Wild. Wilder. Wilderness.
Three words from one.
Wild…what I have always been seeking. Since I was a child and could sit in Granddad’s back yard, feeling the roaring summer heat; reaching out, sensing the touch of a firefly at evening as it lit upon my small fingers (we call ’em “lightning bugs” in North Carolina).
Wild…what I saw as a young boy at the state natural history museum. Wild, but wild that was “preserved,” with all the life-energy drained away. Still, echoes of life abounded in the bones and skin and stuffed display. Wild was always there — never to die, though the animal was but preserved carcass.
Wilder…when I was in my early 30’s and visited a zoological park. Real wild — more so than in the museum — yet caged, restricted. Wilder…looking me in the eye. Wilder…telling me it would be a wondrous freedom to raise the latch and let it go; a foreign creature roaming free in the land.
Wilder…as I roamed into the forest and had a nerve-shaking encounter with a rattlesnake. Wilder, fiercer, rattling rage which said “stay back, beware!”
Wilder…encircled while in camp by a black bear, who wandered around my tent coming ever closer. I remember striking the cooking pan with a stick, blowing a whistle, all to no avail as wilder came…nearer. Only striking the earth with my hiking staff in a desperate attempt to drive the creature off met with success.
Wilder…jangling the nerves. Storms ambushing me while I scaled great heights, pummeling the ridges with rain, savaging the peaks with lightning, causing me to pause and duck and dart beneath sheltering trees for fear of being struck.
Wilderness…in the deep balsam forest, amid a million mirroring lakes and ponds, across land studded with peat bog and few signs of human activity. Wilderness at last…home in the deepest sense. Wilderness! What I had been walking for, seeking for, ever thirsting for.
Wilderness…atop the high-winded peak at velocity enough to tip me over. Elemental threats amid the glory of sailing clouds and bright sun and deep cold. Wilderness that pounded my soul and heart with a message: This is life! Breathe in, feel the caress; embrace the moment as the space between you and eternity becomes thin enough for you to reach beyond daily cares and concerns. The mundane will soon return…but or now…