The Wolf Pack and the Old Woman

…..a work in progress

Everything had been left in an orderly, organised way. Boxes packed with labels attached, leaving just the right thing, for each member of her family.
Much more given away….her precious books she knew no one close to her would value.
A mass of paperwork now ashes, cooling in the fireplace.
She was simply too tired to go on, yet her heart still beat strongly.
She yearned for release, but death by her own hand wasn’t an option.
She had no idea why, she just couldn’t do it…..not out of cowardice, or the difficulty of making a choice (there were so many); it was more a revulsion of leaving that legacy behind, for her children and grandchildren “life, after all, was intolerable.”
Yet is was….all the long lonely years, waiting for her mate.
She was bent down to the ground with it.
With her heartsickness.

She built one last fire for the night, and would sleep by it….after all, fire had been her comfort, her closest companion through many other nights like this….she knew there would be frost by morning….she could feel it.

When day dawned, she heaved her small bag over her shoulders, doused the fire, walked out the door and didn’t look back.

There was no clear plan, only to keep walking until she had to stop….light a fire, then lie down on the ground beside it, sleep, then walk again. She wore her clothes layered, with light warm weather garments against her skin, covered by thick cold weather clothing, topped by her long coat she’d worn for years (the one her son had worn before her, then given to her so long back she’d forgotten how many years it had served her), with its simple tie belt and deep pockets which now held several pairs of her favourite fingerless gloves, two extra pairs of socks, a warm woollen hat, and her glasses… her pack was one book she’d read time and time again and would read until the end, or when the spine broke and the pages fell around her feet. Perhaps then, she would know the story well enough to see it in her mind’s eye, and the precious story could be renewed as kindling for her fire. In her pack she carried an enamel plate and mug, sharp knife, fork and spoon, a small pack of tea, some hard cheese…a small loaf of bread, coffee, three apples, and 4 boxes of matches. And for blankets, three soft warm rugs, a gift from her daughter.
Light enough to wrap, layered round her hips, or a shawl on her shoulders.
At night she would lie down under a big dense tree and make a bed beneath of fallen leaves, wrap herself in her three soft blankets and watch the glow of her small fire until she fell asleep….and if she was attacked by animals, so much the better.
A quick bite to the throat with razor teeth, sharp pain, a fast bleed out, then blissful nothingness.
She hoped that wherever she went to after that, was a kinder…more hospitable place. She hoped she would meet her Grandmother.

In the morning when she woke, a crow was poking around the outskirts of the fire, looking for anything edible…saw her turn over and sit up and the crow turned too….silently observing each other. She knew the crow clan, felt a kinship with them, so she sat beneath the big old Tree contemplating crow, as he did, she.
Getting comfortable with each other.
Her body ached all over, but the sharp cold air woke her, regenerated her.
She was free now to stretch and groan, to ache and moan, to rise up off the ground slowly, reach into her bag for some bread and cheese and share it with her dark companion. They were in accord, there was no threat or fear.
Bread, cheese and one small apple….and breakfast was done, except for coffee.
The Crow, delighted with an offering of cheese, moved closer….nestled down in the leaf strewn ground beside the fire, and tilted its head, watching her with its wise dark eyes. She loosened up, the stiffness and aches from sleeping on the ground easing as she busied herself with brewing coffee, the intoxicating fragrance floating up and out on the cold morning air. Walking around the small fire, adding just enough sticks to heat her brew, the crow rose suddenly, preened it’s glossy black feathers for a bit, swivelled it’s head to gaze once more at her…and then it flew.
The old woman pushed a huge pile of fallen leaves into a good thick cushion, then sat down, her back against the tree, gaining strength from its huge trunk….listening to the sap stories as they made their way upward, all along the myriad branches and twigs….offering it silent thanks, for the thick shelter it had provided her with while she slept. Listening, looking upwards into its thick canopy and drinking strong coffee.
And then for a small while, she slept; and woke staring into the long grey muzzle, the golden eyes and sharp pricked ears of a grey wolf…so close by she could smell its carrion breath. Perched halfway along its spine was the crow.
And listening in the morning woodland silence, so filled with quiet noise….she heard it speak….into her mind.
Follow us, I have found your family….the meaning dripped like golden bells, the message ringing clearly….although she’d asked for nothing….the bird was offering her what? A family….what did that even mean?
The wolf panted softly, standing on her right, golden eyes observant, but friendly.
She listened to the inner dialogue….a soothing comfort, and gradually fell asleep once more, lying curled up tight against the morning cold upon the forest floor and woke, surrounded. A circle of seven wolves around the dying embers, and the crow nestled in against her body, seeking warmth.

Later she thought back to that new beginning….how completely normal it seemed.
Now, as the pack hunted, mostly led to meat by the crow family, she would stay behind, tending the fire and caring for the wolf cubs….a human grandmother.
The Alpha male always fed her, bringing the freshest meat to drop at her feet, then returning to the carcass and the pack, to gorge with the rest of them….then dragging left overs for the cubs, not quite weaned, but tearing at the kill with tiny razor teeth.
And she, free to forage when the pack returned, gathered edible fungus, wild onions, sorrel, lettuce, chicory…..everything cooked in her one small pot….the meat and onions with water from the nearby spring, then the mushrooms and greens when it was well cooked and almost ready. Afterwards she might have a handful of berries.
Then, replete with good fresh food, she would scour her pot with sand, fill it with water heated on the fire, and clean it again, and then, once more she would stretch to ease cramped muscles then lie back down upon the ground….the Cubs sleeping with her, covering her with the warmth of their small bodies… the Crow family roosted above her in the sheltering trees.

MargaretArlen ©️ 2021