I am the dust in the sunlight, I am the ball of the sun . . . I am the mist of morning, the breath of evening . . . . I am the spark in the stone, the gleam of gold in the metal . . . . The rose and the nightingale drunk with its fragrance.
I am the chain of being, the circle of the spheres, The scale of creation, the rise and the fall. I am what is and is not . . . I am the soul in all.
“Sometimes a wild god comes to the table.
He is awkward and does not know the ways,
Of porcelain, of fork and mustard and silver.
His voice makes vinegar from wine.
When the wild god arrives at the door,
You will probably fear him.
He reminds you of something dark,
That you might have dreamt,
Or the secret you do not wish to be shared.
He will not ring the doorbell;
Instead he scrapes with his fingers,
Leaving blood on the paintwork,
Though primroses grow
In circles round his feet.
You do not want to let him in.
You are very busy.
It is late, or early, and besides…
You cannot look at him straight,
Because he makes you want to cry.
The dog barks.
The wild god smiles,
Holds out his hand.
The dog licks his wounds,
And leads him inside.
The wild god stands in your kitchen.
Ivy is taking over your sideboard;
Mistletoe has moved into the lampshades
And wrens have begun to sing,
An old song in the mouth of your kettle.
‘I haven’t much,’ you say
And give him the worst of your food.
He sits at the table, bleeding.
He coughs up foxes.
There are otters in his eyes.
When your wife calls down,
You close the door and
Tell her it’s fine.
You will not let her see,
The strange guest at your table.
The wild god asks for whiskey
And you pour a glass for him,
Then a glass for yourself.
Three snakes are beginning to nest,
In your voicebox. You cough.
Oh, limitless space.
Oh, eternal mystery.
Oh, endless cycles of death and birth.
Oh, miracle of life.
Oh, the wondrous dance of it all.
You cough again,
Expectorate the snakes and
Water down the whiskey,
Wondering how you got so old,
And where your passion went.
The wild god reaches into a bag,
Made of moles and nightingale-skin.
He pulls out a two-reeded pipe,
Raises an eyebrow
And all the birds begin to sing.
The fox leaps into your eyes.
Otters rush from the darkness.
The snakes pour through your body.
Your dog howls and upstairs,
Your wife both exults and weeps at once.
The wild god dances with your dog.
You dance with the sparrows.
A white stag pulls up a stool
And bellows hymns to enchantments.
A pelican leaps from chair to chair.
In the distance, warriors pour from their tombs.
Ancient gold grows like grass in the fields.
Everyone dreams the words to long-forgotten songs.
The hills echo and the grey stones ring,
With laughter and madness and pain.
In the middle of the dance,
The house takes off from the ground.
Clouds climb through the windows;
Lightning pounds its fists on the table.
The moon leans in through the window.
The wild god points to your side.
You are bleeding heavily.
You have been bleeding for a long time,
Possibly since you were born.
There is a bear in the wound.
‘Why did you leave me to die?’
Asks the wild god and you say:
‘I was busy surviving.
The shops were all closed;
I didn’t know how. I’m sorry.’
Listen to them:
The fox in your neck and
The snakes in your arms and
The wren and the sparrow and the deer…
The great un-nameable beasts
In your liver and your kidneys and your heart…
There is a symphony of howling.
A cacophony of dissent.
The wild god nods his head and
You wake on the floor holding a knife,
A bottle and a handful of black fur.
Your dog is asleep on the table.
Your wife is stirring, far above.
Your cheeks are wet with tears;
Your mouth aches from laughter or shouting.
A black bear is sitting by the fire.
Sometimes a wild god comes to the table.
He is awkward and does not know the ways
Of porcelain, of fork and mustard and silver.
His voice makes vinegar from wine
And brings the dead to life.”
“Joy is everywhere; it is in the earth’s green covering of grass: in the blue serenity of the sky: in the reckless exuberance of spring: in the severe abstinence of grey winter. . . Joy is there everywhere.”
Image: Snow blanketing a mountain forest by Nancy Lankston
‘I honour the wisdom of life. I learn from life in all its forms. The tree teaches me. The sparrow and the wren sing my song. I am open to the lessons Life brings me from the earth. I learn from the wind, from the sun, from the small flowers, and from the stars. I walk without arrogance. I learn from all I encounter. I open my mind and heart to the guidance and love that come to me from the natural world.’
“Once I spoke the language of the flowers, Once I understood each word the caterpillar said, Once I smiled in secret at the gossip of the starlings, And shared a conversation with the housefly in my bed. Once I heard and answered all the questions of the crickets, And joined the crying of each falling dying flake of snow, Once I spoke the language of the flowers. . . . How did it go? How did it go?”
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.