Day 23: A – Z Challenge
“She knew herself, how she had slowly, over years, become a cat, a wolf, a snake, anything but a girl. How she had wrung out her girlhood like death.”― Catherynne M. Valente
About ten days ago I took a road trip from Phoenix, to Santa Fe, NM, and back. We took the Bumblebee Highway up through the Tonto National Forest into Heber and through Holbrook, before heading up to the 40 into Albuquerque to take the 25 to our destination.
The route we chose is mostly two lane highway winding up and up through the desert until it finally hits the high country. The land, for as far as the eye can see, is open and teeming with wildlife. We saw hawks riding the wind and deer grazing by the side of the road. The air temperature dropped 60 degrees by the time we hit our highest elevation. In just a few short hours we entered a whole new world.
And I could feel my soul calm itself. The further we got away from civilization and garbage dumps and gas stations and drive-thrus, the more my chest opened up and sunned itself.
My body relaxed. I could breathe.
And even in the cacophony of the car ride — with all of us chatting and eating and laughing — there was a slow, silent peace that bloomed.
We were out in the wild.
The sky, heavy with cumulus clouds, threatened rain.
The wind blew.
And we drove headlong into wildness.
And it felt good.
Human beings tend to think that they have no real connection to the wild. We live in cement and asphalt jungles. We eat food we didn’t grow or harvest. The hundreds of unseen hands who make the things that make our existence possible, are like ghosts in the machine. We don’t recognize we’re part of something bigger. Something interconnected. Something that needs us — that needs our stewardship — more than ever.
The fact that elephants are trumpeting on ranges in Kenya affects us. Mountain gorillas are some of our nearest kin. Silver egrets and weeping willows and the clear waters of Costa Rica, affect us, whether we know it or not. We’re part wolf, part sunflower, part blue lace agate.
The decimation of the Amazon, the nuclear waste leaks at Fukushima, the drilling for oil on the ocean floor, the slaughter of elephants and rhinos (15 of them die each hour) — all these things deplete us. They steal our blood and our bones.
We don’t see it. We don’t believe it’s happening; however, we’re incrementally losing our already tentative connection to the planet and the wild within us.
We can’t afford to do this.
No amount of money can replace the soul sickness this will cause. No amount of things will fill an emptiness that big.
“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.” ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods
I saw a video yesterday someone posted in my newsfeed. In it, a huge machine chopped up a tall tree, probably one that was more than a hundred years old. It devoured it. It started with the crown and turned the entire tree to sawdust as it mowed its way to the ground.
The whole process took less than thirty seconds.
Watching it, I felt sick.
What about the critters who lived in that tree? What about the sparrows and their nests filled with young? What about beetles and lichen and moss?
For countless years, a tree stood in the rain, sunlight, snow. It watched the world change as it grew taller and taller, but it never left its post.
It stood strong where it had been planted and made a life.
What does it say about us, that we can chop down the world’s forests without a second thought? How can we not realize the heavy price we’ll pay for doing so?
What does our rapacious need for a growth economy and more (and more and more) profit say about our vacuousness, our emptiness?
We need wildness. We need seedlings and saplings and starfish.
They don’t need us, but we need them.
So, take yourself into the forest and listen to the birches, the aspens, the evergreens. Listen to the stillness. Feel that vast space. Feel how small you are in this ever-expanding universe. Take a moment to let that sink in. Take a moment to sit in silence and let it change you.
Let yourself feel. Something. Everything.
Let yourself remember your connection to every leaf, every twig, every song sparrow within hearing.
It’s time to become a wild thing again.
It’s time to remember your roots, before it’s too late.
© 2015 Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved
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