On the Wild & the Whole Self
Your monthly somatic Soul Story is here
There is always a wilder way, dear One, there is always a wilder way... and even if you can't find your way right now, there’s always a way of walking that’s deeply wild, a way of sensing the world that's shamelessly brave, and a way of quietly listening to your body's needs that heals the soul. There is always a wilder way, dear One, there is always a wilder way.
Join me by the campfire and listen to this experiential newsletter by playing the podcast link above. Beloved patrons, there’s extra material to help you deepen your own healing practice at the end of this newsletter.
I rub a soft fiddlehead between my fingers. The furled fonds of a young fern uncoils and then bends slowly back against my thumb.
I smell the cold. At this early hour, it has a very particular scent. It's like marzipan and whiskey.
Fire embers take flight and explode like miniature fireworks - the ants are gathered below and watch in awe. Soft spindles of smoke rise from the fire pit in front of me. The coffee gurgles on the iron plate. In a few minutes, it will begin to slosh over onto the coals… and that’s when I know it’s ready.
There’s ash on my cheek from cleaning the pit, although it will take several hours before I catch my reflection and notice charcoal streaked across my face. Nothing I own has escaped fire’s sooty fragrance. I am eau de fumée.
I watch the dog ribbon through the tall grass. His body is like a gymnast's streamer, creating silky lines across the meadow. His tongue hangs heavy to one side. He has not met Wild yet. Although after only a few days here in the boon of nature, I can tell that he knows his kin.
The valley is being slowly gobbled up by a thick white mist and the moon still lingers low to the west. It had not made it to bed before dawn intruded just a few minutes ago.
Sunlight pierces through the canopy of a tree in broad swaths of wet, glistening air.
The swallows have begun their daring flight, skimming over the still lake, admiring themselves in its glassy reflection. They are silent creatures, only flashing their red chests for a brief moment before they suddenly change their flight path.
The quiet is palpable… as syrupy as dew-soaked pollen. Everything is a meditation. Everything is soaked up by the senses. Everything is a homecoming to this exiled body.
The children sleep, wrapped up like soft tortillas in their bed ovens, too warm to care for nippy air and the endless task of firewood hunting.
The day begins and ends with a fire. We are bookended by something so primal, so lifegiving, so gathering in its essence.
I allow an unfamiliar peace to enfold me, for its heat to unglue me from the ways of being I have found myself stuck in. I sink further into the wooden stump upon which I sit, watching the sun finally cast its net over onto our side of the valley. Inch by inch we are being caught and coloured by the Sun.
A horse snorts in the distance and for a moment my mind can’t place it. A disgruntled neighbour, a car, building work, a distant train? My body knows but my mind scatters into all its familiar corners. It’s so strange to only hear that which speaks in a natural tongue.
I remember this language, but it takes a lot of rehabilitation, a lot of letting go, and a lot of rewilding to be able to converse with that which knows my name but I, not theirs.
I pick up a cluster of tiny lantana heads from the thicket beside me and suck their honeyed stems. I know they are an invasive species but just for just a moment, I am a child in Southern Africa, barefooted, walking down our dirt road, drinking the nectar of something that I felt belonged in a sweetie shop.
How can Taste haul you back 30 years, fling you into a different country, and allow you to somatically experience something that doesn’t even exist anymore? How can it bring back people from the otherworld?
I feel like a complete foreigner to familiarity. So much of my early life was ploughed over to make way for someone else’s crop.
Growing up in an unstable country feels like you’re running on a path that keeps falling away beneath your feet. Few places remain intact, and fewer people are still around to remind you that it wasn’t all just a dream…
I pour the black coffee into a huge mug. It’s the kind that requires quick-drinking to avoid fast-cooling. A flock of cockatoos land in the tree above me and a small white feather tuft begins to fall from its dizzying heights. I count the seconds it takes for the feather to touch the ground.
One, two, three…the steam covers my view for a moment…six, seven, eight…I place the mug on the ground and rub my warm hands over my knees…eleven, twelve…I breathe a little deeper…thirteen…time slows down….fourteen…I can hear my heartbeat as I watch the feather being cradled by the air currents…fifteen…I can taste iron and coffee’s bittersweetness as the feather’s downy body is rocked from side to side as it descends towards the earth…sixteen…I can’t tell what is inside and what’s outside of me anymore, it’s all just together…the fluff turns in the air and catches the sunlight, it forms a spec of pure white against the dark sky…seventeen…
Seventeen long seconds.
In seventeen seconds, I remembered myself. In seventeen seconds, I remembered an innate sense of wholeness that’s never left me. It’s always been here, waiting for me to slow down long enough to see life just as it is, without my filter, without my trauma, without my stories.
It took nothing more than remembering a language native to us all. A language that speaks in stillness and attention. A language that profoundly heals us if we take the time to unlearn all the slang we’ve internalised along the way.
The Wild and the Whole Self are one of the same.
One is without, the other within. We go against nature, we go against ourselves. We go against the grain of our whole self, we cause friction in nature.
We will not find the cure for our unhappiness in our culture. That’s like believing distress is the cure for depression - or neurosis, the healer of anxiety.
We all have deeply mythic, symbolic, inner landscapes which can be healed by what is equally archetypal.
Through Mother Nature, we remember that we, ourselves, have the power to self-regenerate, to let go, to rebirth, to ground, to allow small deaths, to sow seeds, to hunt, to track soul-scents, to re-mother, to gather, to reclaim and to come home. All of this is within you now. There is just a lot of noise and a scarcity of time that comes with living contemporary life.
If we do not give as much value to slow, purposeless wanderings as we do to our productive actions, then we will never come to know and embody a deep and unconditional sense of wholeness.
As Clarissa Pinkola Estes says, 'Go out in the woods, go out. If you don't go out in the woods nothing will ever happen and your life will never begin.'