The notion of what is wild is, or should be, at the center of what it means to maintain and nourish our humanity. Our sense of being in the world is inextricably linked to the wilderness that survives in every aspect of our existence. Our own psyches emerge from depths we barely understand as clusters of ever-changing patterns of selfhood that never quite cohere. But wild is also, in the Weltanschauung of a conservationist – of which I am one – a place, a geography, a delimited area in which something has been preserved of a time when human pressure was much less, when the autochthonous systems worked without our observations to confirm them. Wild nature needs no confirmation from us.
My own sliver of the wild, a short walk from my front door, follows the contour of a Pleistocene shoreline, a scar that limns the depths of a lake whose size dwarfed its surviving descendants, the vast, shallow Great Salt Lake and the smaller and less salty Utah Lake to the south. The heavy intellectual and physical work of a relatively small group of scientists and activists to argue for the existence of these natural corridors has been instrumental in allowing this particular little stretch of wild to exist in the midst of a major city, a place home to coyote, bear, cougar, kestrel, red-tail hawk, barn and great horned owl, deer, stoat, tarantula, and rattlesnake. But there are other heimats; the three months I lived in a drainage west of Zion National Park and sang to coyotes outside our yurt, the countless trips into the Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument, the year living in the ungainly ‘metropolis’ of Springdale, Utah, the trips with my future wife into the San Rafael Swell at the start of our love affair, the solo trip of tears through Moab during a time of personal psychosis during the early years of my individuation.
I have never chosen to publish any of my works, nearly all of which have accrued like cryptogamic crust, organically over many years of not being disturbed. My writing has been a kind of personal catharsis and not dependent at all on public reaction, though I have gone through several life experiences recently that have changed my mind on this.
I am, at root, interested in the power of the written word as an arbiter of sanity, a metaphorical link to the wild. I do believe in the power of language to bring forth wilderness corridors in our own thoughts and lives. I am drawn inexorably to the deserts of the Four Corners region not only for their weirdness and their beauty and their harshness, but also because in a sense, a vital sense, they are still undiscovered country. To dive deeply into it, with words and sketches and dreams, will hopefully be so save it in some small way.