The wind blew softly towards the pack and the wolves pricked up their ears. As their eyes met in the murky twilight, it was as if they could read each other's minds. They switched from short, light steps across the snow to a fast-paced march, trotting to the rhythm of their pounding hearts, eager for another hunt.
An eagle screeched up above, catching the attention of the alpha wolf, the leader of the pack. It landed on top of a boulder, poised to observe the action that was about to unfold.
It was the wild scent of fleeing deer that pushed the carnivores on. When they saw the herd of deer begin to separate in front of a rocky precipice, the wolves knew instinctively: now was the moment to bring the hunt to a close. The alpha wolf bounded forward, jaws gaping, selecting a large deer for her pack to take down. The wolves knew the boulder field well. It had been the site of many other hunts.
The alpha had chosen the deer wisely, since she knew it would provide enough food to satisfy the hunger of her pack. She took care not to cause the animal to lose its sense of direction and bolt. Instead, the leader waited until the deer threw itself against the rocky wall in a final desperate attempt to escape and, without a moment's hesitation, hurled herself at the deer's flank. With her strong jaws, she gripped the animal tightly until the other seven wolves arrived. They knew full well that no healthy animal would give in without a fight, so the younger wolves used all their strength to wrestle the deer to the ground. After that, the team made quick work of their kill.
When the deer finally stopped shaking, the alpha wolf let out a long howl. The other wolves echoed her call, eager to satisfy their hunger. Before they could eat, the leader had the right to choose her share first. Once again, the pack would live to hunt another day.
Even though I was born in the city and still live there now, I learnt to interpret the natural world from my great-grandfather. I began to understand that many things had a deeper spiritual meaning: something I definitely didn't learn in Science lessons at school. My great-grandfather always had something to teach me and his tale of the wolf hunt was one of the most memorable stories he told me when I was a child.
"The eagle was perched on the rock, watching as the eight wolves bent their heads before the deer carcass," my great-grandfather went on. "She knew that the act of eating was sacred for animals. That's why almost all of them bow down before their food as they eat." He lowered his head slightly, imitating how we bring food to our mouths.
"But, Gee-Gee," I exclaimed in amazement, "that's how we eat too! We also lower our heads to get food, just that, well, we use forks." I loved to call him Gee-Gee – one G for Great and the other for Grandfather – particularly when he would feed me these interesting titbits of information.
"That's right. Wolves eat like this, showing respect for their food." He bent over as if he were praying, lowering his head until it almost touched the floor.
"Like this?" I copied him, making sure to do it better than he had and hoping he would notice. "Does it look like I'm bowing?"
He watched me with his soft eyes and wrinkled face and smiled.
"When your grandfather was sixteen, I took him on a trip to show him something very special. I did the same with your father when he turned sixteen. So, in keeping with tradition, if I'm still alive when you reach that age, I'd like to take you to that mystical place too."