GNL number 87

a report of doings at meeting #87, Sunday, September 21, 2014
including liturgical items, major themes, and other odds and ends


In wildness is the preservation of the world.
~~~Henry David Thoreau

The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.
~~~John Muir

We have always had reluctance to see a tract of land which is empty of men as anything but a void. The “waste howling wilderness” of Deuteronomy is typical. The Oxford Dictionary defines wilderness as wild or uncultivated land which is occupied “only” by wild animals. Places not used by us are “wastes”. Areas not occupied by us are “desolate”. Could the desolation be in the soul of man?
~~~John A. Livingston


Outdoor-loving Sue set the stage beautifully for this conversation on WILDNESS with an excerpt from poet Jackson Hays on the root and meanings of the word, then other quotes, as well as a paraphrase of the Old Testament story of being in the wilderness and emerging. She also recalled experiences of “wildness” in her own life, eg., when in her 20’s, she experimented with drugs and social arrangements. She observed that people, behavior, art, music can be “wild”, and also referred us to the SUN magazine’s August issue on wildness, that has an interview with outdoorsman/writer Jack Turner, and excerpt from Gary Snyder’s The Practice of the Wild. (See AFTERWORDS for her quotes and notes.)

Ann, a longtime lover of the outdoors like Sue and kayaker of the local rivers, is also our resident naturalist (who recognized the bird in the sunflowers today as a goldfinch). She spoke of wildness as not only the natural world, but also an attribute that can range from natural, connoting freedom, to out of control. She noted that with wildness the boundaries are looser, and echoing Sue’s quote about the word’s root implying openness, remarked on wildness as more open to change. And of course Ann also brought some wild 6-wordies, for which see AW.

Cynthia said her first sense of the word wild was in terms of “not in my control”, as especially with weeds not wanted. Also one who gardens and likes her boundaries and plans for beautifying, she said that’s at home, not at their camp in Blenheim, where it’s definitely wild. Cyn spoke as well of the magnificent Western US she’d just returned from, after a trip to visit family in Colorado; she said she and Ron were enchanted with the wilderness they encountered in the national parks in the region, and were already planning to make the trip again next year.

Gail was our hostess at her farm, the house so wonderfully open to the outdoors that our conversation was graced the whole time with the sights and sounds of nature at work. At her turn Gail happily announced her new vow to do regular ventures out on her own in the relatively wilder wild, starting with her trip next week to Letchworth State Park. She recalled too the sense of excitement she/sibs felt growing up in Florida and preparing for hurricanes—the strangeness, power, risk, adventure. And she spoke of arranging with the county land trust to protect 8 acres of her beautiful farm.

Anna first mentioned her apparent wild-natured trip-taking while still an insecure, immature young woman, and then spoke of her long-time belovedly wild backyard, now mostly mowed to accommodate the birds (grouse?) her daughter’s raising. She said there are still wild apple trees, and plum, and other wild growth out in the way backyard, that she has her eye on. And yes, she said she still walks in her woodsy country neighborhood, and will certainly investigate those fruit trees.

Vijaya is one who loves plants and has made the bare places bloom in her alley and a neighboring parking lot; today she recalled how as a child she would go out exploring on her own in the relatively wilder parts of her neighborhood (and be punished for it when she came home.) And she remembered too the India of her youth, and still today, as a place of pilgrimages; in her case it was mom and dad, and the 7 children in a trailer, a lot like camping. She said she was planning to go back to India this year for 3 months, and will be thinking about where to spend her elder years.

Nancy recalled feeling good playing under trees as a child, and at about 9, out alone on a big hill having a sense of spiritual union with the great green outdoors. And ever since, loving the fresh, alive, natural world, and discovering and encouraging wild things more than planting her own. She spoke of the need more than ever for the wild, given the state human exploitation has brought the earth to, and this day in particular, when thousands of people were massing in NYC to say wake up/change course/save our sweet living earth—that this moment surely we need to recommit ourselves to doing that—every day, every way we can. She also read several quotes that reflect her feelings. See AW for these.

We chose to direct our offering today to the nonprofit Catskill Mountainkeeper group, working to protect the ecological integrity of the Catskill region, including against fracking.


Wilderness to the people of America is a spiritual necessity, an antidote to the high pressure of modern life, a means of regaining serenity and equilibrium.
~~~Sigurd F. Olsen

The world is watching: one cannot walk through a meadow or forest without a ripple of report spreading out from one’s passage. The thrush darts back, the jay squalls, a beetle scuttles under the grasses, and the signal is passed along. Every creature knows when a hawk is cruising or a human strolling. The information passed through the system is intelligence.
~~~from The Practice of the Wild, by Gary Snyder


Sunday, October 19, 2014, (1030), at Louise’s Falling Water Farm (236 Rosenburg Rd., Sharon Springs), which used to be Adair’s, and she will join us there for this meeting! The topic is SOUL, Connecting…..


from Sue

Wildness/Wilderness/the Wild:
“The Indo-European root of wild is uelt, which means, perhaps a bit obviously, ‘open field’.
“The word wild has come to have many subtle meanings, which we interpret variously as freedom, spontaneity, violence, revelry, fear, and an untamed nature which we sometimes cherish, sometimes revile.
“They all point back to this original root word, a simple expression of openness. At certain points in our lives we desire the wild life, salivate for it; we freak out and make for the woods (another word with wild at its root) to commune with our past. At other points we see wildness as something to be shunned, the opposite of civilization which we use to define civilization, as if we have completely forgotten where we came from.” ~~~Jackson Hays

More quotations:

  • “We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.” ~~~Henry David Thoreau, Walden
  • “All conservation of wildness is self-defeating, for to cherish we must see and fondle, and when enough have seen and fondled, there is no wilderness left to cherish.” ~~~Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac
  • “The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man.” ~~~Anonymous
  • “Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere; Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh, hear!” ~~~Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Ode to the West Wind”
  • “Did I ever tell you how I shot a wild elephant in my pyjamas? How he got into my pyjamas I’ll never know.” ~~~Groucho Marx

from Ann

The wildness of the wilderness, wow!
Wandering in the wilderness, so wonderful.
Being lost is frightening…or not.
Is wildness freedom? I don’t know.
Mom said, “don’t be wild”…again.

from Nancy

I think it is far more important to save one square mile of wilderness anywhere, by any means, than to produce another book on the subject. ~~~Edward Abbey, Postcards from Ed

A world without huge regions of total wilderness would be a cage, a world without lions and tigers and vultures and snakes and elk and bison would be…will be…a human zoo. A high-tech slum. ~~~Ibid.

Devoted though we must be to the conservation cause, I do not believe that any of us should give it all of our time or effort or heart. Give what you can, but do not burn yourselves out or break your hearts. Let us save at least half of our lives for the enjoyment of this wonderful world which still exists. Leave your dens, abandon your cars and walk out into the great mountains, the deserts, the forest, the seashores. Those treasures still belong to all of us. Enjoy them to the full, stretch your legs, expand your lungs, enliven your hearts–and we will outlive the greedy swine who want to destroy it all in the name of what they call GROWTH. God bless America—let’s save some of it. Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet! ~~~Ibid.

Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed; if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books and plastic cigarette cases; if we drive the few remaining members of the wild species into zoos or to extinction; if we pollute the last clean streams and push our paved roads through the last of the silence… ~~~Wallace Stegner, The Sound of Mountain Water

The whole concept of “wild” was decidedly European, one not shared by the original inhabitants of this continent. What we called “wilderness” was to the Indians a homeland, “abiding loveliness” in Salish or Piegan. The land was not something to be feared or conquered, and “wildlife” were neither wild nor alien; they were relatives. ~~~Doug Peacock, Grizzly Years: In Search of the American Wilderness

There is a love of wild nature in everybody, an ancient mother-love showing itself whether recognized or no, and however covered by cares and duties. ~~~John Muir


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