Wonder and Wildness

Jesus was not a city slicker. Sure, he hung out and preached in towns, but when it all got to be too much, or he had stuff to work out, or just needed a break, he went for wilderness. Wilderness, both literal and figurative, was his place of transformation, of discernment, of revelation.

Over the course of my reading life, anytime I have found my peeps, ancestors to whatever aesthetic, experiential, existential tribe I belong to, it’s been the folks who hit the wilderness. Whitman, Thoreau, and the American Transcendentalists; John Muir, Edward Abbey, Gary Snyder; and the British Romanticism crew. When I read Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron and company, it almost felt like Superman ditching his tie and collared shirt. Wordsworth in particular, had come to grips and written about his soul’s need to go to nature and finding his way:

The earth is all before me: with a heart
Joyous, nor scared of its own liberty,
I look about, and should the guide I choose
Be nothing better than a wandering cloud
I cannot miss my way. I breathe again:
Trances of thought and mountings of the mind
Come fast upon me.

Wordsworth Prelude

Wordsworth’s “Prelude” is getting back to nature. The importance and role of nature in the unfolding of our souls and minds, as individuals, was a spark for the Romantics.

One of the things about wilderness, is that it can inspire us, and reconnect us to our own wildness. I could feel that the first times I went trail running. Nothing felt so freeing as running through the woods, the mountains, in tune, in touch, heart pounding and smiling from the soul.

Delaware Trail Marathon 2008

The times I feel most lost, most disconnected, are when I realize I have lost touch with that part of myself. Going outside, way outside, helps. But it’s not the only way. I have to remember to bring something from those times back with me; to ignite that spark; turn it to flame; and keep it burning through the work week; through daily life. Not to lose touch with it.

It often seems like we live in a world where we get points for being tamed. From schools, to cubicles, the better you sit still, assimilate, regurgitate, and fill out your TPS reports, the further along you are.

Yeah… no. That’s never been my path. And anytime I’ve seemed to start down it, God has seemed to redirect and remind me… wake up, look around, is this what you want? There is so much more.

There are daily reminders in town. There is a fox who lives in our neighborhood, whose gait and speed, and coat make me smile and wake me up a bit. Paddleboarding or kayaking. The sublimity of a sunrise. The power of a storm rolling in on the water. The vastness of the stars on a clear night.

At the same time we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature. – Henry David Thoreau

We lose our wildness at our own risk. We lose it in as much as we are happy to be tamed. That doesn’t make me happy.

Sparking our sense of wonder. Rekindling our wildness. Every time I do those things, God seems to show me more–about life, the world, myself.

* Featured image from Space Attraction.

Author: Michael Valliant

I am a father, a writer, a runner, a hiker, reader, follower of Christ, a longboard skateboarder, stand-up paddleboarder, kayaker, novice birder, sunrise chaser, daily coffee drinker, occasional beer sipper. I live in Oxford on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where I am the director of the Oxford Community Center by day. I am on a walk of faith, a spiritual adventure, following where God leads, trying to share my walk and story.

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