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Wildness & Wildlife: Connecting to our true nature

Updated: Sep 23, 2022

I’m currently sitting on my couch under a super plush blanket (resembling no material I’ve ever encountered in nature), with a couch pillow on top, and my laptop on top that. To my left is my dog, Hunter, who is snuggling into both my blanket and her favorite chenille throw. My gaze wanders from the soft blue white of my Word document to the view of my backyard through an extra wide glass slider. Out there is a deck I built last summer and recently stained transparent mahogany (maintain that grain), on top of which sits a toilet and an old vanity that we are in the process of replacing in our downstairs half bath. Beyond the deck and a skinny patch of grass is a narrow corridor of trees that is astonishingly bursting with wildlife considering there is a busy 4-lane road on the other side. In addition to animal inhabitants and passersby, these “woods” are home to a few years of old Christmas trees, our stack of firewood for backyard fires, and our bird feeders. Everywhere I look in my home and in this outdoor slice of grass and trees I consider my backyard, I see the extension of my human lifestyle spilling out before me. I enjoy the breeze through my screened door while tucked inside among all my comforts, breathing, smelling, and seeing outdoors without any of the bugs or mess!

I say we have “wildlife” out back. We have many species of birds who we encourage to feed at our feeders, we have a family of squirrels, a megapolis of chipmunks, and we’ve also had fox, turkeys, opossum, porcupine, and we’ve heard fisher cats screaming at 3:00 AM. I can list them by category, only a handful are individuals to me. The three squirrels who appear to be siblings and romp around our feeder and firewood and makeshift fence of fallen tree limbs, I know them. I don’t know one from the other, but I know the three of them together, three neighbors with faces obscured, like when new human neighbors moved in during COVID who I’ve only seen with masks on. Every other creature in my backyard becomes its category, the label I learned to put on it. Just there I typed “it,” but in practice I do my best to refer to them as “they” or “friend,” “neighbor” or “visitor.” They are living beings with as much right to the land and their survival as I have, with as much autonomy, and as deserving of respect of their beinghood. Yet, with my intention and desire to truly know them, we are very much separated, and they feel vastly far away from Hunter, my baby girl whose every eye and ear movement, head cock and tushy wag communicates something different and nuanced and uniquely Hunter. My dear one who I’ve known since before she opened her eyes and whose value and freedom I defend vehemently. She is Hunter, they are they.

Is Hunter domestic? Am I wild? I sit here contemplating wildness and I am confronted by some of the images of “wild” and associations to “wild” I have absorbed over time. Images of violence, unpredictability and impulsiveness, competition and survival, uncleanliness, abandon, freedom, expression, unboundedness, vitality. The more I think about what “wild” looks and feels like the more I see circles overlapping circles. Some of those words, “violence,” “unpredictability,” “competition,” feel more like humanity than what I see and feel when I observe nature (observing nature vs. being nature is likely a forthcoming blog). Even when I watch nature documentaries where lions take down baby (insert innocent herbivore here) or snakes squeeze the life out of something fluffy and definitively “cute” to human eyes, there is still a sense of balance, purpose, and even grace. However, this is my individual gaze, separate and different from their embodied experience, projecting human ideas and emotions on a situation from which we have quite purposefully extricated ourselves. Thousands of years ago we were both the lion and baby zebra, at times the predator and at times someone else’s prey. Do we long so much for that connection to our vitality that we play it out in the violent ways we prey upon one another, which carries no greater meaning than whatever imagined ideal we have placed upon it to validate its existence?

What is true of my experiences and associations to “wild?” What is reflective of my needs and desires? Freedom, expression, unboundedness, vitality, even abandon, I sometimes crave them all and I tend to seek them in natural places. I’ve built a house around myself and padded it with comfort, but I find myself wistfully watching the birds. My human ancestors evolved in close proximity with other animal species, sometimes in cooperation and sometimes in competition for whatever resources and protection were available. We had intimate, complex relationships with so much more than other members of our species, even with local plant life and bodies of water, with geomorphology and the weather! Seasons were not just a thing to be endured, to be gotten through until we finally enjoyed ourselves during the one or two we preferred. We didn’t have a different coat for every 10 degree change in Fahrenheit and shoes to insulate us from earth’s surface (another blog to come on the anti-inflammatory and healing benefits of grounding). Connecting to the earth through our skin connects us to much more than ourselves. Seasons were a rhythm that we set our lives to, the ground was where we laid ourselves down, and we accepted a lot less control over our experiences and environment than we do now... A LOT.

The more control we exerted over the environment, wildlife, plant life, geomorphology, and even one another, the more we sacrificed what was “wild” within us, possibly what was free, possibly what is still the truth of our nature from which we’ve surreptitiously sequestered ourselves. Anecdotally, it seems like that pushing down and controlling has erupted in “wild” manifesting in our lives in all the ways we subjectively consider unbeautiful, ungraceful, unproductive, and undesirable. We have alienated ourselves from what we once knew. We both desire “wild” and fear “wild” and we have chosen to let the latter rule the way we live on this earth. Once we were integrated within the natural system in physical, cultural, and personal ways. Now we construct buildings that lift us up off the earth, insulate us from the environment, other life, and the weather, control the flow and composition of the air we breathe, and deliver electricity and technology such that we don’t need to leave the seeming security of our structure to entertain ourselves or connect to others of our species. We appear to pretend that every ounce of our existence does not still depend completely on our interrelationship with the more than human world. Are we safer… happier… less fearful? I am aware that I am painting in broad strokes. I do believe it is preferable to have a life expectancy greater than 40 and not be concerned about animal attacks and certain diseases, but do we carry less fear and fewer concerns than we once did, or have they just changed? Are we at home even in our own bodies, which we also must relinquish control over from time to time? I do not desire to go backward, but I believe there is a way forward that integrates us back into our home in nature.

I believe that we need to accept and develop a relationship with what is “wild” within us so that we can cultivate a healthy balance between what we might find pleasurable and what is unavoidably painful about our wild existence. I am not alone. There is a movement called “Rewilding” and a very special book with that title written by Micah Mortali, MS, a yoga teacher, author, and founder of the Kripalu School of Mindful Outdoor Leadership. There is extensive research in the fields of psychology, medicine and biology, spirituality, and more that suggests there are positive health and wellness benefits to rewilding and time in nature. It might not seem obvious, but even the practices of yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and Ayurveda connect us back to our true nature. If this blog resonates with you, I implore you to seek more information, seek experiences to explore this within yourself and even within community, and if you’d like to learn about experiences that Yoga Oggi provides, make your way over to the Get Outdoors page of our website.

What seems true to you about this? What seems flawed or shortsighted about what I am saying? What are your personal experiences with these ideas? Let’s have a dialogue in the comments section below! Hunter and I are going to take a walk outside.

2 comentarios

I am not an outdoorsy person. I do enjoy nature although more from afar. I stay in side mostly out of laziness and comfort and sometimes fear. I am VERY afraid of ticks and getting bit and getting Lyme disease. I just got a puppy this year after several years without dogs and have ventured outside because nature calls - literally for Bueller, my puppy. Like Hunter, Bueller loves being outdoors and I do walk him often and have now ventured into much of our property. It has been a lovely experience and I feel a connection to my property, nature in general, the critters that inhabit or pass through our 8 acres and certainly Bueller.

Reading through your thoughts…

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Thank you for your thoughtful comments! Our pets offer us so many gifts and one of them can certainly be a greater connection to nature and the more than human world (on so many levels)!

Your ideas about connection being the antidote to violence and suffering really resonate with me. Also, you talk about taking accountability for your reactions and fears and discovering pathways to overcome them, and I agree that we are capable of that, and it seems that rising above and understand fear with intention is why we developed a prefrontal cortex and learned to bypass our ancient amygdala responsible for fight, flight, and freeze. It's my belief that most of our troubles can find a root ca…

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