More Wild Than Not

More Wild Than Not

_TSL4572Blinking letters on the large, portable sign made me snarl: Controlled Burn Gulf State Park. I felt my bicycle wiggle on the rack. Dang it! Well, the park is over 6000 acres. Maybe the Backcountry Trail is open. 

Being the eternal optimist, I parked and pedaled from park headquarters to the trail entry but sure enough, it was closed. Optimism pushed me onward and I continued along the park road until an old trail that runs behind the campground intersected it. My hybrid bicycle got its first taste of real trail riding as marsh grass, flowers and birds enriched the leisurely pedal through Bear Creek Trail. Then on through the campground before the sun had risen and at the end of the road, another blockade to the Backcountry Trail. As I stopped to read the burn date a ranger pulled up and suggested the Peninsula Trail that runs along Fort Morgan Road. Not backcountry but not highway either. Good alternative. Right?

_TSL7713Crossing the large intersection of Highway 59 and Highway 180, even with crosswalk buttons, created anxiety within me. Riding with distracted drivers is my least favorite way to cycle. And just about everyone who crosses the Intracoastal Waterway Bridge is distracted by something. Those of us who live here think that a switch automatically turns off in people’s brains when they cross that bridge.

After safely navigating the busy intersection there was a never-ending series of smaller intersections along the ‘trail.’ Huge grocery store, bank, apartments, residences, gas station. I felt myself wanting to hide and go deeper in the woods and avoid developed areas. Many of the intersections had 8 x 8 wooden posts in the center of both sides of the trail to keep vehicles from entering the trail. There wasn’t opportunity to surrender to nature’s embrace like I do when riding the Backcountry Trail. I was just trying to avoid hitting huge posts, cars and avoid getting hit by cars.

Doe taken in Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountain National Park...can't get photographs while I am cycling.

During moments away from crossroads, I felt what animals must feel when dealing with loss of habitat. Forced to interact with the human species, they have to avoid being crushed without the ability to read signs or understand traffic rules. On a visceral level I felt a kinship with raccoons, deer, opossums, snakes, birds, foxes, bobcats, turtles and the other species who live on the island or any place where habitat is destroyed for development.

SimoneLipscomb (1)The truth of Oneness came to mind. I realized the pain experienced by humans when wild places are destroyed is because we are part of the woods, the beaches, the Ocean…when it is raped, we feel it. We experience the loss of beauty and safety. As our planet suffers more and more abuse, those of us paying attention feel the heartbreak, the grief and we’re not only grieving for a random place of beauty, we are grieving for the loss of ourselves.

_TSL1820In my first book, Sharks On My Fin Tips (2008), I wrote about instinctual wisdom and oneness. Here’s an excerpt from my book that describes an experience on a night dive: “I looked up and saw the light of the bright, full moon shimmering on the surface and filtering through the clear, turquoise water in wild, geometric patterns. I became so enraptured by the play of moonlight in the water and on the white sand that I settled into an open sandy area on the ocean floor and laid down, belly against Earth….I closed my eyes and listened to the sounds of the ocean…the clicking of shrimp and creatures moving through the sand. Darkness enclosed me. The weight of the entire Atlantic Ocean pushed against me as Earth cradled me. Time no longer held meaning for me as I lay prostrate in an act of worship. All I knew in that moment was utter and complete peace and contentment….in those moments, life as I had known it was transcended. I was one with everything around me.”

_TSL4846Edward Abbey in his book Desert Solitaire (1968), wrote: “Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself….The love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need–if only we had the eyes to see. Original sin, the true original sin, is the blind destruction for the sake of greed of this natural paradise which lies all around us…we need wilderness whether or not we ever set foot in it. We need a refuge even though we may never need to go there. We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope; without it the life of the cities would drive all men into crime or drugs or psychoanalysis.”

_TSL7671John Muir in his book John of the Mountains (1938) wrote: “When I first came down to the city from my mountain home, I began to wither, and wish instinctively for the vital woods and high sky. Yet I lingered month after month, plodding at ‘duty.’ At length I chanced to see a lovely goldenrod in bloom in a weedy spot alongside one of the less frequented sidewalks there. Suddenly I was aware of the ending of summer and fled. Then, once away, I saw how shrunken and lean I was, and how glad I was I had gone.”

_TSL7070Even though I live in a rural area of Coastal Alabama and spend my happiest hours cycling the Backcountry Trail or paddling my SUP board on the river, my travels are most happily spent in wild areas. The Sea of Cortez gifted me with two weeks of wildness this summer that nourished me to great depths. I didn’t know how agitated and angry I had become by ignoring the part of me that yearns for deep connection with wild places. Today, while cycling, I was reminded how connecting with nature is much more than simply being outside.

_TSL5199From my trip to the Midriff Islands in the Sea of Cortez: “Little cumulus clouds dot the sky, their edges lit as silver from the gathering light. The warm glow of the sun, orange and golden in hue, set the edge of advancing clouds a-light, flaming softly toward the Baja Peninsula. The cerulean sky provides the canvas on which this masterpiece is composed. Where else but immersed in nature can one find such beauty while being kissed by the wind? Perhaps the most important experience on this journey has been to visit those unspoiled places where Spirit and Nature commune without human intervention. The experience has unleashed an amazing amount of energy within me. The challenge is to keep it moving and free as I return to what we call civilization.”

Photograph of me and sea lion friend taken by Tracey Bennett.
Photograph of me and sea lion friend taken by Tracey Bennett.

The lesson learned while cycling today is that I am more wild than not. While I may live in a nice home and enjoy modern conveniences, my heart is wild and most happy among those places where nature is free and unrestrained.

_TSL5697Richard Jefferies wrote a small book entitled, The Story of My Heart. “I burn life like a torch. The hot light shot back from the sea scorches my cheek–my life is burning in me. The soul throbs like the sea for a larger life.”


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