It all started with a walk from the Vale of the White Horse to Avebury with a lovely group of people two summers ago. As I walked in that ancient, symbolic landscape and shared the warmth of community on the road and around the fire every night, I merged deeply with the wild self, the one who loves to commune with the stars, with plants and creatures, with exquisite landscapes, and to hear the song of the Earth.
A recurring theme
I came home and started working with Glennie Kindred on her book, Letting in the Wild Edges . She got me thinking deeply about what it is to explore our own wild edges and how we can enter a much deeper relationship with Nature through what we grow, forage, craft and celebrate. I wrote about that process in the last Cygnus review. Earlier this year, synchronously, Ann sent me The Eyes of the Wild by Eleanor O’Hanlon , an incomparably fine and insightful book, overflowing with wisdom, natural history and beauty. I reviewed it here too and have since become friends with Eleanor. She is a wonderful, clever, funny woman.
Why has the wild well and truly entered my life? I think it is a balancing reaction to the frantic, digital, artificial world in which we now live. We are resource rich and time poor with a vast global population, industrialised food system that thinks it is rational to grow meat in the lab rather than support agroecology (proven to be more productive than industrial monocultures), agroforestry and permaculture. In my exploration of the wild in me, I am reaching out to my soul’s impulse towards the Beautiful, the Good and the True. I am working to strengthen my capacity to hold the vision of a saner, more balanced world: For what we think, we create. I know I am not alone. Many of us speak of the same journey.
Wild, by Jay Griffiths
Seeking further inspiration and reading on this subject, it was inevitable that I would discover the writings of Jay Griffiths and her book, Wild. Jay is a poet, wordsmith as well as a social, political, and environmental commentator, but I must warn you, she is not always a comfortable read. She is frankly visionary, brutally honest and deeply incisive about our industrialised colonisation of all things Wild.
Her book by that name is a tour de force. It explores what is wild on a grand scale. This is a travel adventure, the author’s personal journey to wholeness, and a literary masterpiece. It is also a first hand, comprehensive exploration of the world’s indigenous cultures and their profound insights into what it is to be Wild, unconstrained by the confines of linear, western, mechanistic thinking and culture, with all its teeth and claw. A scathing critique of corporate greed and the evangelical missionaries who collude with the mining and logging companies, it describes their end game: the destruction of fragile cultures, poverty, and alcohol and drug dependency.
Stark realities, profound metaphors, poetic language
Jay Griffiths structures Wild through her travels to the lands of Earth, Ice, Water, Air and Fire. It is often poetic, beautiful, stunningly insightful and, at times, harrowing, especially during the tales of the lives of the Inuit (Ice) who are so stripped of their culture that they no longer have the traditional skills to venture into the frozen wilds of their own lands without risking death. In West Papua too I grieved for the indigenes at the hands of the Indonesian Government, which operates hand in hand with the mining corporations and is armed by western nations (specifically Britain).
Jay has the ability to express stark realities as well as deeply profound metaphors. She uses language, even invents it, like a poet laureate. However personally discomforting the subject matter can be at times, I read every word and savoured each page. Like Eleanor O’Hanlon’s magnificent Eyes of The Wild, this book brought me into greater relationship with my own constraints and my yearning to merge with the great spaces of the wild, unforgiving, natural world. It made me long to connect with my own free spirit which is too often suppressed by the routines of our obligatory desk and four walls culture. This is a big recommend for anything this stunning author writes.
Maddy Harland is a writer, editor and speaker. She co-founded Permaculture magazine – practical solutions for self-reliance, as well as Permanent Publications, a book publishing company, and The Sustainability Centre, an educational charity in Hampshire. You can find out more at permaculture.co.uk (a free online magazine updated daily with practical features, news, reviews and reader’s solutions).