Chihuahuas and Wolves

(A Belabored Metaphor)

Fear of the unknown nipped at my heels until the instant I heard the wild, joyful howl of the new. Then it slunk away to the shadows.

I looked back in amazement. I’d been afraid of that? That pestering bundle of noise and fury was just a pack of poorly trained, tempest-in-a-teacup chihuahuas. And all along, all around me the whole living clan of wolfkind had been singing to the moon, calling me to join them.

My first venture into truly new territory: White Sands National Park in New Mexico. Image shows dunes of snow-white sand in the foreground giving way to hazy blue mountains in the center. In the background is a gargantuan sky of pure, deep, glowing cobalt blue.

I had mistaken chihuahuas for wolves. Chihuahuas. For wolves.

In October I spent a couple of weeks back in Albuquerque at my old house. Summoning up the courage to start off again was surprisingly hard. The familiar was just so… familiar, and driving off into the unknown for a second time… It wasn’t that I wanted to stay put; I just didn’t want to have to be brave.

Now that I have the leisure, though, it’s time to take a long, hard look at those chihuahuas, to see what made them so scary. (Note: I have known some charming chihuahuas. These weren’t them.)

Here is what daunted me:

  • Where to get water
  • Where to do laundry
  • Where to dump gray water
  • Where to dump trash
  • Where to refill propane

(I have apps that pinpoint all these services, but still. Knowing others have accessed them doesn’t mean I’ll be able to. Does it?) (But back to our chihuahuas.)

  • Refilling prescriptions
  • Getting stuck on back roads
  • Mechanical breakdowns
  • Awkward social encounters
  • Unpleasant social encounters
  • Social encounters
  • Having no social encounters
  • Parking a large vehicle
  • Managing energy-limiting chronic illnesses
  • Being too cold
  • Being too hot
  • Having my solar-powered battery system break down
  • Running out of propane before I’ve had my morning tea

Well. You’re getting tired of chihuahuas, and they’re not even yours. But trust me, there are more.

Oddly, I had not been daunted by:

  • Mountain lions
  • Bears
  • Serial killers

I just couldn’t see how dauntedness would help.

In six months, though, the biggest problems I’ve actually encountered are:

  • Pack rats
  • House flies
  • A leaky window
  • Refilling prescriptions

Just one little chihuahua made it from the yappy list to the biting one, and it didn’t really draw blood. Unexpected chihuahuas appeared—as they do—but I lived to tell the tale—as one does, with chihuahuas.

I’m not sure why, from the safety of my house, they looked like wolves. Maybe I was seeing their shadow cast into the future. When evening draws in, shadows look huge. Focusing on shadows, I feared for my future self.

But when the future becomes now, under bright midday sun, shadows shrink. You look down—way down—to your ankles to see fuzzy Napoleon complexes in collars jingling with rabies tags.

Meanwhile, all around you, another song sounds—eerie, hair-raising, terrifying at times. Your heart leaps at the gobsmacking, glorious, wild, spine-tingling, yowling surprise of the New.

Image shows a single dune, as tall as a wall. It is striped by dozens of vertical rivulets of sand. At the very top of the photo is a horizontal strip of that ultra-vibrant blue sky.

Some of you may have realized earlier in life that one cannot encounter the new without also encountering the unknown. My brain understood that, but the reality didn’t sink into my bones until I disinterred them from familiar ground.

In this image the sky glories over softly rounded dunes and their equally soft shadows. The blue and white are so intense you almost feel like you’re looking at pure light.

The tame and the wild, the unknown and the new, the future and the now. What-ifs vs. lived experience. I’ll probably come back to these ideas in future posts—in fact, I know I will. Stories tend to replay in our lives. Their themes come around again and again, like ever-larger tree rings wrapping around our heartwood. When I penned this a month ago, I had just cast anchor again and was riding an exhilarating wave of discovery. Since then, I’ve encountered more anxiety and some genuine fear.

Just because you’ve heard the wolves, that doesn’t mean chihuahuas no longer exist. Surprise can hush them for a time.

But only for a time.