"It had to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles for no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental. It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the wild, and as long as the wild existed it would always feel this way." - Cheryl Strayed
Wild. What is wild? A natural state, not domesticated or cultivated, untamed. For me there is much freedom in that word, a vision of wide expanses and skies. In reality there is not much true wild left in the UK, almost every landscape has been at least touched by human hands and in the most part shaped, but nature and wildlife is always there if we look for it. This week in my search, I have felt the longed for rain on my skin (I know that sounds ridiculous for someone living in the UK to say but we've been missing the rain!) and smelt the parched ground after the rain, that 'petrichor' enticing smell of centuries old earth. I feel really drawn to the word wild, maybe because in our modern busy lives - and I find particularly as a mother - there is not much obvious and immediate freedom in it. There is always the long list of 'shoulds' to be done, the demands of others and of life. I have been pondering on this a lot recently, particularly as it is the school holidays and I am feeling the weight of responsibility and these orders and requirements a lot more keenly - far less moments to even think straight I find.
In amongst the chaos of balancing work and children I have found snatched moments, mostly late at night (and I'll admit to locking myself in the loo a few times) to finally read 'Wild' by Cheryl Strayed. In fact I devoured her every word, sinkly deeply into the world she describes and having to shake myself when urged to returned to my own reality. Simultaneously lost in her story, feeling the unrelenting hot desert sun on my face and the harsh cold of the snow on her tent in the high Sierra mountains, and then plunged into a mundane domestic matter in my own life, such as my children fighting. 'Wild' is the true story of Cheryl's walk of over 1,000 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail, mostly on her own. What she encounters along the way: rattlesnakes; bears; men with unknown and threatening intent; the loss of her walking boots over a cliff; and perhaps worst of all she confronts herself and her demons. I found it a breathtaking, motivating, cathartic and awe inspiring read. It made me want to don my own boots, sling a pack on my back and march out the door shouting "So long, farewell!". But of course I didn't, or not yet anyway...
So I ponder on this draw of the wild, this enticement to raising ourselves from everyday domesticity. How can it be done? Once more I realise it isn't all or nothing, this or that, black or white, the truth can lie somewhere in between. Quite by chance, and to my great surprise, a book materialised on my doorstep, left for me by a work colleague of my husband. It is like that phrase that 'when the student is ready the teacher appears', or the universe is conspiring to support me, or something like that, because the book is called 'Microadventures' by the adventurer Alastair Humphreys. Simon thought that I would be interested in it, and he doesn't it know (yet) how right he was. It's easy to put off a wild adventure for some nebulous point in the future when life gets easier: when my kids leave home/when I have more money/when I've done a bit of training/bought some cool gear...but Alastair Humphreys shows it is possible right now, from your front door, from 5-9, with kids. I find myself not overly convinced by the last one but I am keeping an open mind.
It is early days, as I have only dipped into the book so far, but I have already been inspired to seek adventure locally in the 'wild'. The children and I just left through the front door the other day with no real idea where we were going to go and ended up having lots of fun, some campfire cooking as well as a couple of minor scrapes and injuries along the way. Sometimes it is just as simple as having a slightly different mindset and intention; I'm actively looking for adventure now, no matter how small. The idea can sound tiring in concept amongst our busy lives, but the reverse is actually true, once you put the action into place it can end up being energising and renewing. My only cautionary thought on adventure is that I am aware that I have to be careful that I do not evangelise and 'force' the wild onto my children - or others for that matter. It is a slow and steady process of eye opening, inspiration and connection with nature. My caution is beautifully summed up by this quote (there's a sweary word, you have been warned!):
"I can't begin to count how many times I was on some kind of a trip with my parents and they woke me up at dawn because it was mandatory that I watch the fucking sunrise." - Euny Hong
So let the sunrise unfold, put ourselves in the way of beauty as Cheryl Strayed's mum said, but let's not force it. Gently get a bit more wild in our lives and life in our wild. What adventures can we have this week, even today? Let's find a little less civilisation and domesticity. Let me know, I can't wait to hear what you've been up to. I'm looking for inspiration for my next adventure or micro one...or nano one, they all count! Or perhaps I will put those boots on and just go - tempting eh?
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