WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, HOW?
We hear this word a lot lately. As I do when contemplating meanings, I simply looked it up. It seems it’s a rather newly coined word first applied in the 80’s in a conservation sense, i.e. returning land to its natural state, returning animals into the wild, caring for the land air and waters as conscientious stewards etc. I do love this and green, green, green, is a color that I love dearly in all its senses. But that definition of the term is not what I’m on about now. This post is about rewilding YOURSELF! Recasting, remolding, reinstating Gaia spirit into yourself through action, lifestyle, and attitude.
I want to begin with some personal examples from the past. I grew up in Long Beach, CA. I remember looking out from the playground at my school in first grade and thinking ‘I hate this place’. It was quintessentially un-wild, fully subdued, leashed and dominated by Man’s greed for oil. At a place called Dooley’s where we went to buy the annual Christmas tree, my favorite thing to do was to get lost among the hundreds of green trees, smelling their scents, feeling their lifeblood sap touching their needles and pretending I was in the woods. Later, on road trips that my father organized, often for rockhounding, I came to love the wilder places outside the city. When I became of age, I moved to the San Bernardino National Forest in CA. This felt right and I stayed there for several years. Never went back to Los Angeles County! Why would one do such a thing to themselves?
During this time of unintentional, perhaps unconscious rewilding, several experiences formed me. I want to shift now to actual experiences over the years that I see as rewilding.
Caves: What wild places they are. I think my first was a commercial cave in northern California called Murphy’s Caverns. Not difficult, walkways and lights provided, but the entrance was through a trap door in a museum-like building; wild already! A few years later near Big Bear Lake, also in California, I was lost in a cave for several hours, with flashlight dimming, all possible passages to OUT looking the same. It was wonderful. There was the grand adventure of the cave in the wilds of Thailand called Nam Thalu. The entrance was commodious but with spiders on the ceiling as big as your hand, and a specialized snake creeping up the wall for bats, and bats aplenty! The passage narrowed and soon we walked in a creek bed which became bigger and deeper as we proceeded. The experience of this cave was up close and personal. As we went deeper and the water became swifter, we came to an impasse. A choke point where all of the flow funneled into a chasm about 8 feet wide and we stood at the brink of a rushing 25’ waterfall.
“Go down”, the guide said.
Go down we did on a frayed ½ inch thick rope, to an 8’ drop at the bottom, all the while being pummeled with the frantic water. Now we were in a channel, too deep to touch bottom, too fast to stop, too dark to see. Eventually it shallowed and slowed, and an exit was clear, but we were on the other side of a large mountain and into a morass of jellied mud and mangroves.
There have been so many of these adventures over the years, most especially the last twenty. I can’t describe them all, it would be a book unto itself. Best to check all of Jess’s posts on Facebook, as she brings them to life! So, suffice to say that a few sentences I will bring us to the next step. This list may seem like bragging rights, perhaps it is, but each point is worth a blog post on its own.
o An adventure to Dinosaur National Monument described in the STORIES BEHIND THE STORIES blog
o A hitchhike around Iceland and a walk through the center, solo
o The Sunda Straight, most chaotic currents on earth
o Komodo Island, touch the dragon
o Parahawking with an Egyptian Vulture called Kevin, high in the sky, Himalaya style
o Picking tea in Nepal; Pikkal, Ilam...the real deal
o Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bullet holes, torture and genocide
o Flores Island, hobbits, volcanos and misty mountains
o Running from bad guys near Chenini, Tunisia. Yup!
o Crossing the Chott al Jerid like a short trip to Mars; so very, very wild
o Camel trek and camping on the Erg Chebbi, Amazigh Berber style
This list can go on and on. But is with certain senses that I get the closest to rewilding. Touch and hearing mainly. When finding a dead critter I have to touch it, feel its covering be it fur, scales, skin or feathers. I want to know how the mechanics of its mobility work. Pulling a Banded Krait from a river in Thailand with its smooth skin, slick scales and beautiful hues belied its deadly nature, its venom used to procure food and to defend.
An Asian Water Monitor found in a cave on a lonely island, a walk around Icland with more bird species than i could count were widly juxtaposed experiences but the same for me. Being close, up close, within range of the senses is the common denominator over and over again. Maybe that culminted with actually touching a live and unfettered Komodo Dragon in its natural habitat! Feeding the critters is my greatest connection with the wild. A wild dog in Thailand who loved the fried chicken feet i gave him, the monkeys by our villa under their nesting tree who loved the stale bread pieces and occasional mango, the scent of the red hair of the orangoutans in the wild in east Borneo, and of course the 900lb wild pig who lovedthe slurpy I offered him. Fish by the hundreds! Birds galore! Ungulates, Mustilids, sea mammals, all my friends whom I have great personal knowledge of. Up close and personal.
But it is the now I want to focus on. Last Fall we built a yurt in the Central Maine Highlands and it is here where all of that prior unwitting rewilding came to a culmination. Our backyard is 20 acres of pristine forest. We border on a large lake. We winter here and it is no small task. Nor sir, no ‘mam
Our days go by the cycle of the earth and our basic human needs. We stock firewood, gathered in part from driftwood from the lake, we haul water from where we can access it, ice willing, we manage the dwelling by clearing snow, maintaining the solar electricity, we cook and heat only on the wood burning stove. And, I do what I have always done in wild places; I feed the animals. Here it is a couple of Pine Martens that benefit from my meat leavings and scattered cereal. We have seeds out for birds and squirrels. Above all we are kind. Kind to the land, kind to the animals, kind to ourselves within the circle of Gaia. The day revolves around the weather and the chores generated by that. How much wood for tonight? Do we have enough water stockpiled? Can we take 29 below zero? Get the snow off the roof of the yurt and clear icicles. Will the car start? The snow blower? The generator? We make contingencies. We carry out the chores no matter what. But they do not seem like chores, they seem like what they are; the natural order of things.
It is seemly to roll in the natural order of things. When we snowshoe from our perch on the small hillock in our forest-fast, and then move down toward the lake and the old summer place that was born as The Grand View Hotel, we see we are not the only ones around. Fisher tracks with telling tail drag marks mix with rough pointed but dainty red fox paw marks, the deer who walk in our snow-shoe tracks, sometimes a set of triangular otter spore with their signature belly slide along a level surface before reforesting, moose tracks bigger than a saucer, the eager eagles waiting for ice fishers to leave fish entrails; and the crows, always the crows who fly over the toono of our yurt announcing the morning and evening shift ofa bird-day’s business.
Then there is then lake. The ice is musical, low vibrations, high tinkling of soda straw transforming ice, the minks playing out on shore-near floes; these are our muses, our neighbors, and in no small form parts of ourselves.
We split the chores well. Jess cares for the hearth and home with unflagging faithfulness, I, always the hunter/gatherer seek the things which we may need from town, far enough away to seem foreign. Gasoline for the blower and generator and car, food for us from our weekly CSA some 15 miles away, sublime and well-crafted meats from Shaw Road Farm who use Temple Grandin’s methods.
Most of all here, I enjoy leaving out bones from a chicken, pork or lamb for the Martens who seem to appreciate it. Lately they have taken to marking their gifting place with soft sprays…sometimes next to my own…we live here together after all.
This evening the wet, heavy snow drifts down, the overloads crash from the trees onto the drum-like roof of our yurt, our sanctum sanctorum, our wee hut in the forest where we make home this year.
Rewilding, as it were? Perhaps not but a proactive continuation of wilding started not long after birth for both of us; a continuation that will persist until the final sunset, God willin’ and the creek don’t rise.
Oh fuck it, let it rise if it will and let us love it in it’s natural spate, REWILDING? humbug, KEEP WILDING!
I want to hear your experiences, thoughts, fears, blocks, embracements! Hit me with email email@example.com