Friday, October 17, 2014

Into the Wild..

In this post I'm asking whether our lives are too tame, are there things in our own worlds that we can "re-wild" or processes we need to stop restricting to help us live a richer and more diverse existence.

The Call of the Wild


The call of the wild..
One of my favourite literary genres is the travel book. Our bookshelves are full of them, and having filled our bookshelves up years ago I now get my fix of travel books from the library instead.

I particularly like adventure-travel books, where people run around the world, row the Atlantic, cycle home from Siberia etc. Suffice to say I am also a big fan of these kinds of documentaries, like the Long Way Round.

As I've been reading Steinbeck's "Travels with Charley" this week on the train, it's set me thinking about wanderlust. And as I've travelled from home to work, from the office to other offices for meetings, I've been wondering if I like reading these kinds of books because they take me out of the "tameness" of ordinary existence.

When you're in the midst of the ordinary, there's something exciting about untamed, unrestrained wildness. Jack London was right - I think there really is a "Call of the Wild" - and is our appetite for travel books, nature documentaries and the like a reaction to the restraints we experience in our 21st century urban western lives?

"..in the midst of the ordinary, there's something exciting about untamed, unrestrained wildness.."

Re-wilding

It's hard to find true wilderness these days
There are few "true" wildernesses around these days. Certainly in the UK it's hard to experience remoteness. This was something Robert MacFarlane explored in his excellent book The Wild Places, and from my own reading of it, I recall he came away with a slightly altered perspective on wildness, appreciating more the pockets of wild he could find much closer to home.

More recently George Monbiot has been exploring the whole "rewilding" movement - allowing natural processes to resume in parts of the country that have, for instance, been excessively grazed. I'd really recommend his book Feral which is a well researched and well reasoned book about not just the more "official" rewilding efforts around the world, but also George's own personal efforts to rewild his own life.

One of the many things that struck me from his book was that a signature feature of wildness is diversity - the need that ecosystems have for keystone species and trophic cascades. Rather than me feebly trying to explain what this means why not instead watch this beautiful and hopeful 5 minute film about the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park and the (positive) impact that cascaded down the entire ecosystem as a result.

I'm challenged by the need to think bigger about some of our conservation priorities.

Monoculture vs Diversity

We're blessed that the road we live on is adjacent to farmland. Whilst doing the washing up I can look out of our kitchen window and observe the crops growing in the field, see the tractor diligently ploughing or sowing or spraying. I see murders (collective noun!) of charcoal grey crows picking out grubs from the freshly churned soil after the plough, or just occupying the fields in their brooding, cawing way. The fields raise a single crop per year, expanses of monoculture - tamed and restrained by the hard work of the farmer.
"..a signature feature of wildness is diversity.."
But, I'm pleased to say, in the spaces between the fields are thriving and diverse hedgerows. Rich in blackberries, birds, sloes, nettles, elderberries, even raspberries if you know where to look! A small copse has fought it's way to life between field boundaries, and is abounding in young oaks. These days I often walk the margins of the fields with our Guide Dog puppy, and I appreciate the wild edges right on our doorstep. There is fruit to be found in wild places.

Too much monoculture in our lives?
Developing this metaphor, perhaps there are parts of our own lives that are overly cultivated, unnecessarily tame. Perhaps we need a monoculture in parts of our life, a regular cash crop to pay the bills. But equally, maybe there are parts of our lives which we need to un-tame.. to re-wild.. our dreams and passions, our time, our resources, our energy.

One key point about the rewilding movement in our land and seas is that it’s about processes not outcome. It's not about creating particular ecosystems but allowing ecosystems to develop in the ways they need to. I like this aspect, it's a different slant on the conservation movement. In our lives, perhaps there are spaces in-between our regular structures where we can introduce some diversity, allow things to be a bit messy but potentially richer - less tame.. more wild.

A point I've raised before that life is more about journeys then destinations - process is often more important than outcome.

A step into the wild

Maybe this week it's time to set some processes to work again in your own ecosystem. I don't know what the metaphorical equivalent of releasing wolves is! (If you can think of a good example, let me know in the comments below). Either way, I want to challenge you this week to un-tame, un-restrain and re-wild.. let's take a journey into the wild.

"..I want to challenge you this week to un-tame, un-restrain and re-wild.."

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Thanks for taking the time to read Into the Wild. If you've enjoyed it please share it with your friends on social media! Why not subscribe to The Potting Shed Podcast on iTunes for the audio version and much more (direct RSS feed is here). 

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5 comments:

Emmas Mamma said...

Interesting post. We've got amazing fields and woods behind our house and I feel so lucky to live so close to nature, even if it's not exactly wild. #bigfatlinky

Random Musings said...

Another thought provoking post! Order and structure is important in its place, but I love the idea of having a little creative place that we can let run wild and do its own thing!
Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes
Debbie

Luke Strickland said...

Thanks Emmas Mamma and thanks Debbie - appreciate you both dropping in and taking the time to read :)

Kirsten Toyne said...

This is s great post as always. For me the wildness tat we need to allow into our lives is our true emotions. We fear certain feelings or parts of ourselves as we view them as unacceptable or a problem but more often than not problems arise more through suppression than through acceptance. Those feelings we have that we either lock away or try to control are of value to us. When we allow those feelings or parts of ourselves that we all have space to breathe we normally find amazing things happen.
Thanks for sharing the link to the yellowstone wolves video. It was great. I love the diversity of sources and material that you use for your posts. Keep on writing. Kirsten

Luke Strickland said...

Thanks Kirsten, great points and I'm glad you enjoyed the wolves video. I find inspiration in a lot of random things!