Archive for the ‘ReWilding’ Category

Blooms at The Edge

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

We woke up to a flash flood warning, never a surprise during the Southwest’s monsoon season, but perhaps a bit of wishful thinking given how dry things have been.  The burned areas upriver from us are subject to erosion when we get the pinpoint microbursts this area is so famous for, but with the mountains no where’s near saturated, if they hit even a single ridge over it means the river will remain low enough to cross in a 4×4.  We nonetheless took out much of what we need for putting on this week’s HerbFolk Gathering, so that if by chance we do have to hike and wade out, this time it will only be with a few things wrapped in plastic and held high above our heads.  And if so, we will be ecstatic as always, at the exhilarating feel of the water, the veil of mists that hang like clinging children to the sacred Kachina cliffs towering above the river.  And whether in a vehicle or on foot, we will look wistfully to the cottonwoods whose leaves have already begun to lighten in color, knowing that we may have already missed the falling of at least some of their leaves by the time we get back home.  We will nod in the direction of the beaver dams, wondering where they might build next.  And wistfully pass through the narrowing of the canyon that feels to nearly everyone like the opening or gate to the magic that is this place: the Anima Sanctuary.  It is the edge, between the wild and the domestic, an edge we cross in one direction in order to affect our species and our world, and then cross again to return to our troth, our home, our venue of enchantment.  There are other edges we all face, always the stage surprise and change, sometimes terrifying, often incredibly beautiful, a site for startlingly different blossoms… ever the chance for creative disruption and surprise.

Talk to you on the other side.

–Jesse Wolf Hardin

Wild Edges by Jesse Wolf Hardin

The Healing Terrain: Coming Home to Nature’s Medicine

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Now Available, Plant Healer’s Newest Book:

Coming Home to Nature’s Medicine

by Jesse Wolf Hardin
with Kiva Rose, David Hoffman, Phyllis Light, Robin Rose Bennett, Juliet Blankespoor, & Dara Saville
Foreword by Judy Goldhaft (Planet Drum Foundation)

309 pages, 8.5×11” B&W Softcover – $29

Click here to Order: Healing Terrain Book

The Healing Terrain front cover 72dpi

“Rightfully at the core of all Natural Healing is nature, from the herbs it provides to the positive healthful examples it offers.  By deepening our conscious relationship with the land, we create the opportunities and conditions for increased sensual engagement and creature awareness, empowerment and self-authority, uninhibited pleasures and fun, and greater effectiveness at nearly everything we might try to do in life.”    –Jesse Wolf Hardin

I’m excited to announce the release of the third book in our healing trilogy, “The Healing Terrain,” written with my partner Jesse Wolf and our Plant Healer allies Phyllis Light, David Hoffman, Juliet Blankespoor, Robin Rose Bennett and Dara Saville.  I’ve watched for the past year as Wolf searched out the most amazing photographs and art, and placed them in the most visually pleasing ways, illustrating inspiring content about the art of wildcrafting and growing herbs, biorgional herbalism, plant natives and “invasives,” the healing powers of nature, becoming more native, rewilded and empowered as healers, and connecting with place.  Those of you who know my personal story, know how crucial my canyon home and its native medicinal plants have been to the healing of my body, mind and spirit.  Along with the other two titles in this trilogy (“The Plant Healer’s Path” and “The Enchanted Healer”), “The Healing Terrain” strives to provide insights and tools for your own deepening connection with the source of all medicine and healing: this living earth.

Judy Goldhaft and Peter Berg, directors of Planet Drum. ©2009 IWe’ve been blessed to have Forewords to our other books written by herbalists like Matthew Wood and Phyllis Light, but this time we reached out a little further, and are thankful to have one penned by Judy Goldhaft.  Judy and her life partner Peter Berg have been two of the greatest influences on what we have come to know as “bioregionalism”: the practice and art of living sustainably in place.  Back around the time the pioneering “Whole Earth Catalog” was featuring the first photo of our planet taken from outer space, San Francisco was coming alive with social and eco activism, and Judy was busy using dance and theater to raise consciousness and inspire change.  From her work with the Diggers to directing the wonderful Planet Drum Foundation, she has lived a life and done the work that makes her the perfect person to introduce our book.  Her complete Foreword follows, along with the table of contents.  Your order will be shipped direct from our printer, CreateSpace, sparing us storage and shipping.  Hope you love it!

Thank you.   –Kiva Rose

Ainu Snyder quote poster

Foreword to The Healing Terrain

by Judy Goldhaft

It’s always amazing to pick up a book and discover it is not the book you expected.  Jesse Wolf Hardin said he had put together a book about using plants in healing and healing the places plants live.  Sounded simple, interesting and very bioregional.  But the book is a deeper more inclusive investigation than Jesse’s brief description. The book is a journey for those who have forgotten how important place is, and a handbook for developing an awareness to relate to a place while becoming a more balanced and whole person.

girl and deer 72dpi

The Healing Terrain recognizes the importance of a life-place (bioregion) to our beings and our health. The book begins with a deep exhortation to the reader to discover his or her own place as the first step in healing oneself, becoming a healer or becoming a complete person. It challenges the reader to recognize their personal place and to refocus for a more meaningful life, and then provides the tools to do this.  There are lists throughout the book to help actualize practical manifestations of the abstract ideas, helping the reader travel beyond the philosophical discussions of place and rootedness to actually experiencing and delighting in their bioregion.

amazing-garden-flowers 72dpiThe word bioregion represents a deceptively simple idea. The concept realigns priorities so humans are contained within the place (bioregion) — not governing or exploiting it. This simple notion opens up the possibility that the whole interdependent ecosystem could become the basis for a society’s decisions. This deeper understanding of a bioregional outlook is reflected in the importance that “Rights of Nature” are being given in South America.  New social mores are emerging which are entwined with the natural world.

Living with the planet requires diversity, adaptability, creativity, and self-regulation. Within this book difficult questions are dissected, examined, and considered from a multitude of perspectives. There are bold in-depth discussions of the tangled questions about living with other species and the authors are fearless in considering all topics — including wildness, bodily functions and sex. The tone of the conversations is always balanced and inviting, never preachy or judgmental.

Man hugging Basil 72dpiThe voices in this book come from people who have been putting bioregional sensibilities in the center of their lives for years. The community presents a series of personal approaches to universal ideas. They are deeply rooted where they live and encourage you also to become aware of your bioregion, in a very deeply understanding way.  They provide guidelines to reconnecting to the earth and personal heightened awareness while welcoming diversity and recognizing how difficult it is to do this.  The two main voices balance and fulfill each other. Jesse Wolf speaks poetically yet in-depth about historic, social, scientific and political considerations and analysis; Kiva Rose weaves a fabric of personal experiences and direct observations that she shares openly with ingenuousness and heartfelt warmth. They provide different paths and explanations to access the information and heart of this work.  From the section “The Healing Roots of Home”:

“On a practical level, to live bioregionally is to acknowledge and participate in the ecosystem we are a part of, rooted – in a very literal sense – in the land that we live on. What this means will vary according to the needs of the land in a particular area, whether it is establishing trees or restoring the soil… or simply helping maintain the diversity that already exists with careful harvesting practices and a prayerful attitude towards the spirit of the land.”

House with Roots 72dpi

The book itself has been thoughtfully put together, its format a manifestation of the ideas being expressed. The pictures and quotations are intrinsic aspects of the book. Each reiterates the ideas and could be the subject for meditation or rumination. This collection of philosophizing, musings, experiences, graphics, epigrams, and quotations reinforce each other and produce a balanced whole. It doesn’t just encourage “a vital return to balance,” the book itself is a balance—of head and heart, scientific and experience, words and graphics — a truly accessible set of information on many levels.

The Healing Terrain is like a long love poem to a bioregion — water is treated as a lover, there is a love affair with the geology, plants are longtime companions, etc. Be prepared to fall in love.

Click here to Order: Healing Terrain Book

Elka gathering wild herbs and food in a misty S.W. forest.

Elka gathering wild herbs and food in a misty S.W. forest.

The Healing Terrain Contents

I.    Nexus: Grounds For Healing
Jesse Wolf: The Journey Home: The Call to Stay & The Call to Roam
II.    Rooting – Where We Are, & Where We Most Belong
Jesse Wolf: Tips For Cultivating Sense of Place
III.    Grounding – A Geology of Place
Kiva Rose: The Weedwife – Coming Home, Weedy Ways
IV.    Healing Waters – Sweet Medicine, Hydrotherapy & River Tales
Jesse Wolf: Creating an Organic Calendar
Kiva Rose: The Ripening Fruit – Living With The Seasons
V.    Bioregions – Defining, Being Defined By & Drawing FromStellaria 72dpi
Dara Saville: Place-Based Herbalism – Practicing at The Crossroads of The Southwest
Kiva Rose: The Healing Roots of Home – My Journey Into Bioregional Herbalism
VI.    The Landed Healer – Finding, Purchasing & Restoring Land
Jesse Wolf: 15 Tips For Wildlands Restoration
Jesse Wolf: Strategies For Land Protection
Kiva Rose: Reading The Leaves – Learning The Names & Ways of  Plants
VII.    Building a Relationship With a Plant
Juliet Blankespoor: Planning Your Healing Garden
Dara Saville: Gardening Natives –  Reflecting the Wildlands in Your Medicine Garden
Kiva Rose: Deep As Root & Song – Wildcrafting
VIII.    Plant Adventuring
Jesse Wolf: Herbaria: The Importance & Joy of Plant Collections
Kiva Rose: In The Pines – Pleasure & Healing From an Ancient Tree Ally
IX.    In Balance – Invasive Species, Natives, Healing & Wholeness
Jesse Wolf: Guidelines & Reminders
Robin Rose Bennett: The Terrain of Home – The Healing Land, Commitments of Love
Kiva Rose: Sustainable Wildcrafting & Foraging – Tending The Wildest Garden
X.    ReIndigination – The Necessity of Learning to Become Native Again
Phyllis Light: The Geography of Healing
XI.    An Ecology of Healing – Treating The Body As An Ecosystem, & The Ecosystem As A Body
David Hoffman: Deep Ecology, Deep Healing – Herbalism’s Place In The Living Whole
Kiva Rose: The Cartography of The Heart – Finding The Road Home
XII.    ReWilding – Unleashing The Wild Empowered Healer
Kiva Rose: Spiraling Deeper
XIII.    The Blooming – Growing, Thriving, Spreading Our Seeds


Shrooms & Ferns poster

Click here to Order: Healing Terrain Book

(Thank you for reposting and linking to this announcement!)

Magnus and The Cleavers: Resistance To The Machine

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012


Magnus and The Cleavers:

Inspiring Resistance To The Machine We Reside In

by Jesse Wolf Hardin


Let me preface by pointing out that no one is more likely to sneer at popular culture in general, from plastic boobed Barbie dolls to the latest Avengers movie blockbuster.  Entertainment for entertainment’s sake, quite frankly, bores the hell out of me… futuristic machine-filled drivel worst of all.  The closest I get to SciFi is rare super clever magical realism or post-apocalyptic books and films such as “Brazil”.  And while I see value in both revolution and self defense, I find no enjoyment in the gratuitous violence that is at the core of so much media including Magnus The Robot Fighter.  But Magnus is different.  He somehow managed to whack the heck out of all kinds of malicious bots without ever hurting another living thing, and always to protect life against the threats posed by our unliving machinations.  As a young boy, I eschewed Casper The Friendly Ghost and Superman in favor of the first of these Gold Key classics on the indomitable robot fighter, at what was then 12 cents per issue.  I was a barefoot backyard adventurer crawling deep into a hidden alcove within the landscape shrubbery in order to peruse the latest Magnus tale without distraction or interruption.. and I still find something to be recommended in them.


Check it out: Magnus lives in a future time when machines have have developed to the point of doing all the heavy work formerly done by humans.  Distant planets are mined for minerals, while much of Earth is dotted with giant metropolis where even the weather is controlled.  The inhabitants are generally disinterested in Magnus’ warnings that human kind is getting weaker, softer and easier to manipulate as a result, being satisfied to focus on the latest technological amusements and distractions.  An exception is a group of Magnus-inspired pre-teens calling themselves “The Outsiders”, ostensibly named because they prefer adventures outdoors to sedate activities inside, but they are clearly outsiders to their own parents and kind as well, due to their unwillingness to remain passive, and how very differently they view the world.



Magnus was specially prepared for his unique role as a champion of both the foolish and unfit citizens, and of the “old ways” that he believes could be humanity’s single best chance.  Every issue, he is called to put a halt to the destructive acts of robots either set into motion by accident or directed by some demented person on the sidelines.  In doing so, he often draws on the powers of the earth, the forces of nature, or the spiritual and magical assistance of Native Americans both still living and long deceased.



Magnus was trained since childhood in both awareness skills and a secretive martial art, a technique that somehow allows him to karate chop through the metal necks of heady robots without breaking every bone in his hands.  It’s a good thing, since he is forever finding himself fighting alone, one of the only ones who has a clue and is determined at great risk to do something about a threat or injustice.  We see him again and again, surrounded on all sides by an unfeeling enemy, trying to hem him in and incapacitate him as he wildly but deliberately strikes in one direction and then another.

I could relate.  Nearly a decade before I had any fuzz on my face to consider shaving, I was already feeling besieged myself. At home in the early 1960s, I was surrounded by miles and miles of suburban cookie-cutter tract homes, inundated with the sounds of lawn mowers giving bristly haircuts to the poor bluegrass lawns no different than the crewcuts that parents usually made their kids wear.  And surrounded by people pretending to be happy in order to get along, copying each other in desperate attempts to conform, robotically going through their days on automatic pilot, taking orders from higher-ups, repeating the same polite phrases to one another whether they meant it or not.

I sensed that underneath the pallid skin of television’s “Leave It To Beaver” Cleaver Family was something other than flesh and blood, something coldly manufactured with pre-programed abilities and limitations, prescribed limits and penalties.


…with lifelike plastic skin, guaranteed not to fade or wrinkle


If the kid they called the “Beaver” ever pulled what we now think of as a Fight Club plot device and blew up his own home, amongst the smoldering ruins of the supposed “American Dream” I was sure they’d find a prostrated June and Ward, wires and diodes observable through a host of ugly wounds, their acrylic hair curled into umber afros by the intense heat of flaming formica counters and poly playthings.


“Did I do THAT?”


Unlike the “Beav”, I’d had enough of the sameness and lameness, the habituation and automation, I was ready for training, ready to fight for what’s real and natural and right!


A blow for diversity and wildness!


But like Magnus, I also felt as if I were in a confrontation with soulless machinery, in a battle with the larger machine that we civilized people reside and function within.  Thus, when Magnus struck out at robots large and small, it was in my young mind’s eye a swipe against the television and its lies, the public school system that felt more like an automated factory to me, the real estate developers gobbling up the last wild places and replacing them with endless streets and strip malls, the lawyers and legislators that are its cogs and wheels, the government robots that repeat the same hollow tape-loop rhetoric over and over again until one day their batteries give out and slur and stall, a swipe at the faceless corporate-body robot that controls it all.


“Won’t tolerate rudeness in a life quashing machine, no’sir!”

Long before I became a social and ecoactivist, first coined the word “rewilding” or moved onto this wild riparian sanctuary that has for over three decades been my home, I found inspiration in the decisive things that this muscled hero in goofy orange spandex would do, and found support in my being an “Outsider” too…


(RePost & Share Freely)

Anima Nature Awareness & Herbal School

Courage & Stupidity: It’s A Fine Line, They Say

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

Courage & Stupidity:
It’s A Fine Line, They Say

By Jesse Wolf Hardin

Wise risks and stupid choices…

gambling on an overloaded raft in a roaring flood… chancing to live our dreams.

In the course of my life, I’ve had to be comfortable conversing in the clipped sentences of martial jargon, thanks to early years in military school, and with the limited but loaded vernacular of the outlaw bikers I hung with after I ran away.  Thanks to my diverse and checkered past, I can speak fluent “poet” and “revolutionary”, and can carry on in the language of “hard-bit logger” as well as “sentimental tree hugger”, talk a bit of “barrio” and make out more than a few words of “academia”.  My history and firearms vocabularies are extensive, making interesting conversation possible with both college professors and self described gun nuts.  I utilize terms and expressions particular to veterinarians and veterans, aesthetic focused artists and mumbly Latin-mouthed botanists, evoking the inflections of hell defying preachers as much as pissed off protestors.  In every case, there are trademark aphorisms that denote each group’s values and attitudes, prejudices and priorities, in the course of teaching broadly helpful truisms to anyone able and willing to hear.

One of the passed around here in the still rural West, is that “there’s a fine line between courage and stupidity.”

It could be considered courageous, for example, to gallop your horse to the front of a stampeding cattle herd in a bid to slow and turn them, before they dash to their deaths off the nearby cliffs like panicky investors in some failed banker’s securities scheme.  Courageous, to risk a whiskey bottle to the head in the course of defending the honor of a woman.  Or to face off against the New Mexico State Police and U.S. Air Force with nothing but an antiquated Winchester rifle and copy of the Bill of Rights, when the government tells you they are taking your lifelong ranch away… to expand their White Sands missile testing range.

One might think it purely stupid, however, to get drunk and ride a bull through the window of an eastern New Mexico bar, or to break bottles over your own head just to show some gal how tough you really are.  Stupid, to tell a Texas sheriff that no “tin-star hick-ass agent of oppression” has the right to goad, pulling you over just because you looked out of place on that lonely stretch of desert road.

Such expressions can be applied to anyone’s life.  Quitting a job that you feel wastes your life or deadens your spirit, especially in financially difficult times: pretty doggone brave.  Getting fired for telling the boss off, a month before retirement: potentially short on smarts.  Sticking with a difficult relationship, because of real love, a desire to help, and signs of progress: courageous without question.  A wife staying with a man who berates and belittles her, “for the sake of the kids”: simply dumb, dumb, dumb.

When it comes to the herbalists we know, it’s brave for them to defy the cultural bias against natural healing and in favor of biased research and pharmaceuticals, to risk being ridiculed over either the primitivity of their craft or occasional habit of talking to plants, to spend money on books and schools with no assurance they are devoting themselves to a career that will pay them back.  But what’s less than smart, is whenever a few practitioners go so far as to discount all scientific research, or don’t readily utilize modern conventional medicine even when clearly advisable, or nurse an emotional attachment to having either mass appeal or official acceptance.

So often though, it’s not really clear which we are until after the fact, the test, the crux, the close or finish line.  If I’d been killed while living with criminals and crazies on the street, it would have seemed far more dumb than courageous.  Or if was never able to make an income or have an affect on the world, due to a stupid stunt like turning my back on formal education, certificates and degrees.  Or if I’d ended up penniless and back to sleeping under bridges, after selling the engine out of my only vehicle and school-bus home for the down payment on some wild and remote land.  Or if no one had attended our herbal conference or read our new herbal magazine, after launching them in the middle of an economic recession.

If such things seem brave in retrospect, it is because I both survived as a teen runaway, and learned on the mean streets much of what I needed later to thrive.  It’s only due to the evidence of hundreds of articles and dozens of books that I’ve written, the nature awareness school I founded and the many people who say I and my partners have helped them, that dropping out of school, living without medical insurance or a consistent income, and following a dream at such great risk and cost can be seen as anything but ignorant and disastrous.  Thanks to a few successes at raising awareness of endangered wildlands, my Don Quixote efforts aren’t as laughable. It seems brave how I bought this property I’m on, because I somehow or other managed to struggle and make each of the 15 years worth of payments, restoring this micro ecosystem to health as it restored me myself.  And our magazine and conference could be dismissed as ignorant and foolhardy gambles, if not for the volume of enthused subscribers and the first year’s event selling out.

Watching and measuring me throughout all these tests of relative stupidity or courage, have been not only my various audiences and constituencies, the sportsmen, conservationists and scholars, readers and supporters, detractors and denigrators, but also the few locals inhabiting my isolated county.  It is they, of all people perhaps, with no investment in the outcome, who have been the most objective witnesses of all.  The majority didn’t care if I managed to make the land payments, walking the 17 miles round trip to the nearest village for supplies, or if I would keep from being thrown and killed after buying a proud-cut Arabian with no experience in cinching a saddle… but they’ve certainly been entertained at all my efforts and contortions, and at time seem to have greatly enjoyed betting on the results.

Never was this made more clear than during one of our normally small river’s periodic floods, with us unable to get out to the road except by scrambling and sloshing up miles of soggy mountainside or swimming with one hand while holding the outgoing mail aloft.  The nearby town’s wonderment regarding when and how we might brave the 20’ high rushing waters again was finally eased when a few fellow visitors to the Reserve post office noticed me carrying out a very large package, and unpacking it in the parking lot, and carrying what looked like rolled up plastic over to the gas station and its air hose.   By the time I had filled the raft’s three chambers, a half dozen of my neighbors (loosely defined, of course, since our cabin is situated miles from the next nearest domicile) had cued up to find out what I planned, fascinated by the site of a water craft in a Southwestern landscape known for its dryness.  All proved glad to help me get the inflated vestibule lashed down in the back of old Sammy Giron’s  Toyota pickup, and determined to follow us to what was now a highly anticipated launching.

Sammy drove slow as always, with me perched in the back so I could try to hold down the raft’s nose in the wrestling winds.  Every mile or two, it seemed, somebody else would jump into their truck or jeep as we passed by, then follow the growing line of vehicles that was appearing more and more like an underfunded and under-decorated parade.  Nearly 30 people pulled up behind us at the edge of the river where it snaked virilely into the our narrowing canyon, the floating tree trunks and white froth rushing by at a remarkable speed as the first of wagers were made.  A bet in rural America is not always a simple matter, though this day money was laid done over nothing more complex than whether I and my baggage would possibly stay afloat past the first sharp turn and until I was out of their sight.

It was the matter of my baggage, as it turns out, that determined the arithmetic of the bets, with the odds against me going up with each heavy item that I loaded up.  Containers of kerosene for the lamps, groceries, books and mail, judiciously wrapped in garbage bags to guard them against the paddle’s sure spray.  So heavy were they in total, that the last half had to be hoisted in after the boat had already been slid into the water, held against the shore only by the efforts of a so many folks holding its tethering ropes.  With all the available floor space thus taken, I had no choice but to sit high astride the plastic covered boxes as ropes were released and the current had its way.

Fact was, that I’d never actually boated before, only watched videos of white water rafters jauntily navigating between jagged river rocks.  What such films failed to indicate, needless to say, was the fact that an overloaded vessel is absolutely impossible to steer, with one’s paddle being of no use other than to push off of any rock eddies where you might get stuck.   “Get the camera, George,“ and “God help him” some woman was heard to say, just as the muscular current got its way.  And then was the first time I ever heard that old expression, about what a fine line there can be between courage and stupidity, or considered that it could prove an important lesson.

Kindly exclamations of concern now gave way to shouts of excitement from the shoreline crowd, as I bounced violently off of the cliff at the first bend.  Not to be outdone, one boisterous cowboy was shouting “I’ll give you eight to one” at the top of his lungs.  By this time, my new raft was spinning precariously in a circle, water spilling over its sides in what must have briefly looked a lot like a water rodeo.  Briefly, I say, with no time to consider who among them might have been right, before careening crazily out of the crowd’s site.

For a short while, I could still discern the sounds of truck horns honking back at the crossing, and the occasional distant thunder of revolvers fired in celebration into the air.  In less than ten minutes I was swept, bounced and jolted all the way to our property, jumping into the cold, neck deep water in order to slow and then finally beach my bloated craft.  Except for a couple of the packages that I’d gotten, most of the boxes remained dry, I’m happy to say, with only a few folks making money on me that fine Fall day: those willing to bet on a long shot.

Many years later, our rancher and retiree “neighbors” still have little admiration for our growing a riparian forest where there’d been none, and our successful magazine and conference are only curiosities, but they nonetheless like to cite such things as examples of a person accomplishing the unlikely.  They reason that if I can get done what I have, with the odds consistently stacked against me, then anything may be possible.  They imagine it means they they could win the New Mexico Lottery jackpot, by spending only a buck or a two on tickets at Jake’s Grocery.  That one might be able to get that special gal or guy that the heart longs for, no matter what his or her friends or parents might say.  That the too brightly lit and over managed monoculture that is the 21st Century can be kept at bay a while longer, helping ensure that rural landscapes, country skills and personal freedoms continue to exist.

In this, there’s something for all of us, it seems… learning to not let the chances for failure – nor even the possibility of looking stupid – prevent us taking the necessary risks to live out our dreams.

(From an upcoming book of mind stretching thoughts and heart opening anecdotes from a wildly rural perspective… by Jesse Wolf Hardin, possibly to be titled “The Town That Waves”)

(Post and share freely)

Nature Bats Last: Animal Defense & Plant Justice – by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Nature Bats Last: Animal Defense and Plant Justice

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

“Nature Bats Last,“ as the radical bumper sticker tells us, and in spite of human caused deforestation, soil depletion, deadly pollution and mass plant and animal extinctions, it will indeed be the self adjusting natural world that outlives both the best and the worst of what we rightly or wrongly call civilization.  In the long run, in geologic time, the 40,000 or so accumulated years of imbalance will appear as but a brief outbreak from which the planet Earth (with or without continued human participation) quickly recovers.  But for those of us fated to be born and die in the midst of hundreds of years of increasing destruction and control, with neither dramatic relief or ultimate resolution, we might be emboldened and gratified by occasional contemporary stories of the natural world getting the last laugh in our own convoluted times.

A few weeks before my writing this, the respected Reuters news agency reported a fox hunter in the region of Grodno, in the country of Belarus being taught an important lesson by a fox fueled with the anima, with nature’s irrepressible will to live.  After shooting and wounding the hapless animal, the man apparently decided to save the cost of a second bullet by crushing its skull with the butt of his shotgun, but the fox had other ideas.  Advancing and clawing at its tormentor, it somehow managed to trip the trigger with its paw and blast a nasty hole through through the shooter’s own leg before escaping into the woods.

The shooter had no intention of eating or otherwise making use of the animal if he had managed to kill it, making it a clear case of critter karma.  Other cases of leveling the field are less gratifying, with the less personally culpable passengers of jet planes paying the dues for the harmful airline industry when they crash as result of quite innocent enough geese being sucked into the killer engines.

Most efficient at affecting a broad return to balance, if not the administration of individual justice, must be the unwitting revenge of the insect world in their transmission of malaria and Lyme’s disease, and most notably the actions of bacteria themselves, increasingly antibiotic resistant, functioning as an agent of nature’s impersonal scales.

If even the most nature loving of us are to feel real satisfaction, however, it must be more personal and poetic recompense, events like the fox and the hunter, or the Arizona miscreant brought low by a vigilante saguaro.  While there are innumerable  documented stories of animals defending themselves when cornered or hurt, the crushing death of insensitive vandal David Gundman in 1982 may be one of the few verifiable cases of a plant fatally striking back.  In 1987 I had the privilege of performing on the same stage as the highly entertaining country humor band The Austin Lounge Lizards, when they played this telltale song:

“His name was David Grundman, a noxious little twerp,
Saw the cactus as the Clanton Gang, himself as Wyatt Earp.
He came out to the desert, they wouldn’t come to town,
In Maricopa County, he vowed to shoot them down.”

Saguaro cactuses are giant reservoirs of desert water, up to 30 feet tall and weighing thousands of pounds.  This officially endangered and federally protected species is exceptionally slow growing, taking 100 or more years to reach full stature, and all that time serving as an important source of homes for birds and rodents.  Their most defining characteristic – as so often seen in comic books and ads – is the way that two opposing branches can often form, resembling the silhouette of a man when viewed against the reddened glow of Sonoran horizon.  It was apparently this feature that inspired Grundman and his friend James Joseph Suchochi to drive to area near Lake Pleasant and begin acting the part of Old West gunslingers, quick drawing and ventilating the dastardly but decidedly unmoving cactus with their trusty revolvers.

“He was slightly disadvantaged by the angle of the sun,
But after all the cactus wasn’t packing any gun
His finger twitched, he made his move, he drew, his gun did bark,
And echoed with the laughter, as his bullets hit their mark.”

The first one Grundman faced off with fairly quickly folded and collapsed, as he and his buddy joked with cocky John Wayne smiles.  Their second cactus opponent was reported to be a giant, rising some 26 feet into the air.  Positioned a few feet from the trunk and standing in its protective shade, Grundman again called a marked plant out onto the streets of his imagination and commenced to fire round after round into its quavering bulk.  It was the weight of irony that an arm of the green behemoth broke off and crushed a surprised Grundman, to the twin dismay and potential education of his friend Suchochi.

“Well, the giant plant did tremble, then came that warning sound,
The mighty arm of justice came hurling toward the ground.
And the gunman staggered background, he whimpered and he cried,
The saguaro crushed him like a bug, and David Grundman died.”

The ultimate victor, of course, is in the end always diverse and tireless life, and the ways that resilient nature endlessly reemerges regardless of human impact, appreciation or witness, the animals that will one day stalk our presumptuous, silenced cities, the plants that will root in the walls of collapsed government buildings, flowering for themselves and any rewilded people who might miraculously be around to celebrate them.

A hopeful scene from the History Channel's "Life Afer People" series


(Forward and RePost this piece freely.  More writings by Wolf Hardin can be found on the writings page at, with more of his intemperate work appearing in a new book soon.  You can download The Austin Lounge Lizards’ song “Saguaro” as well as others by going to or the iTunes store)

Live Your Dreams! – by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Live Your Dreams!
It’s Both Unhealthy and Unwise, To Do Otherwise

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Anima Lifeways & Herbal School

Kiva and I have been studying the archaic Western Four Humors constitutional model lately, after frustration over Western herbalists having to turn to Eastern cultures for an effective and practicable constitutional and energetic system.  It has proved uncanny in its descriptions of Kiva, a “melancholic-choleric”, and “choleric-melancholic” me: decisive and determined, allegiance to noble ideals, goal or cause oriented.  My type can be judgmental, intolerant and impatient they say, and I truly can’t deny that.  The corollary on the Anima Medicine Wheel is the Center place of origin, in which the predominate energy is wild growth, movement, direction and potentially abrasive insistence, not always the most restful or pleasant of overriding personality-defining characteristics, this relentless need to re-create, heal and better the world, to identify a dream and obsess over its fullest realization.

Too often, however, human kind of whatever constitution error the other way, in unhelpful extremes of acceptance and toleration, reconsideration and resignation, self doubt and imagined powerlessness, attachment to approval and obedience to authority.  As a people we tend to doubt… doubt the wisdom in any options we choose between, doubt our ability to make the right choices, doubt that we can effect the world in a significant or lasting way, doubt that we have the courage to take necessary risks or that we are truly worthy of the blessings and rewards.… doubt that we can ever live – or even deserve – the life and way of living we’ve always dreamed of.

There is something seriously wrong with the modern civilized tendency to ignore our callings and let our dreams slowly die, self-sabotaging a goal that might have been possible if only we trusted sufficiently in its meaning and value, in ourselves, in the power of courageous impassioned effort and personal persistence, and in the seemingly magical alignment of circumstances that can result in the highly unlikely often coming true.  Far too often, we may listen to the warnings and compromises of others, or be held back by the concern they might dismiss our greatest and longest lived dreams as frivolous, childish or out of reach.  Judging by some of the reactions we get, you’d think that we’re supposed to be satisfied living lives that we neither dreamed of nor planned for, obeying rather than discerning and initiating, conforming in order to function as part of a machine, rationalizing our dissatisfaction, suppressing our wild desires, and settling for less of what we need and desire most.

I can’t help but ache to this day, thinking about my own mother’s relentless desire to be an interior decorator, but never having the self confidence to act on it.  I hurt, sensing the longing of all those who dearly wish they were someplace else, dreaming of opportunities in New York while failing to notice the pleasurable aspects of a Springfield or Tucson, or dreaming of settling in Alaska or Hawaii instead while thinking they’re settling for the state where they’re at.  I am disquieted… by the quiet desperation of anyone who grew up hungering to be a healer or teacher, writer or an artist, a free form dancer or red-eyed rodeo star and then opted instead for a safe career that actually holds no meaning for them.

Whatever your most precious and significant dreams are, it’s vital to your deepest needs and ultimate satisfaction that you keep them alive, doing all you can to bring them to fruition, feeding them, growing them, and most importantly doing all you can every moment and day to live them!  And this is true whether your dream is being a folk herbalist or Ph.D-holding researcher, bioregional farmer or world changing revolutionary, underpaid tree planter or unpaid backwoods parent .  Whether it involves soothing stillness or stimulating motion, traveling the wide world or leaning how to become a responsible native in a single special place.  Remaking society, or devoted to making the most wondrous meals.  It’s stultifying to slip into default mode, unquestioningly repeating old habits and patterns, meeting outside expectations without responding to inner wants, or an inner calling reflective of a larger purpose.  There is more damage is done to one’s self and kids by resentful or unenthusiastic mothering than by turning children over for adoption, and every relationship we give to is improved as a result of our making sure our dreams are acted on instead of relegated or sacrificed for their sake.  Little that’s inspired can be expected from jobs we stick with only because we were once trained for them.  Yet at the same time, even the most uninspiring source of income can be devoted to enabling and funding our desires and dreams… if only we make it so!

It’s up to each generation to help the children to identify, define, develop, and then fully live their most meaningful dreams – those that define, excite and motivate them the most.  We may not always share their hopes and aspirations, but we need to support their pursuit nonetheless.  Some youngsters may want to finish college so they can qualify for a certain enticing career, others may be called to dis school in favor of a more experiential route.  Maybe their most fervent wish is to raise horses, work with the handicapped, or design solar powered gliders that soar effortlessly through the sky… but whatever it is they’re reaching out for, what helps most is to see the parents and adults around them stretching at the same time.  We’re the most useful example for others when we’re not always doing the convenient or practical thing, but are instead demonstrating whatever level of determination it might take to heed a calling and honor a vision.  We probably all wish the young folks we know will be able to make their dreams come true, and one of  the best ways to help them is by showing we’re fully given to our dreams too.

Give yourself to that important cause that needs your dedication.  Don’t let any obstacles stand in the way,  push forward and watch for every opening.  If you get fired from work, it could be the opportunity to create that innovative business, clinic or school that you always wanted to.  If they cut your hours, it’s more time to do the things you’ve so long been missing.  It can require a failed relationship, for us to insist on a more healthy pairing and dynamic the next time.  Deep unhappiness with any aspect of our existence, can be our chance and our inspiration to change them.  Being burdened with challenge, is our opportunity to insist and continue, persevere and prevail, exceed and excel.  And it is the very difficulty and improbability of fulfilling our dreams that makes the our efforts in that direction so commendable, our results so prominent, and the resulting satisfaction so profound.

Climb that mountain that you said you would one day.  Pick up that musical instrument you hanker for, even if it might take years to get good at it.  Move to that city you can’t stop thinking about, or finally give yourself the country lifestyle you always wanted.  Go broke if you have to, buying and sailing that dream boat.  Give your all to the difficult but purposeful task.  Do what’s required to pay for and facilitate the projects and causes you most care about, even if it temporarily means working for money at things you don’t enjoy.  Sign up for the important home study course that you’ve been afraid you don’t have enough time or focus for.  Start that practice and hang that shingle, walk that trail, organize that demonstration, stand up against that clear and grievous wrong,.  However you envision your purpose, and whatever you imagine might bring you contentment, you need to know that it’s crucial as well as possible, even if you don’t yet know how… and remember that it’s never too late, so long as you start right now.

(Copy, Post and Share Freely)

No Going Back – Viking Ships & Half Hearted Swings – by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

No Going Back: Viking Ships & Half-Hearted Swings

by Jesse Wolf Hardin (


Wildness is ultra-expressive kids, unbowed women and unpaved nature, the irrepressible dandelion and the pet-scaring coyotes skulking within the city walls.  It is also a state where our needs take precedence over custom and schedule, where we are self defined rather than defined by other’s expectations… where we respond to our instincts and hearts, act to realize our hopes, live our wildest dreams.

While I didn’t think of it as such at the time, traipsing to New Mexico with hardly even the price of gas was surely a wild thing for me to do, a rejection of not only the normal, safe way of doing things but of the mindset that there is anything in the world an impassioned body cannot accomplish with the right balance of impassioned effort or inexplicable miracle or magic.  It was this that I drove my school bus camper home onto the land that became the Animá Sanctuary, across the fabled seven river crossings from a road and into what had once been a Mogollon Indian ceremonial center.  It was wildly unreasonable but true to heart for me to cover the earnest money required for my very earnest offer, by selling both my motorcycle and the engine out of our bus — the absolutely only other transportation that we had.


Years later I read about how ancient Viking warriors had disembarked on a raid of and English or other enclave, only to find themselves confronted by a much larger contingent of defenders.  The chiefs would on occasion set fire to their own ships’ sails rather than order a retreat, thereby ensuring that their men would give their all, guaranteeing there would be no “half-hearted swings.”  By then I had covered the bus with wooden cabin sides and trimmed it with a river-gazing porch, dressing if not totally concealing the metal form that had been both vehicle and home.  On the front I attached, for the general benefit of sentiment, history, my own gratification, and the curiosity of any guest to actually notice – a metal plaque embossed with an image of the Viking’s iconic shield-strapped vessel.  It is a reminder of the importance of taking risks in order to fully live the adventure of our life and purpose, whether that means selling everything to buy land, or renting a studio to teach dance, or writing blogs publicly telling the truth and struggle of your growth for the first time.  Daring to wildly stretch, grow, love and manifest, savor and celebrate

By the way, originally the word “viking” was a verb not a noun, and certainly not yet the generic term for a group of diverse and far flung Nordic tribes.  It was a verb, a word denoting action… meaning not to raid or plunder, but simply (and boldly) to venture.

To read a full detailed history of the founding and development of the Animá Center & Sanctuary, please go to the Archives list on the left side of this page and click on the Animá History heading under Teachings & Practice.  Thank you.

(Share this with others, as you like)


The ReWilding: Part 6 (of 6): The Wild Leap

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

“Rewilding,” a term coined by Animá Center’s Jesse Wolf Hardin in 1976,  first saw print in in 1986 in the following serialized essay.  As a result, Wolf was assigned to write the Rewilding entry on page 1383, Vol. 2 of The Encyclopedia of Religion & Nature (Thoemmes Continuum, 2005).  Given the current economic and social conditions, this way of being and living is more crucial and urgent than ever.  I encourage you to forward this 6 part series to others, by clicking on the “Share This Post” button below.  Blessings.      -Kiva Rose



 The Rewilding Part 6:   Wild Leap

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

“Even so, the spirit voices are singing,
their thoughts are dancing in the dirty air.
Their feet touch the cement, the asphalt
delighting, still they weave dreams upon our
shadowed skulls, if we could listen.
If we could hear.
Let’s go then, Let’s find them. Let’s
listen for the water, the careful gleaming drops
that glisten on the leaves, the flowers. let’s dance
the dance of feathers, the dance of birds..”

-Paula Gunn Allen

One Fall I spent long hours at the base of the volcanic cliffs near our canyon home.  Rising some 300 feet from the river’s edge, they look like the stilled froth of a once liquid mountain, of igneous flows that so long ago gulped and pulsed in glowing molten delight.  They’re home to a clan of cliff swallows, amazing birds that create plaster nests out of spit and dirt, gluing them sixty feet or more up the sheer face of the rock.  I was bemused by the antics of the baby swallows inside them, chirping away for all they are worth while the mothers soared in aerial displays or charmed them with bits of food from their mouths.  Some of the nests were built flush to the rock, while others hung down like clay baskets in the wind.

The young swallows, wildly flapping their spindly wings, would rush around their nests in preparation for that fateful first flight.  Of course, running in circles can hardly be construed as training in the fine art of flying.  What they were actually doing was developing “a case of attitude,” getting up the necessary “chutzpah” to do the seemingly impossible.  So high up from the ground, the test was “pass or fail,” with no room for incomplete gestures or subsequent regrets.  Time and again I was startled by their mad dashes to the edge.  One by one they would get up the nerve and take off into the unforgiving skies, bobbing around clumsily before catching feel of their wings and soaring away.

Every one, that is, except for the tiniest one of all.

In my life I’ve consistently championed the small kids on the playground and the runts of the litter.  And I’ve been known to take risks in behalf of the littlest of the little guys: the beaten and extirpated members of other species.  So naturally my sympathies went out to this last of the feathered siblings, as I cheered-on with all my heart its numerous attempts at takeoff.  Again and again it would run out to the lip of its nest, but always caving in at the final second as if crippled by some unconquerable sense of self-doubt.  I knew that it couldn’t remain in the warm confines of its abode forever.  Sooner or later the mother swallow would cease to bring food to its hesitant offspring, and the familiar and once safe nest would ultimately serve as the agent of its demise.

Time after time it would bravely scurry forward, only to fall back again.  On its fateful final try it ran all the way up on the edge, before wildly flapping its wings in an eerie attempt to regain its balance.  Only this time, the little bird had come too far to turn back, and my heart seemed to stop as the bird’s momentum carried it over the side.  I watched helplessly for what seemed like an eternity, the bird dropping in slowly expanding circles before finally landing with a pronounced and pitiful “thud” on the flesh-toned rocks at my feet.

A few days later, I left my precious home for yet another series of talks and workshops, doing my best to be worthy of the source and reservoir of my life’s inspiration.  I remained troubled, however.  What lesson could there possibly be in this failure of the “little guy,” the seemingly meaningless death of that precious baby swallow?  What message could there be that might sustain me on my trip away, or help inspire the crowds of people who would be gathered to hear what I had to say?

The answer came at last, flowing clear and purposeful like the sweet-medicine river itself:  Sometimes the only difference between falling – and flying — is hesitation!

I share this tale now because like that nest of cliff swallows, both our society and we personally may be at a crux, a pivotal juncture upon which ours and the greater human future depends.  Certainly those myriad social forms based on denial of the abyss or most resistant to change, are the most likely to fall.  And one by one, we may come to recognize the ways in which we are ourselves increasingly teetering on a precarious edge, where moving boldly forward into the unknown is terrifying, but where denial or hesitation could cost us our lives.  On the other hand, awaiting our fateful leap is a wilder way-of-being as meaningful and deep as the canyon, as expansive as the beckoning sky.

In the Animá tradition, we teach that every moment is a decisive moment, not just those key times in our lives considered major crossroads like choosing a career path, or determining whether or not to stay in an unsupportive marriage.  When we are fully embodied, sentient and conscious, every minute is purposeful, and nearly every act deliberate.  This includes where we choose to be or who we choose to be around, and how we will act in every situation.  Even resting in a hammock is a purposeful act, undertaken for rest and nourishment, for the pleasurable sensation of swaying in the breeze or the nap that will give us strength for the day’s remaining tasks… rather than our unwillingly collapsing onto a couch when we can go no further,  and feeling vaguely guilty for lying down.

That said, there are some decisive moments with far more significance or far greater harmful or beneficial consequences.  Certainly, that would include how we respond in times of pronounced danger, when another driver suddenly swerves into your lane, a boyfriend starts to get abusive, or a fire is spreading through the house.  So too, the healthy decision to leave that boyfriend, to change a university major or face the costs of quitting school in order to pursue a life as a farmer or a father, a musician or person with a mission.  And to get out of a figurative “bad relationship” with those perceptions and systems known to be ultimately abusive to ourselves or the people and planet that we love.

For increasing numbers of our kind these days, the developing global ecological and economic situation is not only amply threatening to provoke reconsideration of every practical aspect of our existence, from the ways we make money to the size and kinds of vehicles we drive… but also can lead us to the question of what matters most in life.  The size of the closets or age of our clothes can seem so important in times of assured income, but as soon as that income stream slackens, keeping usable rubber on the family’s only car and glasses for the children’s eyes quickly become the priority.  And if that income stops altogether, the only thing that may feel truly relevant anymore is the securing of a steady supply of food for the plate.

The progressive malfunctioning of 21st Century economic and social systems is and will continue to be a cause of pain that we would never wish on anybody… and yet like nearly all things it brings with it lessons, benefits and blessings.  So long as there seemed to be a surplus of gas, raw materials, credit and funds, there was scant likelihood of a majority making any substantive changes in the way or the amount they consumed, to take into account the effects of their personal lifestyle and political acquiescence on those in other regions of the country and world, on the diminishing wild salmon that we love to eat, on the air we breathe and the aquifers that we drink from.  Only when necessary or desired items become unavailable or too expensive to afford, does there seem to be sufficient impetus to maintain, mend and adapt what we already have, or to weigh the convenience of disposable products against durability of goods manufactured to last.  And only when the usual means for comfort, placation, avoidance and distraction begin to fail – when all pretense of a safety net disappears – are most of us sufficiently both alerted and disrupted to abandon ill-serving habits and props, to question that rules and laws that bind us, to explore new directions in thinking or ways of doing… or to assess our real needs and plumb our dreams, then seek for once to fulfill them.

And so it would seem to be for society as a whole, generally driven to change only through necessity, the bloodied as well the bloodless revolutions, the overturning of regulations and unleashing of initiative, the thinking outside of the box and consideration of innovation, the creation of intimate alliances as well as the empowering of the individual, the purging reassessment of long vaulted values and beliefs, the trauma of collapse and possibilities that attend every new beginning.  We and the society we have partnered with, now seem perched precariously on the crumbling lip of that young swallow’s daunting abyss, charged with collectively choosing between flying forward bravely and enthusiastically into the unknown, or else continuing to cling to habitual but ever more brittle and undependable structures instead.

“Again you say, why do you not become civilized? We do not want your civilization!”
-Crazy Horse

It’s important to understand that abusive systems and personal disempowerment are not social aberrations that a benign evolving civilization seeks to rectify, but are in actuality some of the more unpalatable defining characteristics of a civilized paradigm as resistant as concrete to change.  Indeed in the end, adamant liberty and quiet servitude, personal wildness and de-naturing domestication are not a dichotomy to be solved but a decision to be made.

Everyone, at some point in their lives, makes a deliberate if subconscious choice whether or not to desensitize, to live confined by propriety, temerity and schedule, or to subject ourselves to the unreassuring but surprising possibilities of our natural selves.  To fit in rather than be outstanding.  To acquiesce to outside powers in order to avoid the demands of responsibility, or else to act like and insist on the rights of a truly free person.  And all too many of us have traded responsive, sensate and celebratory human wildness for the perceived comforts and distractions of the modernist, global technoindustrial paradigm that is even now defaulting on its inflated promises to us.

Which way we decide on, and whether or not we ever change our minds, depends on our criteria… and criteria is always determined by what we find most valuable.  When all the support systems seem in place and the paychecks are coming in time, we may ask if a thing is “easy, legal, bankable, acceptable or fashionable.”  When times are shaky, we are more likely to ask “Is it edible, practicable, salable or tradable?,” and “Is it safe, predictable, repeatable, comforting, reassuring?”  Under either of these circumstance, a rewilded person or willful child is just as likely to wonder “Does it taste right? Does it sing, laugh, resonate?  Is it free, beautifully and gracefully embodying its own nature?  Is it real, authentic, intensely itself?  Does it feed and fan, or deaden and dilute our spirit? Does it excite our potential, or cramp our personal expression and style?”  And “Can you dance to it?”

Choosing the illusory security of conformity and handing over power to vested authorities can in fact be terribly perilous, making us victims of or subject to events rather than co-creators of our world and our reality.  But committing to wildness, individual expression and personal responsibility can be just as scary.  Discovering one truth about our authentic selves or the conspiratorial workings of political and economic systems, can call into question the credibility and intentions of every other aspect.  Beginning with recognition of our unmet inner needs or the exposure of a banker’s or president’s lie, we may shift our perception enough that all kinds of inconsistencies and injustices can then be seen… and at that point we may find that the entire set of “facts” and assumptions our very lives have been based on are actually crumbling beneath us.

There are more reasons to be concerned than simple disorientation or existential alienation.  The wild man/woman inside you may spook your friends, walk off the job to become an artist or soothsayer or happy-go-lucky vagrant.  He or he may make decisions internally, only in the moment and from the gut, without a thought for future dilemmas or past foibles.  Laugh too loud in a social situation.  Tell it like it is even at the risk of discomforting others, or demonstrate untimely or inappropriate desires.  They are apt to eat with their hands at times, luxuriating in the feel as well as the smell and taste and cha-cha of colors in the bowl, and to innocently expose adult duplicity by telling the truth like a child.  They can be genuine and candid at great cost to career, relationships and social standing.  Such wildness can admittedly result in a misdemeanor ticket for frolicking in the downtown fountain, or cause us to respond to a Summer breeze by running barefoot in the grass.

The rewilded people I know are  inevitably impatient with packaging, and intolerant of closed spaces.  They may get testy if placed in a room without windows, and tend to climb trees at any age.  They love dirt, and yet spend an inordinate amount of time in a bathtub.  They defy stereotypes and demand attention.  They can be the loudest and the quietest, either gregarious or solitude seeking, or both silly and wise.  They have been heard to purr or growl when they make love and bite in bed, to readily rise to defend their loved ones and indulge in every creative medium.  In fact, they are mediums, venturing between the magical realms that exist simultaneously on this plane.  They find it easy to say “no!”, while the rest of the time they may radiate “yes!” to experience, chance and possibility.  I’ve seen them take pleasure in their aging as well as in their persistent childishness, in the passage of the seasons as well as the blooming of every flower.  They’ve learned or are learning to be comfortable with their shape and scent, their most natural weight and bodily processes, and even the most easily aggravated among them seem excited to open their eyes each new day.  They are thoroughly themselves most of the time, resulting in their often becoming either self employed or communal, entertainers or loners, group leaders or expatriates.  They can be fiercely self disciplined, but never respond well to discipline and manipulation from others.  They’re most likely uncertified and unofficial, are both understood less and paid less than other people in their situation, and might be either unreasonably suspect or exceptionally loved.  They may or may not yet describe themselves as wild, yet they have broken the spell of domestication and learned to trust their feelings and instincts, have refused to continue being victims or bystanders and become participants again, have turned to their own values and knowings for authority and chosen to risk pain or censure in order to greater experience life’s adventure, beauty and pleasure.

The rewilded among us may be hard working but they don’t usually have a career.  What they hold is a purpose, with their jobs being either an extension of that purpose or simply a means to fund their larger mission in life.  They are sometimes street people, hunting and gathering in dumpster laden lots, or preaching their atypical sermons to the ranks of nonbelievers marching down the sidewalks to their high-rise offices.  Over-managed kids who managed to run away.  Disgruntled professors who quit their positions to become organic farmers and rock and roll drummers.  Anarchistic primitivists and unrepentant outlaws.  But they are just as likely to be rule-bucking preschool teachers trying to give their students something more than the stock curricula, like a belief in their personal vision and confidence in their power.  Radical scientists escaping harmful preconceptions and overturning entrenched, institutionalized ideas.  Patriots or liberators.  Conservationists and activists, caring counselors and crucial community healers.

For all the difficulties of rewilding in this age of perverse denaturing – of reclaiming freedom and self reliance in an era of control, surviving and thriving through the dissolution of so much that we once counted on – it is nonetheless a choice and transition providing immediate rewards.  For the rewilded, every wonderful or telltale smell is discerned, and not a single shapely cloud passes unnoticed.  Sex becomes more present and wholly expressed, the kiss lingers, the hug can be an end to itself.  Colors appear more alive, meals more flavorful.  Acts become more spontaneous, heartful commitments and relevant relationships more satisfying.  And immediately, the rewilded are better equipped to respond in the moment to shifting conditions.  To make their own right decisions free of supervision, and take pride in themselves without needing anyone else’s recognition, approval or applause.  To grow their innate abilities and maximize their situational effectiveness.  To distinguish official lies and discern hidden realities, protect and defend themselves from expected and unexpected threats, uncover a bounty in times of scarcity, dance even in the absence of music, and yet hear music in everything.

Of course, knowing and even being able to describe the magic of the world is not enough to guarantee that we always engage it.  An ecophilosopher friend of mine talks about being motivated by a sense of loss due to the destruction of the natural world.  But seeing him discoursing here in this powerful canyon where I live, without adequately sensing and interacting with the unique energies of the place, made me believe his sense of loss stems as much from being caught up in his head while the wildness he writes about is calling him outside.  Wisdom is not a matter of how much we know or how well we evoke, but the depth and quality of our conscious interaction.  Just as the richest are not those who own the most things, but those who most learn from, utilize, savor and celebrate what they have.  Not the person with the fullest pantry, but those who most fully taste what they’ve got.  Life presents all its flavors only to the embodied, present and wild… only to those who dare to fully notice, feel, engage, open to and receive the palpable gifts of this world.

So often, what it takes to get us fully in our bodies and conscious beings is a personal life crisis, a combination of failed jobs and marriages, an emotional response such as professionals once called a “nervous breakdown.”  Real engagement and change usually comes with the desperate reappraisal of coveted norms, when an author’s books flop more likely than when they are selling well, or when a revealing of hypocrisy undermines lifelong prescriptive dogma.  So it is with cultural, economic and political paradigms, that seem to go on endlessly until the fundamental underlying principals and promises collapse.  The chance for a new sustainable human society is made possible and more likely due to the widespread bank failures and resulting global recession, heightened insecurity and challenge… the societal equivalent of the traumatic personal breakdown.  We may or may not be entering what the Mayan and Hopi prophecies refer to as a time of “cleansing,” paying the price for our separation and denial as forewarned by the Kogi gate keepers.  But the current disruptive conditions are at the very least an opportunity for our remembering and reclaiming, restoring, re-visioning, reshaping and rewilding of self, society and place unparalleled in modern human history.

The jump we are called to make is frightening, but no more so the ultimately deadening effects of continued recalcitrance and flailing hesitation.  Besides, it is our calling to attempt the impossible!  And it is time to expect a miracle, even as we continue diligently working to influence the direction of change.  If we are to believe in magic, in our fairy tale of a more empowered, natural self and liberatory world, then we must also believe in happy endings.  Ours is the shared wild covenant, together reaping the whirlwind of heightened awakeness and sensation, responsibility and purpose… determining what in our lives and our society to let go of and which to keep, as we each take that wild leap.


(Animá Cliffs photo (c)2008 by Jesse Wolf Hardin)