pbk: 224 pages
Reviewed by Marian Van Eyk McCain
For most people, the term ‘rewilding’ refers specifically to the practice of returning areas of land to a wild state, including the reintroduction of animal species that are no longer naturally found there.
But in recent years, as modern life causes more and more of us to become emotionally disconnected from the Earth upon which all our lives depend, we are realizing that the concept is much wider, broader and deeper than that. It is not just selected pieces of real estate that are badly in need of rewilding but our own selves. This means finding ways to break down all the artificial boundaries that we humans have tried to place between ourselves and the rest of Nature. It means recognizing that we are—and always have been and always will be—an intrinsic part of the Earth, cells in the body of a living planet. Furthermore, it means re-learning how to live our daily lives out of that knowing. It means coming back ‘down to Earth’ in the truest sense of that phrase: consciously re-immersing ourselves in every way possible in the natural world that surrounds is, both without and within.
This re-immersion is not only good—in fact essential—for our own optimum mental and physical health but it is good for the planet in the same way that every piece of a jigsaw needs to fit properly for the sake of the overall picture.
In this new book, which I found to be comprehensive, easy to follow and delightfully inspiring, Rachel Corby has given us what must surely be the definitive guidebook for re-wilding every single aspect of ourselves and our lives.
Only when we re-own our true, wild selves and honour ourselves and all other life forms as equal and of intrinsic value to the whole shall we be able to heal the damage we have so thoughtlessly done to the web of life and learn at last to live on Earth in peace and harmony.
Rewilding is not a step back but a step forward. Our ancient hunter-gatherer ancestors lived in ways that were fully integrated with the rest of Nature around them but in a completely unconscious way. With the move first to pastoral and then to urban living we began the slow but inexorable move into artificial, Nature-denying ghettoes of our own making. The challenge, now, if we want to be truly healthy people on a truly healthy planet, is to come forward into a full, deep understanding of our true place in Nature and, with our now well-developed reflexive self-awareness, know that place, as the poet said, ‘for the first time.’
Corby takes us, step-by-step, through that process. In her evocative descriptions of things like walking in bare feet across the grass, nibbling a leaf plucked from the hedge, plunging her hands into the soil, movement, massage, listening to silence, sleeping under the stars, bathing in a lake or stream or the ocean, she shares a myriad examples of ways she has learned to reconnect herself with her own wild nature and leads her readers gently towards that same, joyful reconnection.
What I appreciate most in this book—and there is much in it to appreciate—is not simply that its author lives her life in this deeply grounded way but that she sees the natural world as the true stage upon which that life is lived, while all the artefacts of human domestication are but pieces of scenery that her mind can fold up and put away. Though she can live competently and effectively in the urban scene, she can move back and forth with ease. Sometimes, she says, I see through the eyes of my domesticated self and I notice the houses, the cars. Other times I see through my wild eyes and I notice that the strip of tarmac is like a temporary accessory that if peeled back like a sticking plaster would reveal the flesh of Earth beneath…urban living is not ideal but we all have to work with what we’ve got. The wild is there…within ourselves too, so noticing, appreciating and giving the wild space to grow can only make it stronger. That way lies healing—for ourselves and for our beleaguered planet.