Forgotten Forests

“But perhaps we may make our stand along the *edge* of that civilization, like a magician, or like a person who, having lived among another tribe, can no longer wholly return to his own.  He lingers half within and half outside of his community, open as well, then, to the shifting voices and flapping forms that crawl and hover beyond the mirrored walls of the city.  And even there, moving along those walls, he may hope to find the precise clues to the mystery of how those walls were erected…”

~ David Abrams, “The Spell of the Sensuous”

I sit alone in the wilderness,
After wanting to walk away from it…
After wanting to look at it but not touch it…
I sit alone and tears begin to fall,
As I remember why I might be here.
As I remember who I really am.

Unkempt
Tattered
Forgotten
Useless
The forest grows over itself like
A hardened callous,
Protecting itself from its own wounds.
Forgotten she stands there,
As cars drive by, loaded with cameras,
Bags of chips, coolers of beer,
And an amnesia
That sticks to the air, making it thick and awkward,
like an arm-chair lover, glazed over by television static.

Wilderness she is called.
Wild —
Where dark things crawl,
And sting,
And bite.
Just like the city – wild –
Where dark things crawl,
And sting,
And bite.

I realize – these places aren’t so different.
Just misunderstood.
They are the survivors of
a horrible divorce.

I wipe a tear from my cheek
And wonder,
Has it always been like this?
Preserved parks
Conservation efforts
Endangered animals
Criminal cities
Prison facilities
Litigated landscapes –
I wonder.

When the old land-keepers of America died
From new diseases
As people arrived on ships from Europe,
The ones left standing
Saw their living garden –
Turn into wilderness.

I hear, they were revolted by the word – wilderness
And the sight of their well-managed lands
Turning into dense thickets of
Never-come-back here
Must have broken their hearts,
As the forest’s heart was broken.

Many people have tried
To go into the wilderness alone –
Most unsuccessful…
Why is that?
Because it takes a people to rewild;
It takes a culture to rewild.
It has to be a slow-moving reunion
of forgotten relationships and ways.

This will take
generations.

You can backpack your way into wilderness,
But you probably couldn’t survive
Without your Cliff bars and dehydrated soups.
Eventually, you will realize that you’re alone,
And the forest is too.

You know…
They were gardening the wild all along.
There was no wilderness.
They were part of this living and breathing
Thin crust of life,
That precariously rests between the earth and the sky.
They were planting seeds to dance with water,
Burning away thick bramble with fire,
Shaping the earth with their own hands,
And letting prayers for their great-grandchildren,
float off with the wind;
They were elementally human
in a landscape that was animate
and breathed fully.

To understand the wilderness
Is to realize that it is
Untouched and misunderstood.
The tangled branches and fallen limbs…
The shrubs and crowded sapling trees…
The bramble thorns that greet us
Whenever we step into her
Are all a sign
Of her anger, and of her loneliness –
And that she is simply misunderstood.

She is neither wild nor tame.
She is neither dark nor light.
She is neither mysterious nor known.
She simply is,
As we simply are.
And we are made of the same stuff.

I reach out my hand and touch the bark
Of a young tree.
I ask of it,
“Will you believe in me again?”

A barred owl calls out.
I wait,
I try to mimic its call.
It calls back.
But not to me,
It calls into the trees.

I sit alone in the wilderness,
After wanting to walk away from it…
After wanting to look at it but not touch it…
I sit alone and tears begin to fall,
As I remember why I might be here
As I remember who I really am.

May 10, 2012 – A poem inspired by the works of M. Kat Anderson and Charles Mann, encouraging us to remember and explore Traditional Ecological Knowledge so that we can find balance in our lives again…

1491 (article) by Charles Mann
Tending the Wild by M. Kat Anderson
Forgotten Fires by Omer Stewart
Longleaf Pine (blog) by Juliette Blankespoor

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