This week I have been living in two very different but equally Wild places.
Two books I’ve been reading concurrently have tossed me into turbulent cascades of Wild energy:
In The Eye of the Wild, the French anthropologist Nastassja Martin recounts her interaction with a bear — violent on both sides — in the Siberian wilderness of Kamchatka & her struggles to recover and to come to terms with what had happened. Her journey is slow and painful — physically and mentally. Martin has lived with both the Gwich’in people of Alaska & the Even people of Kamchatka — peoples who dwell in areas where climate and culture are undergoing rapid changes. She has been particularly on Animism. Now she must learn for herself what that intimate near-death encounter with a bear meant, how it is to be — as the Even say — medka, half-human/half-bear.
The Man Who Could Move Clouds: A Memoir was written by a woman who grew up, amid the violence of Colombia in the 1980s and 90s, in a Mestizo family — a people who experience daily a life of inbetween, being neither fully Indigenous nor fully white. Having a grandfather who was a well-known curandero — a healer knowing the old secrets — Ingrid Rojas Contreras found her family to be set apart in still other ways. As an adult in the U.S., an accident leaves her with an extended bout of amnesia — a condition that, she learns, was experienced by her mother as a child. As she tells of her own experience of amnesia and as she digs deeper into the stories of her family’s past, Rojas Contreras reveals the complex cultural & personal legacies that shape her sense of reality.
Both books are true stories of metamorphosis and becoming, shape-shifting and transformation, stories in which Wild energies are freed & allowed to have their say in the unfolding narratives.
And then, yesterday, Audrey di Mola’s energetic & enlivening retelling of the story of King Arthur, Sir Gawain, and Dame Ragnelle (aka “The Loathly Lady”). Here we meet Ragnelle not merely as some unimaginably ugly hag, but as the feminine embodiment of the Wild & Shape-Shifting natural (more-than-human) world — an energy that demands sovereignty, agency, its own right to choose.
So….. books & story — written and spoken words dancing with and through overwhelming waves of primal energy, swirling movements, volcanic encounters between humans and the Wild.
But also this week, I’ve known many moment of deep Stillness. As T.S. Eliot has written:
"At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless; Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is, But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity, Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards, Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and there is only the dance. I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where. And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time. The inner freedom from the practical desire, The release from action and suffering, release from the inner And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded By a grace of sense...."
This Stillness, too, is a doorway to the Wild — Becoming so still that the birds at the feeder ignore my gradual approach. And with the evening deer by the bridge, becoming so still that even my rather excitable & frequently vocal little dog, after one low growl, sat quietly my side while the deer noted our presence but did not startle, cautiously returning to their grazing, then slowly gliding into the band of trees by the creek. This Stillness is a good place — less flamboyant & exuberant than the worlds I glimpsed this week through language & Story, but just as Wild, just as far from the constricting and life-sapping beliefs of the prevailing colonial-consumerist-capitalist-technocratic culture that now dominates more & more of the human world.
My making this week has followed two similar, seemingly divergent paths. On the one hand, the quiet contemplation of various ways to felt a leaf; on the other, a return to a wild making I began and abandoned nearly a dozen years ago:
I’m curious about what energies I will encounter or bring into being next week, about how I will live more & more into the Wildness of this life.
P.S. When my son read my mention of Stillness in the blog this morning, he said it reminded him of something that happened when he was about 10 years old. And oh yes! It is a perfect example of Stillness! He and I were on a rafting trip in southern Utah. The other passengers were a family with two children about his age. When we stopped to camp, the other children spotted small lizards & began trying to catch them. My son just stood still and watched. He was very, very Still…. and soon a little lizard ran up his leg and sat quietly on his shoulder. I remember the lizard staying there for a long long time … but who can discern time in the midst of such Stillness? It was a timeless moment filled with Beauty. My son named the lizard Turquoise. And Turquoise has remained with us.
LIFE IN AN EXPANDING UNIVERSE by Pattiann Rogers. "It's not only all those cosmic pinwheels with their charging solar luminosities, the way they spin around like the paper kind tacked to a tree trunk, the way they expel matter and light like fields of dandelions throwing off waves of summer sparks in the wind, the way they speed outward, receding, creating new distances simply by soaring into them. But it's also how the noisy crow enlarges the territory above the landscape at dawn, making new multiple canyon spires in the sky by the sharp towers and ledges of its calling; and how the bighorn expand the alpine meadow by repeating inside their watching eyes every foil of columbine and bell rue, all the stretches of sedges, the candescences of jagged slopes and crevices existing there. And though there isn't a method to measure it yet, by finding a golden-banded skipper on a buttonbush, by seeing a blue whiptail streak through desert scrub, by looking up one night and imagining the fleeing motions of stars themselves, I know my presence must swell one flutter-width wider, accelerate one lizard-slip farther, descend many stellar-fathoms deeper than it ever was before."