The other night my birdwatching neighbor came over to tell me there are is Barred Owl (Strix Varia) nesting in the trees behind our property and that I should listen for its calls. That evening, there it was, that typical “Who Cooks For You” call. By the time we got the mike out there, the call had changed to:
(We are thinking of placing a mike on top of our roof, and whenever we hear something – the fisher cat, or the owls – we plug it into a laptop and record it. Yet another scheme here on our Hill!)
As we listened that evening I said to DH how wild it was, how I love how wild this place is (I wrote about the contrast with Europe here). DH remarked that surely an owl is not that wild – maybe he had jaguars in mind, and grizzly bears.
I replied an owl is pretty wild. What do I mean by wild, or wilderness? It took me not a second to answer it: Wild is Old.
That owl up there, high up in the tree, in the wind and the total darkness, is calling for a mate as it has been calling, with that exact same call, for millions of years.
Compare this with us, humans, our many, many languages, our many more ways of wooing, of saying “I want you” and “here I am”. And we’re changingÂ those every thousand years, every generation, every day. We are constantly adapting, transforming, cultivating, culturing.
The owls, the fisher cats, the bees, they don’t change. They stay wild. Their wild ways work for them as they did millions of years ago. That is wild. Wild is Old.
I like pondering what wild is. I always refer to wandering in wild places and I know what I mean deep down, but I don’t know how I would articulate it. It was what I want for my children, to know wilderness, deep down, without words. I can feel it immediately, when I am in the wild. Just today, I walked a trail (on a Saturday) that I walked weeks ago (on a weekday). Today the space was not wild. Weeks ago it was. Today I did not feel the earth’s pulse. The electricity of people masked the wildness. The animals were in retreat. I realized when I go outside, it is to seek wilderness. I need not go far; sometimes the best wilderness is just out our door, where we cultivate quiet and let the wild be.
Brynn, you said it. I know wildness is, up to a certain point, a point of view. A feeling. Some things, like grizzly bears and wolves, we cannot help but feel wild about. Others, like owls, are maybe more on the margin, because they, the owls, live right in our backyard. That’s why I look for a more “objective” standard for wildness. A vain quest, I know!
People often ask me why I’m not cultivating this part of our property, and that. All in all we have 4 patches that I leave untouched. I tell them I want the wild, for its own sake, and for the contrast.
And why should our backyard not be wild! Because *we* live in it?
My daughter and I LOVE the book Owl Moon by Jane Yolen. You may want to rent it from the library and explore it. It may become a favorite.
It was my first thought after reading this entry!
Tamara god to see you there! We love most of Yolen’s books, and that one in particular. She always catches that atmosphere…
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