In our quest as a species to justify our separation from and superiority to nature, we invent lots of ways in which we ensure our difference.
We wear clothes, we use fire. We create political systems, and myriad types of social construct; from religion to many forms of hierarchy, based upon gender, ‘class’ and money.
However, when you live a life where you are driven and striving to re-engage with nature, you find yourself reaching out towards a forgotten ‘wildness’. Human beings in our Western culture have so completely detached themselves that many people rarely go for a walk in the domesticated landscape, let alone really explore any true wilderness. To be honest, there is little of that left in the UK anyway.
So where can we find our wild nature? How can we strive for a deeper connection, outside of the societal norm?
I cannot say I have an answer, though my own experience leads me to share with you my timid attempts at being a ‘wild woman’.
My first offering relates to horses. My daughter was given some money by her granny, and being the type of parent I am I asked her what she wanted to do with it (saving isn’t my strong point so I found it impossible to tell her she had to!). Of course, she has wanted a pony – and been riding – since she was 4 years old.
So after looking and learning for over 18 months, we settled on 2 ponies, Skye & Monkey.
Not wishing to enforce our wills upon these creatures, we have been exploring Intelligent Horsemanship under the guidance of Ann-Marie Marek, a recommended Associate of Monty Roberts (one of the original ‘horse whisperers’). We have been learning horse hierarchy (it’s completely linear), horse body language (whoever can move the other is in charge), how to breath from the belly (more important than you think!), and how to ‘join up’ so your horse mirrors your movements without any physical contact at all.
This whole process is completely illuminating, as it is nothing like the ‘force of will’ relationship that is still perpetrated upon so many creatures in our world. It isn’t easy – and sometimes minor disagreements happen – particularly with Monkey, who is a strong willed little Welsh Cob. But generally this has been a very exciting and interesting dynamic with a very large, and by nature Wild, creature.
And this is the thing for me; every time we catch the ponies successfully, every time we walk with them, and finally return them to their field, I feel I have been in contact with pure wildness. These are intelligent, intuitive, emotional creatures, and given very little time, they would return to their totally natural wild state. I feel privileged to be able to care for them, and I am moved towards the wildness of my own nature, through my interactions with them.
The other wild relationship I am exploring is that associated with medicinal plants. Again – humans in our culture are restricting their diets to very few varieties of plants, very few types of food, and so many of us are suffering health problems because of this. In addition, we have come to rely upon allopathic doctors to tell us what is wrong, and our symptoms are often treated superficially without a full exploration of the cause.
I am currently enrolled on a six year Medical Herbalism course with the International Register of Consultant Herbalists and Homoeopaths. As part of the course I went on a day long herb walk with ‘The Green Man’ – Jeremy Griffiths, based in Upton-upon-Severn. His walk & talk was practical, we looked at common weeds that can be used to strengthen the body. In the spring, for example, nettles and cleavers are almost always found growing together. Jeremy coined the phrase the ‘wind shadow’ – this is the downwind side of a tree where the leaves fall in the autumn, and is where the nettle finds its fertile soil where it flourishes. These two herbs work well together as a spring tonic, cleansing the body of winter stagnation.
At home I had already been busy foraging for wild garlic and nettles, which I made into a fresh pesto, with olive oil, sunflower seeds and a bit of lovely hard Welsh cheese. It is the most energising food, and combined with homemade homous, and corn cous cous it was a colourful and healthful meal. Nettles can of course also be used in a delicious soup – many recipes can be found by searching on the internet.
As well as nettles, we found dandelion and plantain growing frequently in lawns and on verges. Any herb that is growing vigorously and looking in full health is a good specimen to forage – as long as it is away from roads and pollution. On my land here at Lammas, plantain is so incredibly abundant.
My ewe who has just lambed (our first lamb!), is hell bent on eating all the plantain she can consume. I have looked it up – it is brilliant for many things, but excellent for boosting the immune system. Just what a new mum needs! My ewe’s wild nature is telling her this intuitively, and we can learn from her, too.
We found several other plants on our walk which are also important in the herbal apothecary, including silver birch, small leaved lime, dock and burdock. Medicinal herbs abound all around us, we have simply lost our ability to identify and safely use them in our every day lives. Reaching out to these wild edges, exploring what nature offers us freely, is all part of my exploration of how I can better re-engage with the earth.
Jeremy had an expression which I hope I have got in context, he called it ‘divine whispering’. The whisper of our own wildness is there, we just need to open ourselves to it, and welcome it in.