ReWilding

ReWild by Nick Baker

I picked up a copy of Nick Baker’s book ReWild: The Art of Returning to Nature the other day. One of the first inspiring thoughts coming from reading it centered around the original concept of the term which has to do with the conservation and preservation work needed to secure greater access and availability to the wilderness for keystone species of wild mammals. Mostly by connecting already set aside and protected natural areas, creating key corridors, and thus opening up essential linkages allowing these creatures to follow natural instincts relating to health, survival, and species continuity.

The picture presented was developed out of a recognition that nature and human culture has drifted apart in alarmingly diverse ways to a point where humans have created a Noah’s Ark philosophy toward species conservation and preservation; where the zoo is the sad representation of such convoluted thinking. Cages and confinement, separation, isolation, and estrangement, are becoming our norm relative to the whole world of other. “Other” constituting the whole of organic life, which plays less and less of a role in human cultural relations.

Cited within these provocative pages were references to such ReWilding projects as the wolf restoration within Yellowstone National Park, which many can claim familiarity with through the video How Wolves Change Rivers. This work evolved out of Aldo Leopold’s ecological vision depicting series of trophic cascades interrelating, balancing, and sustaining the wealth of evolutionary involution and evolution processes within natural systems. Though the Yellowstone project is undoubtedly a success, it has not gone unnoticed that the certainty of survival for keystone species end at the Park’s boundary. ReWilding is an emerging and developing trend that pushes the boundaries of our thinking, as well as the physical lines upon maps which limit mammalian movement.

Linkages that expand upon cultivate, and ensure the capacity for a more significant field of relationship is critical. We need to relearn how to connect the dots!

And this by association got me thinking about this same pattern of thinking, and life estrangement from the field of life relationship in our educational process. We harbor a well-known penchant for straight and narrow pathways toward “success,” “life” and “value” that echo what Baker calls shifting baseline syndrome – the current “known” sidelining any and all other contextual clues from life. And we drift further and further away from all the contextual clues within life that compose the trophic cascades of evolutionary and involutional relationships that feed, nourish, and nurture our humanity as a niche within Nature. Hell-bent on a myopic view of purpose we walk blindly through a landscape of shadows. Though, if truth to power finds the light of day spoken, we don’t walk, we sit! A massive and elaborately constructed baseline of entrenched thinking constitutes the prescribed pathways of institutionalized educational landscapes, and youth are in dire need of rewilding.

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Corridors need establishing to allow for migration toward greater relational pastures where human need (greed) does not trump higher value and purpose. Higher as in meaning an elevated grasp of what our niche within what a full ecological vision may intimate.

Rewilding our youth isn’t something we need to do as much as it is to allow. Right education has moved beyond the sage on the stage to the guide by the side for many, but to go entirely wild we need educators who build the bridges, and then allow our youth unobstructed passage to regions needing to be traversed and for new stories then being told.

I’m for going wild. And I would often echo Thoreau’s assertion that “in wildness is the preservation of the world,” and add of the human species as well.

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A Winter Walk

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It was a fitting way to start the New Year.

With temperatures ranging from a high of 6 degrees Fahrenheit (F) to a low of -6 F, and wind chill temperatures down to -26 F, it was certainly a wintery day in keeping with Thoreau’s wintery reflection that “the wonderful purity of nature at this season is a most pleasing fact”, and “that a cold and searching wind drives away all contagion.”[1] And so, with those musings in mindI set out for a day of tracking, happy to put the contagion of 2017 behind me, while looking forward to the New Year with an eye (I) toward purification becoming more inner fact.

An intimation of intriguing possibility for the New Year’s resolve came to me as my wife, and I drove up to Maine the day before to spend time with our closest family friends on New Year’s Eve. We listened to two podcasts along the way, one on an interview with Gerald Dickens[2], the great-great-grandson of Charles Dickens, who has been coming stateside yearly since 2000 to do public readings of A Christmas Carol, and the other was a Ted Radio Talk on the nature and understanding of Beauty. What struck me most in the Gerald Dickens interview was the interviewer’s query about the meaning of the somewhat enigmatic picture of the two children sheltered beneath the folds of the Ghost of Christmas Present’s robe called “Ignorance” (a male child) and “Want” (a female child). Ignorance and want being subjective of course, but Dickens’ reply was steeped in his great-great grandfather’s social commentator’s role reflecting the “want”, or need of the masses, and the “ignorance” of those of means who stand ignorant of such need, which the Ghost of Christmas Present warns Scrooge to be most mindful of, as upon his brow was written the dire warning of our doom!! The significance drawn from the podcast on Beauty, for me, was its intimations upon our universal quest for meaning, and ultimately how that relates back to the children called “Want” and “Ignorance.” The commentary upon Beauty drew references to studies linking pastoral landscapes, and the color blue, as the two universal impressions most evocative of this feeling and concept of beauty within us, and it was thus with these two seeds of thought that I set out for a day of tracking to start a new year.

There wasn’t much moving in these cold temperatures, and I was feeling the usual inner anticipation of finding the tracks of something “big”, like the black bears I’ve seen most winters lately, or even the fabled possibility of Puma (Mountain Lion) that appears to be gaining headlines in and around the Northeast these days! Yet the first tracks seen this day were those of the ubiquitous common White-footed Mouse (Peromyscus leucopus), who I am guilty of paying scant attention to most days. Bringing me up abruptly to the recognition of the conscious need for paying more considerable attention to that small and somewhat elusive thing called the ‘present moment’, as well as the seemingly simple, familiar, and passed-over minute tracks that are seen just about everywhere.

The next track sighting this day was of those other ubiquitous, yet not so easily identified and understood, tracks dotting the forest floor – those of the Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), and the main aim of my tracking studies this winter of cultivating greater mastery of bird track & sign. The beauty of their scripted writings upon the snow brought up associative thoughts of the classic Sufi tale “The Conference of The Birds”[3]. This likens birds to our human flightiness of thought, and the “voices” of birdsong intimating the stream of incessant inner dialog marring our capacity toward attentiveness at any given moment.

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But on this day I didn’t fall into that mindless trap of disruptive thinking, and the resulting quiet of the moment allowed for the beauty of the impressions before me at the moment to take hold. And then the link between Beauty, Ignorance, and Want appearing alongside recognition of what I was really searching for when out tracking this day. I was searching and tracking for meaning.

Meaning, on this day, issued forth when the surrounding beauty of nature was conjoined with the joy experienced when piecing the track & sign witnessed into a contextual, meaningful story. A moment of human presence where Ignorance had no foothold; present to myself and where I was at that particular moment, open and receptive to the beauty of the moment and attentive to the nuanced fluctuations of mind; beauty and joy fused into pure and straightforward meaning. So there I was, just me standing within a beautiful and wild natural setting of my backyard, marking a moment related to all of creation on this first day of a New Year. My wish is that the New Year be marked for all with the same experience of beauty and joy; thus a harbinger of a more significant year for all mankind. A New Year where peace and goodwill toward all are brought into each, and every moment we attend to or rue the peril of time in ignorance of such meaning.

Breathing the beauty of this moment deeply into my soul, I couldn’t help but reflect upon the other connection to beauty made in the podcast with the color blue. The winter’s landscape robed this day in a mantle of brilliant white snow, offset by an incredibly blue sky, magically opened the door to my perception of beauty, and reminded me of one other strong impression of true beauty experienced over the passing year. It was when my wife and I while walking the entirety of the Southwest Coastal Path in England this Autumn, were inundated and overwhelmed by the sensory impressions gained through constancy and intimacy with the sea’s blueness being juxtaposed with the sky’s blueness. Being a daily witness for so long to such a relationship of elemental beauty was magical in its extreme, and beyond capturing in the word. It was undoubtedly a gift given by being so connected to nature’s bounty, which is in no small measure why long distance walking is so attractive to us, but this experience of being open to beauty can be had on any day where we hold fast to getting out into nature even in small doses. Connection happens in a moment, and any moment experienced where we connect with body, soul, and spirit can magically open the door to beauty, joy, and real meaning. It may even be that the real revolution which the times are in need of is a blue revolution, as opposed to a green one? And with that closing thought, it appears that my ultimate wish for myself, my family, friends, and community is that we usher in a true blue revolutionary spirit to guide us through the upcoming New Year.

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[1] A Winter Walk; Thoreau Essays, edited by Jeffrey Cramer, Yale University Press 2013

[2] http://www.geralddickens.com/events.htm

[3] The Conference of the Birds by Mantiq Ut-Tair; Shambhala, Boulder 1971

A Winter Walk in Eden

Bainbridge does an excellent job connecting his walks to the concept of Place, where our understanding of local landscape takes on deeper personal meaning by connecting us to history, literature, land use, and much more! Worth following and pondering closely.

Freedom to Roam

I set out before dawn on a very cold and frosty morning. The ground was rock hard, which was good because it hardened the mud. A perfect day for a winter walk.

Ormi 006 The Track To Bandley Bridge (c) John Bainbridge 2017

From Colby Lane in Appleby three parallel paths run down to Bandley Bridge, that delightful crossing of the Hoff Beck. The northernmost path is a bridleway, beginning as a green lane before winding its way across fields. It’s many years since I used this nice old green track, and then only in the opposite direction. I remember the occasion well – it was a boiling hot day in July and I stopped to talk to the farmer and his wife, who were getting in an early harvest.

But on this frozen morning, with the first glimmer of light, there were long views across to the snowy Pennines and Shap…

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Winter Tracking I – Clear Print Identification

Native Roots

Tracking in the snow is cheating right? It can feel that way when much of the year you can struggle to find any clear prints to identify, any gait patterns to decipher, or trails to follow. You learn pretty quickly to look in track traps along wet areas, in protected dusty areas, and hopefully start to read tracks in harder substrates like leaves and grass.

Source: Winter Tracking I – Clear Print Identification

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Saving Our Ancient Tracks

So true John! And yes, Macfarlane’s The Old Ways is a gem.

Freedom to Roam

Have you noticed how fashionable our ancient tracks have become?A Lake District Corpse Road 014.JPG

Those lovely old paths which may have been used by drovers and pilgrims, marching armies or industrial workers. Or even the local footpaths which people used to get to church or market.

Our ancient tracks are as important to our history as the stone circles, the henges and hill-forts beloved by antiquaries. They should be cherished and protected. Lose them and we lose much of our history.

But, they have certainly become fashionable: the current issue of Country Walking magazine devotes much of its pages to walking ancient trackways: Tony Robinson has a Channel 4 television series where he walks ancient tracks: Robert Macfarlane has a best-selling book, The Old Ways, on the subject. I commend them all to you.

How the world has changed over the past few years…

Not so long ago, those of us campaigning to…

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Walking the Southwest Coastal Path

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Day 44 & 45
Lulsworth Cove to Swanage 12 miles
Swanage to South Haven Point 8 miles

The End

The Royal Armoured Corps Gunnery School, on the Lulworth Ranges, was our chief pedestrian obstacle yesterday upon the day’s start. It turns out that the coastal pathway past the Cove is shut off completely during the week in order to let the tanks turn their craft, so the day became a walking detour of the first magnitude. But walking is why we are here, so we walked, and walked. It was somewhat surreal coming into, and leaving Swanage today though; realizing quite suddenly that we are at the end of this magnificent walk!
Someone once quoted (I believe Kerouac) that “when you reach the top of the mountain, keep on climbing” (aka elevated thought), so we have the same question relative to doing a long walk. What do you do when you reach the end of its trail? And the answer is, for us of course, to keep moving. Moving in particular to the long thinking that goes side by side with a long walk, and tracking down the mythic significance of why such adventures are so vital to our youth. Our aim, upon beginning this walk, was to ponder this question deeply while reflecting upon all the wisdom gained from two long standing careers within education, working closely with youth, and recognizing that something very vital is missing today within the industrial model schooling them. Time for us to digest much of that grist, and work; working to put pen to paper and setting some words upon an elevated track, and story, that may serve youth in hale, whole, and hearty ways.
And so we ended our walk along the Southwest Coastal Path of England. Forty five days of walking that have blessed us with many rich experiences, and shown us a picture of a land, and its people, that will keep the internal fires burning within us for quite some time!

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