There was once a pack of wolves that roamed the woods in the middle of winter not too many years ago. Harsh weather drove them from their collapsed shelter deep in the mountains and they were in search of a new home.
One evening towards the end of their search, the pack heard a sound coming from a mound of snow. It was a sound of desperation that they felt all too familiar with since they lost their shelter. Immediately they began to dig at the snow until colorful dry leaves and branches were tossed from under their paws. When they got to the source of the yelping they discovered a baby mountain lion. Feeling sorry for the cub being all alone and knowing that he would not last the rest of the season by himself, the pack decided to take him in and care for him.
As the months passed and seasons changed into the early days of autumn the cub grew quickly in the love of its new family. He learned all the ways of his pack. How to hunt in groups and sneak up on small animals. He learned how to pick up the scent of predators that the pack found to be a threat to their way of life. He also learned how to fight playfully amongst his peers but always knew his place and did his best not to overstep his balance or risk losing his acceptance from the others.
One night the pack decided to climb atop an elevated peak and howl at the harvest moon. The mountain lion tried as best he could but no matter his intention, his voice never sounded like the others. It made him feel as if he didn’t belong. The pack would do its best to try and reassure him that he was family and loved. But still he was unrested by this realization.
Since then the mountain lion would wander off into the forest by himself. He would spent much time alone trying to put the obvious pieces together of his life. At this point he couldn’t deny the differences both outside and within that kept him distant all along. But despite the distance, the love of his family kept him, for the most part, at peace.
His usual path of solitude would often lead him to the creek bed for water and then continue down into the canyon where the creek became a river and from a river became a waterfall. And right there on the edge of the cliff where the water rushed over the edge, he would sit and lose track of time as the water lulled over and over in his mind. But on this particular journey he heard a very quiet howl similar to his, coming from inside the waterfall. Curious he got up and started to walk down when all of a sudden he felt a tug on his tail. One of the elders from the wolf pack has been following him all this time.
“Let me go,” said the mountain lion, “I need to find out where that noise is coming from.” The elder looked up at him and cautioned, “If you go down below, nothing will be as it was. Whether you like what you find or you don’t, your life will change in ways that you will never be able to undo or forget. If you step down into the mystery behind the waterfall, you may find what you are looking for but you will never see yourself the same way again, either. “
The mountain lion paused and looked down at the ground. He loved his life and was grateful for all that he was, because of the pack. But something deep inside was gnawing its way out and he couldn’t bear it any longer. Turning to the elder he said, “Doubt has always led me to this quiet place by the falls. Doubt of who I am and the doubt of incompleteness. I bathed in the sound of the falls almost daily and found peace. My doubt would subside like the water that beats against the rocks below. Most of my life I thought that was enough, but look! The unknown voice of my uncertainties has finally found me in my quietest hour. How can I deny this voice? To travel this far and not inquire would make the shelter of this meaningful journey collapse. Just like the ruined den that you saved me from as a cub.”
The elder replied, “The way down is too harsh these old paws to venture. I don’t share the same vision as you but I understand what you must do, I only ask that you remember. Always. You always have a place in the pack, no matter how far this discovery takes you away.”
“How can I ever forget my family, my friends? If not for this life, I would not have been able to appreciate this moment right now. Our time together has led me to this very point. I take you all with me, in this heart that you all have filled.” replied the mountain lion. Saying goodbye the wolf elder returned to camp and he descended into the cave behind the falls.
Since that day the mountain lion seems to return about once a year and speaks of the places that he has been and the pride that he had found in the wilderness beyond the falls. The wolves gather around amazed at the brave journey he made and the stories of places they can only dream of.
In the absence of their brother, the wolves still gather on the hill tops covered in the light of a full moon and howl. They also gather by the falls and howl for their wandering brother in hopes that he will cry out in his own unique way too. As they howl for him the waterfall drowns their voices, the hollowed canyon devours their echoes, and they quietly retreat from the mystery of what is yet to be discovered.
Story by: Jeffrey Vionito