"I felt its urgent demand in the blood. I could hear its call. Its whistling disturbed me by day and its howl woke me in the night. I heard the drum of the sun. Every path was a calling cadence, the flight of every bird a beckoning, the color of ice an invitation: come...
"This book [Wild by Jay Griffiths] was the result of many years' yearning. A longing for something whose character I perceived only indistinctly at first but that gradually became clearer during my journeys. In looking for wilderness, I was not looking for miles of landscape to be nicely photographed and neatly framed, but for the quality of wildness, which -- like art, sex, love and all the other intoxicants -- has a rising swing ringing though it. A drinker of wildness, I was tipsy with it before I began and roaring drunk by the end.
"I was looking for the will of the wild. I was looking for how that will expressed itself in elemental vitality, in savage grace. Wildness is resolute for life; it cannot be otherwise, for it will die in captivity. It is elemental: pure freedom, pure passion, pure hunger. It is its own manifesto.
"So I began this book with no knowing where it would lead, no idea how hard some of it would be, the days of havoc and the nights of loneliness, because the only thing I had to hold on to was the knife-sharp necessity to trust to the elements my elemental self.
"I wanted to live at the edge of the imperative, in the tender fury of the reckless moment, for in this brief and pointillist life, bright-dark and electric, I could do nothing else. By laying the line of my way along another, older path, I would lay my passions where they belonged, flush with wildness, letting their lines of long and lovely silk reel out in miles of fire and ice.
"I felt my that my blood could only truly flow if it coursed into red, red earth. That I would only know my deepest glee if I could dive in an oceanful of trilling fish. I wanted to climb mountains till I cracked with the same ancient telluric vigor that flung the Himalayas up to applaud the sky. I was, in fact, homesick for wildness, and when I found it I knew how intimately -- how resonantly -- I belonged there. We are charged with this. All of us. For the human spirit has a primal allegiance to wildness, to really live, to snatch the fruit and suck it, to spill the juice. We may think we are domesticated but we are not. Feral in pheromone and intuition, feral in our sweat and fear, feral in tongue and language, feral in cunt and cock. This is the first commandment: to live in fealty to the feral angel.
"I wanted to put my cheeks against a glacier, to drink direct from her springs, to see vistas untamed. It's ferocious, this feeling: vigorous and raw. Wanting to touch life with the quick of the spirit, to feel the wind in my hair, the crusts of mud under my fingernails, the sun on my naked body, ice cracking my lips, tides flooding my body inside and out. Immersion is all.
"I took seven years over this wok, spent all I had, my time, money and energy...[Along the way] I found a paradox of wildness in the glinting softness of its charisma, for what is savage is in the deepest sense gentle and what is wild is kind. In the end -- a strangely sweet result -- I came back to a wild home."
Photos were taken this week during my residency at Caldera in Central Oregon where I am reading this extraordinary book and examining my own wildness against the backdrop of winter and forest, lake and rain.
Excerpts from Jay Griffiths, Wild: An Elemental Journey (New York: Penguin Group: 2006.)