“True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation. One’s inner voices become audible…In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives.” ~ Wendell Berry
At this moment, I am keyboarding on my Mac with an iPhone at my side.
I’ve given out my cell number a few times since yesterday, and my email address is everywhere. In days past, I have prided myself on how connected I was and how quickly I could respond to the needs of others.
I found myself often checking for phantom messages and calls, just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. And even if none were to be had, I found an easy opportunity to check social media, because there were always messages, comments and just the posts of others I could read and keep up with.
I was basically staying connected to all of the voices in my world, except for one.
And while I thought I was doing this for others, it ended up being about me. There is a bit of ego involved in feeling how indispensable I am to the world and how much others need me and need to connect with me. And by staying connected all of the time, I was most disconnected from who I am, and therefore, those around me.
Finding my wild places is not a matter of running off from the world, although sometimes it seems appealing. Rather, it’s a matter of arranging my life and finding some sense of balance between taking care of others and taking care of me.
I need to be vigilant in finding my wild places, but where do I look?
Wendell Berry’s definition of the wild places are those without human obligation. As such, they can be found as just easily on a city sidewalk as an evergreen forest. The location isn’t critical. It’s the matter to which you are obligated and operating from that place. Most of the time I find that it’s easier to escape the obligations when I retreat to nature, but I can do it anywhere. However, I must be mindful and diligent in my escape. Solitude can mean being alone but it transcends the presence or absence of others. It is a state of being—a state of mind and mindfulness.
How do I know when I’ve found my wild places? I begin to hear my truest voice. Thoughts begin to bubble up, unrestrained by the flailing about of an ordinary life. Sometimes I get closer to who I really am, and other times, I’m just reminded about the “me” from which I have become detached.
So how do I go about finding my wild places?
I try to make time in my day—no matter how busy—to just be. Even if it’s just a few minutes, here and there, I take time to breathe, to stretch—sometimes to take a walk, even if it’s just down the hall and back. I think of my brain as an Etch-a-Sketch, and I mentally flip it over and shake it so that it’s completely clear and unblemished. I begin from that place and allow images and ideas to form.
I got comfortable being alone with my thoughts and in tuning out external voices, whether they be from those around me, traditional media or social media. There are enough posts and data out there regarding our cultural obsession with social media, and I won’t belabor the point, but it is real for me.
Sometimes finding my wild place can be as simple as not checking my phone or iPad first thing in the morning or last thing before bed. There is a magic to be found in the threshold consciousness between sleep and wakefulness, where the subconscious comes out to play. Separating myself from my electronics can provide a fertile playground.
I keep a journal close by, so I can record thoughts.
I’ve discovered that my memory for random things isn’t very good. Or at least I think I remember that, so I try to write them down. Sometimes they come to me whole cloth, but more often, they come as snippets and in images. When I write them down, I can go back and review when they are together and not in isolation. Sometimes patterns emerge when thoughts and images are examined together, rather than as they come. Sometimes not. But, it’s always helpful for me to keep them in a journal regardless.
I love to walk labyrinths.
For me, a labyrinth is one of my ultimate wild places where I can do a walking meditation. I approach the labyrinth by clearing my head of thoughts then walking the path of the labyrinth, one step at a time. Labyrinths can be found most anywhere in the world and are wonderful spiritual and creative tools for refreshment and discovery.
I ride a bike.
There is a quote that says, “Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike.” I rode my bike a lot as a child, and even now, I get a sense of that when I ride. Children typically have fewer obligations, and so when I find an activity that returns me to that state, I connect with my wild places. It can be playing a game. It can be finding crayons and a coloring book. I can work a puzzle. There is magic in play.
These are just beginning points. Each of us has to find our own way, and by doing so, we each find our own wild places.
Finding my wild places increases the ability to respond more clearly to my life, and then—in a beautiful way—to respond more clearly to the lives of others. The times of solitude in my wild places invariably result in connection with my more authentic self, and then I can operate from that place as I interact with my world.
My wild places foster a sense of awe and gratitude, that brings buoyancy to my day, my moments and to my world and those around me.
Author: Terry Price
Apprentice Editor: Karolina Krawczyk-Sharma/Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Photo: elephant archives, via Megan Ridge Morris