“There is more in heaven and earth, Horatio, than is dreamt of in you philosophy.”
When Hamlet is caught conferring with his father’s ghost, his friend, Horatio, has no way to internalize the information. His life experience and tutelage at the University of Wittenberg have made no allowance for supernatural events and all he can find to say is, “O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!”
We live in a world of paradox. We worship gods and prophets, we believe in life-after-death, and we build monuments to The Divine, yet we often miss the small, but intensely personal ways in which divinity touches our lives. Like many others, I go through times of doubt. I wonder if Hamlet spoke the truth or if life is simply the day-to-day, but then I remember The Gift: The unforgettable moment I was given by The Wild on my twenty-ninth birthday.
It was December 27, 1997 and we were starting home after a week in the wilderness of Northern Minnesota. Mom, Dad, my brother, his wife and I had been dogsledding, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing; we’d fixed Christmas dinner by lamplight in our hand-hewn log cabin, and we’d howled with the wolves whose tracks crisscrossed our lake. I’d desperately wanted to see the wolves, but they were too wise, too careful after a century of persecution by man. I’d joked that I wanted a wolf for my birthday, but I knew that was a one-in-a-million wish. Our week had been magical and I had no complaints.
Packing up was a somber business. We were glad our home was waiting back in Missouri, but it was hard to say goodbye to the wild freedom of The North. It was a four-mile trek to the parking lot where we’d left our car and we walked along in silence, lost in thought and memory. As we crossed the last portage between Triangle and Ojibway lake, a movement in the forest edge caught my eye. I turned and found myself looking into the golden eyes of a wolf.
He was far enough away I knew he meant no harm and I lifted my camera and started taking pictures. I expected him to leave as soon as he saw me move, but instead he stood stock-still and let me take five or six photos before he turned and loped into the woods. Like Horatio, I was at a loss. I had seen a wolf and he had seen me! We had looked into each others eyes and found not an enemy but a kindred spirit. My family gathered ’round and we hugged and laughed and cried. I had been given a gift by The Wild herself. A gift so personal and so full of meaning it couldn’t be mere chance.
So now, when I doubt, when I wonder if there is something Divine woven into the fabric of the Universe, I think of my wolf and I know that Hamlet was right.