A Search for Wilderness
Wild places have always lured me. Out there amidst timeless landscapes my attention comes back from irrelevant distractions to things that are real and that matter to me. Inner qualities find reflection in the outdoors. Senses celebrate the sounds, colours, textures, smells of the living earth. One of the most endangered species of our times - the silence - finds her refuge here. The joy of simple experiences of being alive stayed living here too, close to the land. The range of movement and breathing widens: my body is reminded of something, intangible and ancient, that expands its inner space and makes everything more fluid. It’s reminded of the meaning of simple walking in an environment that is alive, and while walking speaking to the land I step on, meeting the wind in the trees, noticing the multitudes of other creatures that are hiding there among the bushes, on the branches, in the water. Acknowledging their existence is an act of paying attention first and foremost, but it is also an imaginative journey towards creating a contact, getting in touch in a deeper way with the non-human creatures inhabiting the planet.
Any meeting is an act of courage. Whether you meet a human or an animal, to come out and see the other and be seen by them is a courageous leap into the unknown territory. But it is so for both sides: for an animal to come out and see us and really agree to be seen by us is a brave move. Without saying a word they ask if they can trust us. Can they trust that we have come to give our attention, and not to take from them. That our attention is of a more pure intention than a wish to know about them, to observe bits and pieces of them in a microscope on our way to solving this riddle of what life is all about... For centuries the ambition to exercise our will on the world without asking what the world thought about it educated in us a certain kind of attention - that of consuming and dominating. But we also have a different kind of longing, a longing towards mindful exploration. This longing awakens a different kind of attention. The one that doesn't take but that gives. It offers itself as a gift to everything in its vision. It is attention of a co-creator.
We sculpt our lives through our own attention. How and what we pay attention to influences our awareness and imagination, empathy and courage, wishes and choices. With our choices we write our story in many tiny and big, conscious and not, life-long steps of self-creation. Which paths to pursue, and which to resign from? Where is a clear No and where a real Yes? What matters?
Repetitive monotonous activities, over-specialized work, one-sided conclusions, four-walled rooms and four-cornered screens — there are lots of phenomena out there, which after a long-term engagement shrink our world to a tiny lodge. Our imagination takes shape of the buildings we live in, thoughts we think, objects we see around. Wild places, in turn, expand our outer and inner landscapes. They give us maps with which we trace and re-draw the contours of our interior geographies. Dissolving the boundaries, they remind us of multitudes of different ways of being in the world. There are many options. If only we look closer.
Looking closer at a simple pine tree, I discover a pattern on its bark I haven't seen before. I notice another plant growing right at its roots, gently touching its trunk from both sides. I see how the green of its needles changes colour towards the edges. Every branch reaching upwards in a different way, each choosing a different shape to stretch and touch the sky. With every new discovery this pine tree stops being just a contour and gains a meaningful presence. The whole landscape grows to have new layers of meaning. My interpretation of and engagement with reality around depends on my choices of attention, on what I notice and give importance to. As Mary Oliver said, “the world offers itself to your imagination, /calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting- /over and over announcing your place /in the family of things.” My place in the family of things asks me to slow down, to reconnect to the inner compass and to notice life around through the lens of my own perception, through my own living body, and not through the beliefs of a story my culture passed on to me. This inherited story is just one of many possible stories, one part of a large web of viewpoints stretching back into time, tales of people searching to live meaningfully in a world that is our own, or could be our own...