about these creatures we would pay closer attention in the future.
Tonight there is a full moon. It will intensify everything. We're headed for the craggy mountaintop. As leader, I'm loping and limping well ahead of the pack. All they see is a flash of my hindquarters as the pain bounces off me in quick, jagged bursts of lightning. This night is mine. I am the alpha wolf. No one but me can touch or tame this night. As I claw upwards, amongst the loosened rocks, I see below countless tribes. The sick, dying and dead cover the ground like a blanket.

Someday, when you are stronger, I will tell you secrets that you will swear are so evil that not even a human could conceive of them. Deliberate poisoning of all that we drink, eat, breathe and create. Yes. It's not just me or my family. No. It is not an amazing coincidence that so many relatives have multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus, Parkinson's, sarcoidosis, arthritis, cancer, vitiligo and much, much more. Environmental. Monumental. Generation after generation. This monster is perpetual. It's enough to make the most well-bred, two-legged person howl.

The question of the strength of crows is no longer without answer. What others could not do the evilness of the West Nile virus has accomplished. Whoever unleashed this demonic plague is open to speculation.

I can’t end this story without writing about another tragedy. The massage therapist, Peggy, that I wrote about in this story  lost her partner of seventeen years at the Pentagon on 9/11. Sheila was a civilian worker, and one of the most peace loving women I have ever had the great pleasure of knowing.  Often, life is one dry-eyed cry after another.

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