essays of the wild by gary snyder arrived in the mail for me the other day. it was a book i had listed in my bookmooch wishlist ages ago after seeing snyder mentioned or recommended or quoted by one of my favorite authors and former (ongoing?) bloggers, keri smith. i have only read a couple essays so far but i’m already loving it.
Wilderness is now–for much of North America–places that are formally set aside on public lands–Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management holdings or state or federal parks. […] They make up only 2 percent of the land of the United States.
But wildness is not limited to the 2 percent formal wilderness areas. Shifting scales, it is everywhere: ineradicable populations of fungi, moss, mold, yeasts, and such that surround and inhabit us. Deer mice on the back porch, deer bounding across the freeway, pigeons in the park, spiders in the corners. […] Exquisite complex beings in their energy webs inhabiting the fertile corners of the urban world in accord with the rules of wild systems, the visibly hardy stalks and stems of vacant lots and railroads, the persistent raccoon squads, bacteria in the loam and in our yogurt. […] Civilization is permeable, and could be as inhabited as the wild is. – “The Etiquette of Freedom” pg. 14-15
Snyder so eloquently describes many of my own feelings on nature and wilderness that I’ve developed over the past few years. From sitting in front of a computer writing papers on environmental sociology, to searching for “nature” in the urban, agricultural sprawl in the Midwest, to building trails in designated “wilderness areas” in grandiose national public lands, to living in a little cabin in the woods and walking the familiar and changing paths right outside my front door. more now than ever that quote speaks to my life. our cabin is an almost laughable attempt to insert a barrier between us and the natural world. wilderness comes inside in the form of mice and stink bugs and SPIDERS and mold. the white pines creak and groan outside on a windy night and moss, squirrels, and pine needles dwell merrily on our roof. Synder also writes that “nature is not a place to visit, it is home.” perhaps nature is more obviously my home right now, but that thought has been present in my mind since i was a student in an urban apartment. our national parks and federal lands might be closed right now because of the shutdown, but more people need to realize that “nature” and “wilderness” are much closer to our lives than we realize. they are embedded in our everyday and the longer that we accept them as only something behind closed gates and designated borders, then we as a society will continue to fail ourselves and hurt that which cannot be repaired.