GRIEF, GRATITUDE & THE COURAGE TO CULTIVATE YOUR WILD SPACES

Today is Earth Day and just last month we celebrated spring equinox, evidence of Life’s promise that all that was previously departed will return once more to flower and bloom.  As I was driving on my morning commute I passed over a small street bridge and saw that multiple branches approximately six inches or more in diameter had been freshly cut from the trees lining the concrete balustrades on both sides.  

It’s no secret this modern life requires us to trim down and pare back the wild.

It is the nature of Life to grow full and wide and wild without apology.  It is the mandate of “civilization” to contain and restrain.

Following my health challenges shorty after becoming a mother, my husband and I desired a simpler life with room to breathe.  We made the decision to downsize from our funky 2000 square-foot 60’s split-level home to something smaller. We had the wonderful fortune to land a little house on an acreage outside of the city.  There’s a little neighborhood lake to the west, a wheat field to the east and a patch of woods to the south. Up until this year, there was a six-acre stretch to the north of us lying undeveloped. Over the passing years we’ve watched three 2500+ square foot homes get erected one-by-one.  The fields of native grasses and sporadic patches of trees that housed rabbits, birds, and field mice being plowed over and cemented. Trading soapberries and cedars for bricks and mortar.

I mourned the loss of the untamed expanse of land to my north in the same way I feel sadness when I witness trees surrendering their fullness, sacrificing limbs and foliage and generous nesting places to protect our electrical grids and the ever-expanding super highway system. In moments like these I always think of Shel Silverstein’s book, The Giving Tree.  A classic tearjerker about the boundless generosity of Mother Earth (and the mother archetype).  

I do my best to create space for this grief, allowing the feelings to wash over me, remembering that we all are called to do the work of grieving the loss of the natural state of Earth and the diminishing vitality of her flora and fauna.  But I also intentionally turn my focus to gratitude for the life-giving fact that there is a plot of land directly to my south deemed unsuitable for human dwellings. I cherish my days living on this edge of civilization. It is so very symbolic of my perpetual inner state.  

Although the same cannot be said for the surrounding wheat fields which are increasingly yielding to housing developments, it is such a comfort to know that there are some wild spaces that are considered all but useless by the modern machine. It is in these spaces where hope dwells alongside the deer and coyote and the great horned owl.

Cultivating the wildish nature within yourself is not unlike this tug-of-war with suburban sprawl. In nearly every direction there are components of the machine of modernity threatening to encroach upon your core way of being as a natural creature of Earth. There are certain ways of being that are as essential to who you are as eating, sleeping, and breathing.

We are all ancient, primitive souls living under modern, materialistic conditions that often run counter to our need for deep soul nourishment such as ample time to create and play and rest and gather and sing and dance and write and cry and dive to emotional depths and soar to ecstatic heights.  Each in our own original way. Even just the time to sit with the question, What makes my heart sing? is considered a lackadaisical luxury.  

Whether we recognize it or not, each of us carries grief for the losses incurred from this over-domesticated life centered around the “single-family unit.”  In which one person (maybe two) carries the physical and emotional labor that used to be shared by an entire village. Do you feel it? I do. As epidemic levels of anxiety and depression continue to sweep over this land, threatening to level its people.  

In day-to-day life it feels like inner tug-of-war between checking off the list of to-do’s and serving the needs of Soul.  I used to think the two were mutually exclusive. Certainly they can be, but they needn’t necessarily be.

I used to think that becoming wild meant running as far away from this modern life as possible. And while I’m guilty of completely romanticizing living off-grid with my family, I’ve come to realize that my calling is to carve out my own version of the middle path.  And to help others do the same.

I’ve come to learn that even the most mundane tasks can be infused with wildness.  The way a perfectly written passage can come to form in my mind as I stare out the kitchen window, two hands submerged in soapy dishwater.

Author and soul activist, Francis Weller, teaches that we must learn to carry both grief and gratitude in this life.  We can be completely pummeled by the weight of grief for all that has been lost if we do not also seek out and celebrate the wild spaces that exist both in the world and within us.  

LET THE NATURE OF YOUR GRIEF INFORM THE CULTIVATION OF YOUR VERSION OF WILD.  

Whether that’s taking the time to write down your dreams, plant a patch of wildflowers in your backyard, or to simply sit and do absolutely nothing in a space that inspires you.  

Don’t have a space that inspires you?  Find or create one. Stat. The return of spring is our signal to clear out the old in order to make space for the new.  New Life is always ready to emerge through you.

ALL THAT IS REQUIRED FOR THE WILD TO FLOURISH IS A LITTLE PATCH OF TIME AND SPACE FREE FROM THE SHEARS OF CONTEMPORARY COMMITMENTS.  YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO FAR – JUST A FEW STEPS FROM THE WELL-WORN PATH OF ENDLESS PRODUCTIVITY. 

It is in these spaces that the real, authentic you comes home.  Where your giftedness gets nourished into being. These are the little resting places, where your original, wild Soul receives a critical boon for this sometimes brutal, yet always beautiful, thing called life.  

Find your wild spaces – even just a single pot on your patio.  Protect and nourish them as if your life depends on it.

Please tell me: What are your wild spaces?  What inner or outer territory do you fiercely protect for the nourishment of your soul?  Is it a weekly bath? A book? A hiking trail? A patch of clover? A journal or canvas?  I’d love to hear in the comments below. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *