accessing the wild

A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.

from the Wilderness Act of 1964


I am not what you would call an "outdoorsy person." The closest I've ever come to "camping" is sleeping in a cabin in the woods or being a camp counselor for a couple of summers. I enjoy being outdoors if it's cool and there are no bugs and I'm in front of a bonfire or at the beach. I like sitting outside and talking to friends. But I've never been someone who sought out what I would call the wilderness, at least not a physical wilderness like desert, mountains, etc.

But when I think about the wilderness as a metaphor, as the untamed places, where I am a visitor who comes and goes, I think of all the ways I'm pushing myself to move outside of my comfort zone, to forget the routines where I am comfortable, where I know the path. I search for ways to do something new, to think in a new way about what is possible for my life. I don't access the wild, untrammeled earth of my being enough.

I used to help my grandmother in her garden. I hauled dirt and fertilized from the back to the front yard where the rose bushes pushed themselves out of the ground. I loved the smell of dirt, the dankness of earth. It reminded me of my childhood where I was soaked with dirt and sweat from climbing in the trees or laying on hay bales on my friend Annie's farm. No matter how carefully we worked the ground, the roses grew tangled and wild as they wanted to. Sometimes, no matter what kind of planning you do, the wildness forces its way to the surface as a thing of beauty, of danger.

Finding a way to grow


At 32, I often feel afraid of the thorns that come with the wilderness. I am afraid of the unpredictability of nature, how it floods and dries up, how it storms and quakes. I am afraid that stepping away from what I know will end in a place I cannot control or make sense of. And yet, I feel the urgency beneath my fear. I know that there is great potential out there, new trails I can follow and get lost in. I just have to trust myself enough to know that I can find a way home.