As I grow older and ever more *ahem* responsible, I often find myself pondering the long lost magic of wildness and wilderness, and the curious way in which I seem to seek them out at every hint of an opportunity.
Now, the wildness of which I speak is not so much tearing down the highway at breakneck speed on a motorbike (although I guess that’s part of it), but rather the natural state of mind we are born into. That original craziness with which we navigate the world as children – exuberant, curious, joyous… and yes, somewhat shy – but have to lose somewhere along the way in the name of normality and socialization.
In my mind ‘wildness’ is as simple as the following little anecdote from Maurice Sendak, author of the highly acclaimed children’s book Where the wild things are, that Imar shared the other day:
“Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, “Dear Jim: I loved your card.” Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.” That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.”
While observing a few deer amble up to a pond close to their house in the North of Canada the other day, my little cousin, Tammy-Suede (8 years old) touched on the wiser side of this wildness when she nonchalantly told my aunt Madi: “that’s the thing with deer, they don’t need to go to school, they already know how to do everything.” (Hehe! Yay for Facebook, otherwise I wouldn’t know these sweet everyday things about my Canadian cuzzies).
Wilderness, on the other hand, is a collective name, I guess, for the places where I feel the creative hand of God most clearly. The places unhindered by human interference, or alternatively triumphant despite it.
Like the forest amphitheater we visited this evening for a Chris Chameleon performance: wood chips crunching beneath our soles as we headed to our picnic blanket seats, exultant Blue Gums stretching up to tickle the stars (momentarily covered over with clouds) and, blending in perfectly with its Phantom Forest surrounds, the ruins of an old abandoned house – beautiful in the way only broken things can be – finding new purpose as a picturesque stage for poignant acoustic performances.
In my daily work life I browse the internet for inspiration and continually catch myself lingering over images of untouched landscapes and animals with that intangible ferocious purity in their eyes.
I take late afternoon walks to De Waal Park and have to stop myself from greeting and striking up conversations with each of the gnarled and wisened old trees I come across in all their shapes, colours and spring beauty along the way. When I’m lucky enough to escape the city – whether to the mountains of the Cederberg or the lushness of the Eastern Cape bush – my heart starts mourning the leaving before I’m even fully there.
Music, stories and poetry with something of toil and adventure, transcendent love and brutal kindness, stark reality and some edges of crazy magic fill my head and soul.
And people… I find myself forever drawn to the ones who carry with them the freshness of the mountains, the fragrance of the forests, the saltiness of the sea or the unmistakable scent of wild grasses crushed underfoot.
But still I find it exceedingly hard to access, or perhaps, more accurately, retrieve my own essential wildness.
To capture it somewhere between the initial, innate reaction and the forced polite response. Between the spontaneous exclamation and the self-conscious ‘but what will they think?’ To grasp it for once and for all before it once again slips between the cracks of who I really am and what I’ve become.
But, alas! It dances and dances just beyond my reach… but at least I know it’s there. Somewhere.