Body as Wilderness

I moved to the mountains of Western North Carolina desiring an opportunity to finally discover what it is like to live in the wilderness. Ever since reading Henry David Thoreau in college it has been an idea in the back of my mind. Whenever I visited someone who lived far away from it all, I was so curious. In the last decade of my marriage, our family was fortunate to have some property at Hollister Ranch in Gaviota, California – a wild and uncultivated terrain that the Chumash Indians used to inhabit. We spent whatever time we could there, weekends and summers, but I never got to live there permanently. When the divorce finalized, my last daughter went to college, my Ph.D.was completed and I finally decided this was my chance to finally live in the way I have dreamed of. I found property in the North Carolina mountains and moved here.

In the last several days I’ve been thinking, however, that my own body is as much or more of a wilderness than anything outside myself. It is very mysterious and unknown to me. The little sensations, pinches, cramps, aches, hurts, gurgles, drives – what are they talking about? There are thousands of messages in this one little wilderness of cells that I inhabit. I long to learn their language and be in a conscious relationship to it all. I want to know how to feed, nurture, develop and not pollute this terrain.

This winter of being snowed in for days and weeks has driven me inward. I am by default more attentive to my internal cellular being as well as my emotions, psychological complexities and spiritual urgencies. I am learning first hand that one doesn’t have to move to the wilderness to be in the wilderness. We carry the wilderness wherever we go. It’s all here; an unknown, and ever surprising landscape. Suddenly a diagnosis, a system failure, a complete change of perspective – all as unpredictable and unpreventable as a tsunami or earthquake. Right now this is the realm of nature that is challenging and confounding me constantly. I’ve got my ear to the ground and want to hear and learn.

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