Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A wild place.

You know what's weird about people and camping, hiking and the great outdoors? 

It seems that it doesn't much matter where you live, if you have it in you, you long for somewhere wilder.  Somewhere clear and empty of roads and houses and other people. Somewhere in the elements, where you have to gather firewood, make shelter and go to sleep shortly after sunset.

Sometimes you simply live in the city and long for the country, the fields, the woods, the hills. But at others you already live in the woods, a little town in the mountains, or say an island in the Salish Sea, a place already faraway and distant and a little wild in most people's imagination.

Because, sometimes wild in our world means a place where people don't have smart phones, or where the population density is less than a certain number per square mile (although to be honest this island has about 28 times the population density of my home country-no wonder I sometimes feel claustrophobic), where the land drops into the sea and seals come visit.

I wonder if people feel that way in more distant, isolated places, if C's cousins on Kodiak Island in Alaska, still long for the wild places, away from what seems marginal civilization from down here.
While you can have your wild place almost anywhere: an empty lot full of fireweed, a small swath of old growth forest between homesteads and roads, a grove of trees in the heart of a city, there are places that are wilder than others, more distant and rough and desolate.

They are places where we let our ordinary selves fall away. Our busy, harried, achieving, anxious selves... They are places where our internet-dwelling, house-dwelling, car-driving, school-going selves give way to an ancient self, the one that cares little for nothing but heat and nourishment, that is amused by the movement of the sky, that washes itself in tide-pools and sleeps under the stars.

We have to go these places because our ancient self, buried somewhere under the layers of civilization beckons us, begs us to go to them. We need them whether we know it or not.
Just as chopping wood, or gathering wild foods can be a revelation to a city-dweller, so is the open sky through which the elements move, the wet-smoky fires, the bear running ahead of you on the trail to all of us. It reminds us of who we really are, under all those table manners and flushing toilets and written words. Beasts, beautiful glorious beasts...

We go to these places to lose ourselves and to find ourselves. We go to them to find that we are as simple as we are complicated.
We go to find solitude. And companionship.
And to receive gifts we did not ask for.
We go to them to be in the presence of other animals.
We go to them, to risk our limbs and sometimes lives, in a world drunk on eternal youth and eternal life, a world where no one is allowed to get hurt, or suffer, or die in our sight, unless it's on TV.
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We go, because mountains are for climbing, forests are for getting lost in and freezing rivers are for crossing.
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We go because we want to make fire, make food under the stars, with the wolves of our imagination nipping at our heels.
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We go to remember when we still lived like this, a hundred, a thousand years ago, in rooms without doors, or sometimes walls, with the sky as our roof and moss as our bed.
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We go, because we need an excuse to indulge our true loves, an excuse to read, or dip in the freezing ocean in the middle of the day, or to just stare out in the vastness of the sea and the sky.

Because we need to stop and stare and then rush on down the beach in an endless search of new rocks and strangely shaped pieces of wood to marvel at and discard.
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We go to remember scarcity and to live out of a small stuff sack and long for the land of plenty and feel utterly satisfied by a few eggs and some mealy cakes.
We go to marvel at the taste of pepper again.
To remember that light is divine. That it gives us life. That in the darkness strange, starving spirits seem to move.
We go to see the moon, the sun and the stars.
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We go to watch the sunset in its entirety.
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These places remind us of so many things we remember on some cellular level; how sharp and inconvenient the world is, how hungry, how unpredictable.
What it feels like to be cold and wet and utterly alone.
Where stories come from and how to tell them.
To pray to gods we have long since forgotten.
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We go to these places because we belong to them. They do not belong to us. They do just fine.
And we would do well to remember that.
Where do you go?

Ps. These images are from our Solstice trip to the Olympic Peninsula this summer.  Sorry about the 2000 pictures of my sweetie, but he's been gone away for a little while on his own adventure and I miss him. Plus, he's like, super photogenic, right?


  1. how glorious...and those stone carving are just amazing. i wonder who the people where that took the time to tell the story?
    where i live is a national park and so from april to september it is always busy with tourists...i find myself frustrated by the people who come here, leave rubbish, drive too fast and try to feed or put their children on the wild ponies. the quiet months are the best for finding peace out there on the moorland or in the woods

  2. What a beautiful post. Glorious photos of a glorious place. I live in a seaside town, surrounded by mountains and though where I live is urban, I can see the mountains from my house and walk easily to the seaside. I absolutely feel the need for more wilderness in my life and I am currently obsessed by a 10-acre plot of forest, next to a national park, that is for sale a 20 minute drive from where I live now. How I would love it!

  3. I often think about the animals we really are. It's sad that most of us don't connect with that part of our creation. it's in our nature to hunt and navigate. i find myself lost in the woods quite often. there's something about infinite space and pure silence...

  4. this was beautiful! all of it.

  5. Thank you so much Milla for this beautiful, beautiful post. It brought tears to my eyes. The wonderful pictures are so brimming with life and peace and strength, that they seem to carry out the wind and the smells, too. And your comments match them perfectly - like a story, a stream of consciousness, and a thought-out reflexion at the same time. Inviting us in, impregnating us with this elated peacefulness we feel when we are reunited with that kind of time and space, and which we are longing for right now - me, at least.

  6. So beautiful! And I don't mind so many photos of your handsum fella. Not to mention the stellar coastline and trees and driftwood. I have been spending circles of time wondering about just this. Our animal-ness, and how everything we are taught - seems to be about squashing it. those of us that take the time to ...i don't know.....stop? Find that we need to be out of doors, back to nothing....just ourselves and the natural world, you said it better, "It seems that it doesn't much matter where you live, if you have it in you, you long for somewhere wilder. Somewhere clear and empty of roads and houses and other people. Somewhere in the elements, where you have to gather firewood, make shelter and go to sleep shortly after sunset."

    I started taking this thought further recently, in my own experience as an animal....and started questioning why when we have our babies are mothers not encouraged just to lie and be with them. Not to have to start running f*cking households, or go back to work so promptly...start lactating on time, "wrap the baby this way, don't let the baby sleep in the bed with you or you'll wake up one day to have them still sleeping there at 25, don't let the baby fall asleep on you or they'll never sleep on their own, put the baby in it's own room, you don't want it to smell you or it will wake up and want to feed". I started thinking about people who let their cats have litters.....and will allow the cat space and privacy and let the kittens feed when they want, and the mama cat just lies there most of the time. Society doesn't seem to traditionally allow women and babies this right; because we are not considered to be animals with instincts. God forbid we fart. Whoah, didn't see that rant coming. May as well finish it now right. It's true people treat animals badly too; I guess I'm trying to say that if we accepted that we are animals, and have primal instincts - then we might actually be kinder to ourselves and the world itself, in the process. Why are we such a sterile species...afraid to be what we are? Oh sure, we think a lot and build things, but we also eat, poop, mate and sleep.
    Goodnight my dear, i think I've said enough. Love your words as always. Teeny xo

  7. I too have been pondering the word WILD. teeny's rant goes along with it perfectly. I say embrace the wild inside us and at the heart of our lives, not in some metaphorical esoteric way but gritty, like your photos here, climbing down hills, picking up stones and dirt and branches, examining the earth, kissing outdoors, feeling the rain in our hair down our necks, baring our skin, dirtying our hides, And as Lucy would do, tasting leaves and twigs and bark. Wild women indeed! Grizzled baba yaga of the woods, come out to offer root tea to the frogs and moonlight. I love your wildish solstice romp and how Charlie undaunted and free roams the land with utter confidence. Out in it! Away we go.

  8. "an ancient self, the one that cares little for nothing but heat and nourishment, that is amused by the movement of the sky, that washes itself in tide-pools and sleeps under the stars.". YES. my ancient self starves for such things and is constantly seeking out the empty lots and the freezing rivers. but just getting it in pieces and snippets isn't enough. i need the whole gestalt of it, the immersion, all the ingredients, like the ones you listed, all happening at the same time.

    i was totally thinking "her fella is so cute and look at all these lush pictures of him!". so yes, he is photogenic indeed. as are you. good lookin' couple, mmm hmmm. and plus one to teeny's rant (i love it when teeny rants. do it more girl!). the wild self, especially the girl/woman, i think is what my guest post will be about...we'll see.

    thank you for this post and for the quiet magic of your solstice. thank you for holding and speaking to the importance of what is real, beneath all the hubris of civilization. xoxo

  9. I think this is the most wonderful post I have ever had the privilege to read.

  10. What a great post Milla! Such true words. I do always seem to long for someplace wilder, wherever I go. I love how so much of what you write (not only in this post, but in all posts) is a reminder of things I have sometimes forgotten and other times not realized as such. This is one to bookmark!