Tuesday, 4 December 2012

In search of the wild

It is all too easy to think of wild as something remote and unobtainable, to imagine that it exists only on some distant mountain slope, offshore island or in some hidden sunken lane. We sense that our increasing reach and untidy habits leave even the most remote of places touched by our activities, the wild tamed or tainted. While all this is true, it is easy enough to discover wildness much closer to home. Wild is the late November wind that batters the shutters, the rain that runs down the window, the dark shadow of that slips into an urban river and the plants that push up between the cracks in the town centre pavement. Wild is everywhere and however much we try to conquer it, it will always find a way.

It is not so much that the wild has been tamed but more that we have become too comfortable with our modern existence and can no longer see it. Part of the reason for this is that we rarely, if ever, have to face the dangerous wild, the wild that challenges us, scares us and has the potential to harm. No large predators stalk our countryside; we have just the one venomous snake and there are few creatures with enough bite or sting to threaten. No longer do we have to take risks. We are comfortable and secure but sense there is something missing. It is this sense of something being missing that drives some of us to seek out the more remote parts of our archipelago, to promote ‘rewilding’ and daydream of the return of big cats and other missing carnivores.

Of course, we do not have to go as far as reintroducing Lynx or Wolf to rediscover our missing wild. All we need to do is step outside from time to time and engage with the natural world around us. It might appear a bit ‘new age’ to suggest immersing yourself in a late summer hay meadow or to insinuate yourself into the middle of a blackthorn thicket, but to do so will envelop your senses with the buzzings and scratchings and sniffings of wild. Peer at the weedy looking plant emerging from the narrowest of cracks in the pavement and discover the vitality that drives it to conquer our attempt to blanket it out. Seek out the creatures that have gained access to your home, the spiders, silverfish, moths and woodlice, and delight in their persistence.

The wild should never be completely understood, and perhaps it should probably carry a hint of danger, but it needs to become a more central part of our daily lives. It is part of us and we are part of it.

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