by Nancy Lankston
As luck would have it, there is a trail near my mountain home that runs through untamed open space around the closest mountain. It is so close that Dog Goddess Brigid and I walk over to hike the trail quite often. When the dog and I first ventured onto this open space trail, both of us were nervous. It is a bit wilder than the places we used to hike in and around Boulder and Lyons.
We rarely see more than a few other people on this trail. The neighbors claim that there are mountain lions and bears in the area, and occasionally a small dog or cat gets eaten in the neighborhood. But Brigid and I have yet to see anything but deer and elk. But still, it is wild. We are definitely NOT in a tame suburb anymore.
My pioneer ancestors would probably laugh and roll their eyes at the idea that a few thousand acres of untamed forest bounded by houses is wild. They lived in a time and place where Nature’s wildness extended for miles in every direction. But this open space is about as wild as it gets these days in the lower 48. Most of wild America has been civilized right out of existence. I personally don’t think that’s a good thing.
Even a tiny bit of wild has an amazing effect on me. I find myself growing more alert and watchful as I hike through wild spaces. I revert to ancient mammalian ways of sensing and tracking every little thing that is happening around me. I slow down and notice so much. I attune to the weather, watching the clouds and feeling when the wind shifts. I pick up the movements of the birds and the deer in the brush around me. I become animal alert.
I also seem to slowly synchronize with the forest when I hike; I synch up with the trees and the stream and the boulders on the hillside. My husband and I joke that we like to keep hiking until our minds get clear and calm, no matter how many miles it takes. The wild places do speak to the human body in a primal, non-verbal way. In some deep dark recess of my psyche, I seem to remember being truly wild and living in the forest with the other wild creatures. My body remembers this wild state and it loves it.
The boreal forest near my home is so different from the frantic busyness of modern civilization. It seems almost eerily quiet at first. But there is so much life going on just beyond the trail if I choose to pay attention. As I walk, the wild energies of the forest calm and rejuvenate me somehow. Walking for an hour in the wild is my elixir; it drains the craziness of my modern plugged-in life right out of me.
I believe that the wildness of Nature is a cure for much of what ails us. So much would shift and change on this planet, if only we would spend some time out into the wild places, synching our bodies up with forest, prairie, desert or sea.
I have one big wish that I hold close to my heart; I hope that you get the chance to be in Nature and fall in love with wildness again. Mama Earth is always out there, just beyond the next bend in the trail. She is waiting to teach you and change you in deep, primal ways that defy words.
Get out there.