I once biked across Hampstead Heath at night. The sky was black and cold. And as I neared the top of the hill I looked out across our city with it's thick moat of blazing fluorescent street lights illuminating more buildings then you could count. And as I peered up at the sky though there must have been a trillion stars shining, I could see but none.
As I walked across the park, I felt a fear. Not the fear similar to walking down a street alone at night, but the fear of being somewhere that felt so unfamiliar as to be almost completely rejected. Head to the heath at night. There you can sit and look out at London city resplendent in technocolour, as you sit shrouded in darkness. As if watching the future from another era. One where night was night and day was day and the two never got confused. As I pushed my bike across the park, I felt the part of me used to the safety of four walls on red alert to be somewhere so strangely dark. And as I headed from the west side to the east side, my senses pulsing and awake, I longed for the safety of the other side and yet wished to be okay with where I was, when I was, not far from who I am.
The last wild spot of our city...
Visitors to this city, if you haven't been: forsake the wheel and head north to Hampstead Heath station. Pick up some fruit from the vegetable stand there as sustenance for your journey. And then walk. Ignore the pubs by the road; they'll always be there, just head north and allow yourself to embark on a voyage across a wildness still untamed.
And perhaps there is a challenge for us to rise to: rather then see wildness as something to be made pretty, or separate to ourselves we may come to recognise it and relate to it as a fundamental part of who we are: "...wild creatures...(who) hate confinement." As Jay Griffiths writes in her tome to Wildness, Wild: An Elemental Journey.
Where do the wild birds sing?
As adults we have roamed far from our inner world. Seeking and conjuring intensity in the experiences in our lives and our relationships instead. But perhaps if we can become more at ease with the intensity within us - those wild spots that need to remain unfettered, wild and indigeneous to something we’ve never forgotten, only lost our way of honouring it.
Because we have a fear of this wildness. So just as that walk across the heath made a part of me tremble, so too do parts within me I have yet to reconcile. For just as we lock wild animals in cages to be admired from afar, to some extent this is true of how we behave with ourselves. Wildness is not something we engage with. Although some folk embrace it for what it is and do their damnest to protect it, whether it is conservationists like Tony Fitzjohn, Kevin Richardson and kids like Tippi who have the ability to make friends with the wild; artists like Olly & Suzi whose "art making process is concerned with a collaborative, mutual response to nature at its most primitive and wild;" or those like Rumi and Marion Woodman who invest enormous dedication and commitment to understanding the wildness within and today dancers like Sergei Polunin. Wildness is a terrain most of us do not like to explore alone. That some do is motivation for the rest of us who may grow content to roar with delight as we watch them share their expressions of wildness with those of us still dancing in the cages.
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