Cliff woke up knowing it was time. Crawling out of his bed, wagging his tail he went over to the mirror. His heart smiled as his eyes took seriously this moment. He recognized the furry face in the mirror. It was the same face he had seen everyday. It was the same basic look as the rest of his pack, but he looked deep into his own eyes and knew the quiet pride he took in that sparkle. There had always been a desire in those blue eyes that other wolves had not understood. He knew he was different. They knew he was different. No matter how much he tried to belong it never satisfied. Today he knew it was time to understand why complacency of his supposed normal would never quench what those wondering blue eyes sought.
There had always been questions, but the process had always seemed to be answered by others. He wanted his own answers. He wanted his own process. A childhood dream flashed in his mind like a twinkling star in the dark night—Mount McKinley. Determined to not let this feeling pass him by he said farewell to those he loved with a vague explanation of his desire to set out. To his surprise they understood. This desire of his to understand the world did not come of a surprise to them. The pack new that Cliff was not like every other wolf and they had been waiting for someone to fearlessly question. Unbeknownst to him everyone had secretly hoped that he would be the one wolf to change things, but their own fear had projected fear onto him. Their cultures insecurity to question life had made him believe that he must act that way to survive this life. This idea struck him deep. He was allowed to go. So he went.
Mount McKinley was his dream, but he longed to understand his own process. What was a question without a good journey to an answer? He began to walk, with only a simple knapsack carried in his mouth. “If only I was privileged enough for opposable thumbs like the monkeys” he thought. His expectations of being picked up while hitch hiking were low. This animal kingdom had made separation of species pretty defined. Yet, in this quest to change his own perspective he began to believe differently. He began to wonder what would happen if all the species worked together. What if every different species asked these questions? Could we create a more accepting animal tale? We would no longer have to congregate with only our own, but we could learn from those who see the world through different eyes. This idea seemed like a distant dream until a truck pulled over. This old blue Chevy seemed friendly enough until he caught a glimpse of its driver. Shocked, he was stopped in his tracks—it was a monkey. Monkeys generally don’t associate with these parts of the East. Naturally taking his position in the norm of society he hopped in the bed of the Chevy. The monkey looking displeased in the rearview mirror motioned for him to jump in the cab. As Cliff hesitantly got in he found kindness in strangers eyes as he said, "Hi, I'm Norman."
Within moments the two were laughing like old friends. They discussed their lives, their problems with the system, and their mutual desire to understand the world. Cliff couldn’t believe how soon he had found friends outside of his lifelong pack. Leaving home had taken to him better than he could have ever imagined. Just hours previous he would have never believed someone so different than him would share so many thoughts about the world. They traveled from the east coast to the state of Washington. Norman had planned to stop in Montana, but had taken such a liking to Cliff he drove him all the way to the border of Canada and Washington.
Cliff had always known he had an ability to make friends, but he had surely underestimated his affect on other animals. He knew that many wolves were drawn to him, but he didn’t know this appeal could go beyond what he had always known. He longed to understand why he had been gifted with this ability.
After parting ways with Norman, his new monkey friend he was faced with a series of obstacles. Crossing the Canadian border, traveling to Alaska and finding somewhere to stay when he arrived. He thought about strategies for sometime then without an answer to his problems he set forth. Things always placed themselves in order like the best puzzle without him even having to try. Of course it wasn’t perfect. There were a few hours of waiting for someone to pick him up and a few questionable looks through border control, and a constant pain of hunger but almost in a blink of an eye he was in Alaska staring at Mount McKinley.
It was cold. He hadn’t planned for that. He kicked himself a bit, because he had often prided himself in preparedness, but if this particular adventure had taught him anything it was that faith had gotten him this far. His faith in his own dreams and intuitions had gotten him here. It was no accident. He couldn’t even believe that all that had worked out so far could be merely coincidence.
But this moment he was at a loss. He looked out at Mount McKinley. He knew he had come to see his dream come true, but it was still far away and it was getting dark. Again he began to walk having faith that it will be okay. As he walked away from the small town he had last been dropped off in he realized civilization was beginning to dwindle. Worried he debated going back finding a hotel, but there was something in him that kept him going forward. He walked a bit further. He walked for several minutes until he saw a dim light hiding in the forest. Taking in a deep breath the cold swept his lungs then without a firm decision he darted across the street and into the woods. He approached the dim light slowly. As he drew nearer he realized the light was coming from inside the small cabin. This small cabin looked almost as familiar as a dream. Simultaneously it looked abandoned, yet too nice to be left alone. A quick peak into the window he saw the candle on the table in the middle of the room. Hoping for the best he made his way for the front door. To his surprise it was cracked open with the dim light flooding out. He nuzzled his nose into the crack and suddenly found himself warm inside of a cabin that felt like home. The candle was not bright enough to light the whole cabin, but he got closer to it and realized it was perfect. Wandering over to the couch next to the table that held the candle he jumped on to feel the most comfortable couch he had ever encountered. He sat on the couch and stared at the candle. It flickered. As joy spread to his soul the candle seemed to brighten a bit. He could see more of the furnishings around the room. Simple, peaceful, and inviting were the feelings he acquired from this room. He fell asleep within moments exhausted from his journey.
When he awoke he had no idea what time it was. He didn’t care. It no longer mattered when he did things. He was in a world of his own and he could now do things he wanted to just because he wanted to do them.
Days began to fly by as he hiked, read, and wrote, pen in mouth to write, of course. He began to lose track of time completely. Each night sleeping in his perfect cabin that he so casually had stumbled upon. He had begun to realize that every time he found a new activity that brought joy to his heart the candle that existed to light the whole cabin got just a bit brighter. Each time it got brighter he was more able to discover the things that were held inside of this magical cabin. It was too good to be true. The books he discovered were the answers to thoughts he had always wondered. The hikes he found were a quench to cravings his soul had never known it had. On top of these beautiful self-discoveries he had began to meet an eclectic crew of characters.
To feed himself he had taken up fishing in the river for salmon. On this excursion he had met many bear friends that were at first baffled by him, but quickly accepted him as one of them. The salmon not only sustained him, his fishing time opened him up to new species with new stories and new perspectives.
The night finally came that he had collected enough salmon, and firewood to invite his new friends over for a party. As he set the old dry wood on fire his guests began to arrive. Walking back into his cabin he noticed that the flame of the once dim candle was extremely bright on this night. He had done so much self-discovery he was excited to finally share his new ideas with friends, and potentially see them make their own self-discoveries.
As the guests arrived they gathered around the campfire, which was growing bigger by the minute. The looks on their faces when they arrived were glazed over looks of forced society. Even in this land of Alaskan adventure Cliff noticed that many of these animals still lived in the ways of HAVE TO. He could not settle with this. He began to share his salmon and ask each guest questions about themselves. As the hours passed he could see the crew come alive. It was as if they had come to this party forgetting that they were interesting, but after participating in this fire they were excited about their dreams once again. Their spirits were set on fire. A desire to answer their own questions erupted in them instead of letting those HAVE TO’s of society block their journeys.
After a joyous night of friends he walked into his cabin tired, but satisfied. Even with his eyes half open he was almost blinded by the light emanating from the candle in the center of the cabin. It was as if the candle reflected how he felt—full of light from sparking light within others.
The next morning he woke up feeling freer than he ever had. He did what he loved most, he found a good hiking trail. He hiked to the top and sat. Across the beauty of this Alaskan landscape he saw his dream—Mount McKinley. With joy abounding like he had never experienced he let out a howl. Nothing was holding him back. He was finally free. This howl was louder and longer than any howl he had ever let out.
It was his howl of freedom. In that moment it dawned on him, he had not even accomplished what he had come to Alaska believing was his dream. Instead he had found his process. He had found that he loved the process. He found that in his questioning of truth the process was the answer. Dreams will come, be accomplished and disappear into a memory, but the process of discovering truth will always be a joy enlightened by one’s own journey to learn.
This story doesn’t end with the accomplishment of a dream as one might expect, instead it ends with the success of discovering of one’s own journey. Cliff will keep dreaming, keep learning and that is where he finds his truth.