by Gay Norton Edelman
Last year, I didn’t make it to my Shangri La cabin for the October splendor. There were good reasons why it didn’t happen. But still, I felt bereft, missing mother nature’s extravagant color spread in upstate New York. Sure, there are leaves where I live in New Jersey. But not the expanse of rolling hills I grew up with.
“You need Wild Nature,” a friend said to me, naming my deep yearning. “You need Wild Nature like you need air and water.”
Oh, my soul! She nailed it.
Craving Wild Nature, I saw at that moment, is no less than the hunger to know, see, and experience my true self, the spirit that makes me who I am. I need that for peace of mind. And as a source of my creativity, not just for images and inspiration. (I’ve lost count of how many moon poems I’ve written!) But as a window into all my deepest, most personal truths. When I am in big country, walking slow, breathing slow, just letting myself be—looking off into the hills, watching the sunrise through the trees, looking up at the Milky Way—that’s when I feel most myself. And that’s when my best words flow.
My journalistic research says this need for transcendence, to believe in something beyond ourselves, is born into everyone. I’m not saying everyone needs access to nature for their writing. But science says we all do better with at least a few minutes of our feet feeling the earth, and our eyes to the sky or to the budding maple tree outside our window. For me, nature and inner truth go hand in hand.
For weeks, after the Wild Nature conversation, I took time each morning to feel the craving, asking what I needed to do next. It’s a job, not judging thoughts and feelings, or pushing them away, but I soldiered bravely on, intuitively knowing I was onto something that could bring more serenity and, very likely, some new poems—or, who knows, maybe a novel or a screenplay.
But I confess, a part of me was locked into a tantrum, because getting out into Wild Nature wasn’t yet an option. I do not enjoy the part of Wild Nature that comes with 14-inch snowstorms and power outages in April. Seriously.
Drop the all-or-nothing thinking, my inner wisdom suggested. How about taking nature as it comes, in the ways it presents itself in your everyday New Jersey life: Cut flowers? Yes! A fleet of cacti by the big living room window? Yes! Step out onto my front stoop just before bed to look up at the sky? Yes to that as a nightly ritual. Nature’s magic is here for me, every day. As it is for you, too.
And—here comes the big stuff—my wisdom self said, how about my own inner wildness? My intuition queried. Aren’t I part of nature? The Wild Nature in me also needs to be honored, for the good of my entire life, from peace of mind to honoring the call to express myself on paper with words. Singing, wherever, whenever! Dancing, yes! Digging in the dirt on my quarter-acre, yes!
And—brace yourself—taking creative risks with my work and life. Taking my voice to the limits, written and spoken at PWN’s open mics and, if I get brave enough, elsewhere. Wild is not just an out-there thing. It’s inside me, too. It wants to be fed. It wants to express. It wants peace, joy, and the power of life itself.
Do I still long for the feral oasis of New York State? You bet. Am I making plans to head for the hills come June? Absolutely. Do I hold my breath waiting for that form of perfection? I do not. My Wild Nature is here, it’s now. It’s about squarely facing myself and my day, flowers in hand, singing, dancing, twirling—head nicely balanced over the spot where my feet are at, reaching for the clouds, hands on hips, head up, eyes wide hope, with my favorite people alongside.
How about you? Can you say yes to your wild side? Sure you can. Then, dear friend, put those hands to notebook or keyboard and don’t look back.