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.
We go, because mountains are for climbing, forests are for getting lost in and freezing rivers are for crossing.
We go because we want to make fire, make food under the stars, with the wolves of our imagination nipping at our heels.
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.
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.
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.
We go to watch the sunset in its entirety.
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.
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?