Supporting Wildness, walking, swimming, working.
by Allison Priestman | Aug 3, 2018 | ecopsychology,
It’s evening and the shadows are long, the light soft and intriguing. I’m walking home across the common, dry and dusty beneath my feet. I found some blackberries earlier, surprisingly luscious given the lack of rain and early, like much of the fruits and flowers this year.
I’m walking towards the moon, big three quarters full, low on the horizon. The grass all around me is thigh high and a beautiful golden colour. The path before me smooth, wide and easy, the grass short, almost gone in places. My ears are filled with the calling of grasshoppers, high bright and incessant and the rhythmic sound of my feet hitting dry grass stalks. There is a wonderful, peaceful stillness, that is descending upon me. All I need to do is walk, listen and be.
There’s only a week or so I left before my summer holiday and this year it’s spacious. I’m loving these long, hot days and long, warm evenings. They support me to relax and soften and expand. I’m slowing down, more aware of my feet on the ground, my breath in my lungs, more aware of me in this place.
It’s hot again, of course, and I’m walking through the woods to find the lake which has become a place of pilgrimage for me. Walking through the trees dense shade, in a gap in the trees I can see the water twinkling, look incredibly inviting. I slip into the waters. Cool and fresh, I’m held, enveloped by this other.
This place is busy today. The path was full of the bustle of people, walking to and fro; the best swimming spot for miles around. Once on the water I can see small clumps of kids and teenagers hanging out in the deep shade of the spruce trees, or playing on the dead tree that juts into the water, or lounging on inflatables. It looks like a lot of fun and an amazing place for them to be.
I overheard a conversation as I walked in through the woods, someone was complaining of the wildness of these teenagers, how they’ve been making fires and leaving litter. Curious this wild word, wild swimming is good, adventurous, invigorating, wild teenagers are bad, rowdy, inconsiderate.
They have been leaving litter, and I’m noticing some people are being very considerate, picking up their litter and giving them space and support. Where else can young people go, if not to a lake to swim and hang out. How else are young people ever to regain connection with nature, the wildness of nature and their own wildness, if we don’t give them some room and tolerance to do that. How amazing that these kids have this window, of a hot summer and a place like the lake.
Supporting wildness -is my wish to support and validate the wild that is still around us where we live and also the wildness inside ourselves. How do we trust in, and get to know our animal selves?
This morning I’m in my work studio, a beautiful space but it’s hard to keep it cool. I have internal and external blinds and currently at 9 AM its 23° C and I know by this afternoon it will be nearly 30! Hot, hot again! We are predicted thunderstorms but they haven’t materialised yet.
Sweaty, sticky, heat that becomes an element that I move through. Thickness of air, heaviness of body. As a body psychotherapist and wild therapist, I’m really curious by how we humans are impacted by this experience of extended heat, which is quite exceptional in this country. Part of my work is to explore with my clients how it is to be a body. How is it to be a body in this heat, where we usually wear less clothes, where what is normal changes.
In my work I’m supporting people to be more embodied, to connect more deeply with their sense based experience, which I hope in turn will bring a deeper, richer, experience of themselves. I know for myself I’m fortunate enough to really enjoy this weather and the primary reason for that is that it supports me to be more embodied. It supports me to drop more into my limbs, into my skin, into touch, into seeing, into taste, rather than thinking and an endless preoccupation with anxieties and thoughts. I feel that I’m experiencing something that’s helpful and healing, because it allows me to be here, present in myself, here present with all that surrounds me, the other-than-human and more-than-human. It supports me to be more spontaneous, freer, more relaxed and at ease in my world; supported to be wilder.
In my work with clients, whether that’s in my work studio, or on the common land here, I have a similar aim to support my clients embodiment and ultimately their wildness. The route to embodiment, remembering that we are animals, is to support everything that comes up in response to an offer of more spontaneity, more contact, more wildness.
We have all learnt complex, multifaceted, protective coping strategies to avoid deep contact with ourselves, our embodiment and our own wildness. We have all learnt complex coping strategies to avoid contact with nature, with the other-than-human and more-than-human. This feels a tragedy, and for me goes to the heart of our destructive separation from everything non human. Our protective defences leave us deeply ambiguous about connecting to ourselves, other humans and nature. For many of us it is deeply stirring and scary to be freer and more alive.