Monday, April 30, 2007

Calls from the wilderness (I)

In an ongoing, persistent plot I tried to lure my out of shape friend with me into the wilderness yesterday. I told him that I was in bad shape these days, and that he could easily keep up with me, which is true, to a point. I haven’t really been exercising much the last few months, due to a prevailing injury.

But afterwards, on my first trip to the wilderness for weeks I began thinking. Thinking always improves when I am out there, a breath of fresh air, an infusion of energy, in a present day world pretty much lacking such an essential component.

I walk up the hill, on the ragged trail, through the forest, and in spite of my fairly uncharacteristically ragged breath my footing is fast and firm. I don’t stumble in roots or waver in the uneven terrain. My body remembers better than my mind how to move here, here, in nature. I don’t need to consciously consider each step, not anymore.

It wasn’t always like this. Growing up I was pretty much a typical child of civilization. I was out of shape until my late teens and early twenties, until I finally began exercising, and as an additional bonus I began learning what we all have forgotten. I didn’t join a sports team or anything, like most people would, but my friends and I took off for the forest. We stayed for days and nights, and found something far greater than mere physical prowess.

I began learning. It took me years. I remember constantly stumbling in roots and falling on uneven and wet ground. Learning, understanding came slowly, painfully, but we did learn, did find awareness, and the insight that had eluded us. We could walk through the forest fairly easily in pitch darkness and that, at least to some of us was just the beginning.

So it takes time. For one that has never or hardly or only for sport ventured into the wilderness, mankind’s true home it feels awkward and hard beyond belief at first, to merely walk there. It took me about two years, in my estimate to learn basic moves, to get physically comfortable enough with myself to begin learning the true essence of the wilderness.

And that is something that never goes away, now. It was only slumbering in me, like it does in all humans. Persistence, stubbornness and longing made it return to me, after a prolonged battle, not with myself, but with the horrible surroundings we all grow up in, with the machinations of the World Grinder blinding us to all alternatives. And now it is the city streets that are unfamiliar territory to me, like it always was, like it is for all human beings.

It takes time today, to learn, relearn… how to be Human.


Rigmor said...

I certainly often miss the natural environment. The Waterloo and City Line is just not it...

It's hard to find the right balance. Especially here as there is not much natural environment to try to balance city life with.

Amos Keppler said...

There is certainly no stark, physical wilderness in London, but I have found a lot of it in the people living there, especially the Sherwood Forest resting in us all.

Rigmor said...

You know what they say - if the Paul Smith won't go into the forest, then the forest will have to go into Paul Smith.

Amos Keppler said...

Precisely. And the forest is in there, anyway, always have been, always will be, no matter how badly some modern humans want to remove it.

Owl said...

A brilliant post Amos,

In my younger years I was trying to have a career in sport until an injury stopped me. Initially I was quite upset about it and kept trying to resume the game (of course only making things worse).
It was when I gave up on it completely together with other aspects of my life and took to wandering the moors and wooded area of the Pennines that I actually began to realise how unhappy I had been and all the natural learning & inspiration I had been missing.

Best wishes


Amos Keppler said...

Thank you, Alan.

My awareness came fairly late as well, and I felt I needed to catch up, so perhaps I enjoyed it even more and the experience became even more intense that way.