Reflection 301: Wildness I

August 3, 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin.     [Three photos.]

I’m not sure what wildness is, but it certainly isn’t a version of chaos. I am fascinated by the dark side of nature, the collapse, crumbling, decay, and death of all living beings. And from the ooze or ashes, the rise of wholly new beings made of the same atoms, but living new lives. Wildness implies the recycling of old lives into new. There is a system to it not based on preservation of individual beings but on inevitable change that leads to unimagined orders of other individuals. Life in the wild leads to inevitable decay, which in turn generates surprising forms of new life. I guess that’s just basic biology, but in my experience biology seems concerned with birth-growth-death, but stops short of the afterlife sure to follow that brief sequence of events.

Spending as much time on remote islands as I do, I keep coming across examples of new life springing from discarded generations of old life. I bring it up because that’s what I seem to notice and take pictures of. To be engaged with. What I call wildness, the process that produces new lives from old. It strikes me that wildness is trying to tell me something, and I am here to find out what that message might be.

Wildness, that is, is much in my consciousness these days. My mind is given over to it, even though I don’t know what it is. So I keep trying to capture its image whenever I come across it. In a way, I have become an agent of wildness, doing its bidding—without knowing what it wants of me.

Take, for example, this picture I took last week of Indian pipes springing from damp soil amid fallen pine and cedar needles.

P1010433 96 The organic molecules in the layers of needles on the forest floor are decaying, creating the soil from which a wholly different species arises. For this to happen, the soil must be damp, so water is essential to wildness. And enzymes must be present to break those molecules into their constituent amino acids, which can then be recombined to form proteins of a different sort altogether. What I know is that it happens. And that I am part of the same process—both my origin and my demise. Maybe that’s why I am so taken with wildness, because I am wild in the same sense myself.

Here’s another example.

P1010347 96Here, the remains of a crab lie on a bed of decaying wood and leaves beneath the branches of the first rank of trees up from shore, where the crab more properly belongs. I don’t know who killed the crab, brought it here, and ate it. Could be a crow, maybe an otter (otters spend the night near this spot). Whatever it was, it was more interested in the body cavity than the legs. Now the carcass is left to mix into the soil with the decaying wood and leaves, where its calcium will contribute to the coming generation of new life eventually to emerge on this site. Wildness in the act, doing its thing, not contributing to the vast pool of entropy, but to a new wave of unspecified life. Whatever is going on, the photograph is proof of my fascination and engagement with the process.

One last example.

P1010439-96 Several slugs eating a mushroom, nothing new in that. Except the slugs themselves are part of the wildness cycle, along with the mushroom, the soil it springs from, and the detritus that built up that soil. We think of ourselves as individuals, but we eat other individuals in the process of becoming and sustaining ourselves—eat, eat, eat, every day of our lives. And at some point die our one death, when we surrender our hard-won substance to those next in line. Nothing goes to waste, that is the law of wildness. It takes life to make life. It’s in our contract, and we have no choice but to obey.

Those are the sorts of thoughts that come upon me these days, with which I duly engage. Just one more dimension of consciousness, which this blog is about. Future posts will likely concern my engagement with wildness, and include photos such these. To understand where I am coming from, go back and read Reflections 281-300. Y’rs truly, –Steve fr. Planet Earth

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