Whose Mountain # 14
On Wilding and Rewilding
As I write this, we’ve gotten eight inches of snow, and it’s dropped from 40 degrees to -2 degrees overnight. Winter is not yet releasing her grip from Montana. I, for one, couldn’t be happier that she’s reasserting her rightful place. I wasn’t ready for winter to turn into spring just yet. I love the changing of the seasons when the time is right, but I need one more day spent tucked under a blanket in front of the fireplace with a book and a journal. Winter offers a glimpse into the power of freezing air and the small moments that dare defy it. This being my third winter in Montana, I’m still in awe of it.
On Wilding and Rewilding
As the snow fell this morning, my restless mind found the confines of our house too stifling. I had too much anxiety and too much energy to sit inside, separated from the beauty outside. I needed to be closer to the raw power of nature, to escape the comfort of home.
I bundled up (I’m not crazy after all), and stepped into my red nordic skis. The familiar snap of the toe bindings sounded through the whirring of the wind and the soft ringing of snow falling on my hat. For the next two hours, I glided along trails just removed from the conveniences of civilization. Within minutes my body was hidden under a layer of snow that clung to every hair on my face and every protective layer of clothing. The sweat was more animal than man. By simply daring to be there, I was closer to nature than to my old self.
Skiing along the stream, I saw the spirits of flowing water. I felt like a pagan as I watched the milky steam float off the surface to meet the falling snowflakes. That melding of two opposing states of the same element ended in a graceful glide to the banks along the bed. As if to protect its flow, the stream was sending its own guardian to help each snowflake get to where it needed to go.
Continuing on the path, tiny brown noses and tails poked out of the snow in front of me. The field mice emerged from impossibly small holes to watch me dare into their kingdom. They welcomed me with a still bravery, in contrast to the meek withdrawal we expect from mice. The magpies, huddling together under the only pine large enough to hold the snow’s onslaught, sang to me as I passed by.
That silent glimpse into nature, when I dared venture out of my life’s comfort, left me both full and empty at the same time. Hours later I feel the warmth of that offering fading. Filling the void is a longing to return to something more primal. I miss the wild connection I was afforded. I miss the feeling of being one with nature. Maybe this is the feeling of one-ness that the mystics of old spoke about.
This essay byon Ireland's cave mystics may have put me in the mental space for my ski. As Paul says,
All I know is that the retreat to the wilds to find wisdom is a story I have returned to again and again throughout my life, and one in which I have participated on more than one occasion. On most of those occasions I was far from being a Christian. But then Christians are far from being the only people who retreat to the woods to seek God or the truth, which always turn out, in the end, to be the same thing. The retreat to the cave, often followed by a return to the world, is an underworld journey. That journey will be undertaken by all of us at some point in our lives, whether we want it or not. Recently I’ve begun to see that it’s a journey that must also be undergone sometimes by entire cultures.
I’m seeing all around me interest in rewilding ourselves. In connecting with nature, with our primal forces. It’s both a reaction to stories which no longer serve us and a devotion to the possibility of there being something more true than what we see. When he says
Sometimes you need to refresh yourself at the spring; you need to hunt for the source of what gives you life, when the outward structures of your world visibly creak and shiver.
I believe he’s touching something many of us are feeling. The desire to reclaim our primitive wisdom, both as individuals and as a society.
I’ve been feeling that same call at our home for a while now. It inspired me to dig into permaculture. My purpose is to create a spiritual site that makes our family self-reliant and lets nature come into our lives as a teacher and spiritual guide. The design is finally coming together.
This longing to rewild myself is appearing in places I didn’t know to expect. Maybe you’re feeling something similar. If you are, I’d love to talk about it. Just leave a comment or reply to this email.
This week I also wrote an essay on pursuing excellence. Life is Better On The Edge is my push to give all of yourself towards a goal. If you haven’t seen it yet, I’d be honored if you read it. I think it’s one of my best essays so far.
Until next week, have an intentionally curious week.
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The sensory descriptions of everything throughout the flow of this post had me hooked.
"I felt like a pagan as I watched the milky steam float off the surface to meet the falling snowflakes."
brought me straight to watching those spirits float off the clark fork in winter. so good man