I became completely serious about it for a while and even sold some of my photos. Over the years since then, I've had the good fortune to stumble upon many, many, places and people to photograph; but a piece of my heart lives at Oatland Island Wildlife Center.
I lived close to Oatland Island, and it became a favorite haunt of mine. I loved to go there and just walk the trails for hours, travelling from one area of the park to the next; I was sometimes alone but more often than not I would take the boys. Jess was smaller then and Seanie had just really gotten to the age that he could navigate the paths and the tree roots. I don't have anything but happy memories of our visits there, and am always grateful we lived, for just a little while, in such close proximity...at night, sometimes, you could hear the wolf pack singing across the water. Because of this, before I went for my first visit I knew it was going to be a place full of wildlife and wonders; an escape from the emotional rollercoaster ride that passed for my marriage.
What I didn't know was just how deeply attached I would become to the resident wolf pack, and how the lessons they taught me would stay with me for years. From the wolves, I learned about patience. Being animals, and clowns at heart, it was tough some days to get a decent shot- and there were many days I didn't. They shared with me their love of "pack", tolerated my presence in their world, and eventually greeted me as a known friend. They were incredible to watch; sometimes I would be out there on my perch above the pack viewing area, and you could actually sense the moment they became aware of a school field trip arriving. Knowledge arced like electricity through the pack, from one to the next until all six of them became statue still. They would gather at the fence line, and you could see them looking expectantly down the trail- jockeying for position- waiting for the moment when they glimpsed that first child rounding the bend.
The appearance of that first child was akin to someone waving a magic wand at the pack. They simply...transformed, and their joy became contagious; you could feel it rushing outward. They were the self appointed welcoming commitee of Oatland Island. They grinned- literally. They became childlike themselves, and as equally enthralled with the children as the children were with them. In unison they pushed themselves against their fence, and you could absolutely feel the energy of the pack reaching out to enfold the children. At an unseen signal I never could quite catch, sometimes, if the children were VERY, VERY, lucky, the pack would sing for them. I used to find myself holding my breath in anticipation, wondering if that day they would give voice to their joy.
My sense of accomplishment with my camera grew in direct correlation to the amount of time I spent there, taking picture after picture and getting to know the wolves individually. I always felt like I had been given an amazing gift in my time with them, one which I'll never be able to return. They gave me the confidence to believe in myself, and lifted my spirits when things got rough at home. During that unsettled time in my life, the wolves were there, just across the water...singing encouragement at night, just for me.
Funny how things fall into place, huh?
"When I started my adventure in photography, I was suddenly introduced to the world around me. I can’t believe I have been so blind for too many years." - Laura Tate Sutton
Oatland Island Wildlife Center
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