Wild Ways

I just finished reviewing a delightful children’s picture book called Moon by Alison Oliver, which you can read about under the Recommended Reads section of my blog. The story reminds us that everyone has a need to be a little bit wild. What “wild” means from one person to the next, no doubt varies considerably. For me being “wild” means having new adventures with few or no boundaries, exploring my imagination, and enjoying challenges that teach me what I’m made of. Everyone needs self-knowledge, self-reliance, self-confidence, and self-love to feel good and happily function. Such things are derived from making time to discover our “wild” selves. And, of course, an excellent place to get in touch with one’s inner wildness is in the outdoors.

So what is wild about you? How do you make time to nurture your wild self? And when did you first experience a feeling of being wild? For me, it began between the ages of four and ten in those ancient times, the 1960s, when children were encouraged to play outdoors whenever they weren’t in school. I’ve previously written about these wonder years and how they fostered my love for nature. This period of youthful outdoor play also did much for my psychological development. It was my time to explore the world alone and test my bravery or discernment, unsupervised. More importantly, I learned what makes my heart and life feel full.

By the time I entered Junior High, those times exploring outdoors fell by the wayside as I began socializing with friends at dances, skating parties, and afterschool sports. It wasn’t until my early 30s that I again longed for wildness. It began with a desire to garden and raise my own vegetables, which led to an interest in canning and pickling. Growing my own flowers led me to cut fresh bouquets and dry, press, and craft with flowers. Growing herbs led me to experiment with cooking with them. In my 40s, my interest shifted to water gardening and raising koi, goldfish, lilies, and lotus flowers. This interest led to my noticing lotus and other plants in native wetlands. Learning about wetlands interested me in frogs, turtles, shorebirds, and waterfowl. My interest in these things led to an interest in animal hibernations, migrations, and impacts on their habitats. As one interest beget another, I looked forward to each season with greater anticipation. But anxiously awaiting the magic of each season also makes me realize how quickly time goes by. There will never be enough days to see, love, and absorb all the wild I crave.

The older I get, the wilder I want to be. I want to go barefoot daily, let my hair grow to the floor, forage for food, paint, draw or photograph nature, and sit and listen to the insects and birds around me.

Of course, I can’t do all this, but I can nurture the wild me in other ways. For example, in my pottery classes, whenever I shape a pot from a lump of clay, I think, “the earth and I made this.” Though I no longer live in the country, I grow many vegetables, herbs, and flowers in tiny spaces and still enjoy harvests and bouquets from May through October. My husband and I raise bees with staff from the local park district. We do it not just to harvest and sell honey but to interact with the bees and witness the intricacies of their lives. I even forage a bit for wild foods. Most recently, we found a giant “hen-of-the-woods mushroom,” and just this week, we ate a paw paw fruit, both of which were splendid treats. And daily walks almost always include interesting wildlife sightings.

I will never be as wild as those who swim with sharks, climb Mount Everest, or even hike the Appalachian Trail. But I’m wild and determined like a dandelion growing between the cracks of a sidewalk. And I love that part of me. The “wild” part of me has gotten me through many tough times and led me to even more wonderful times.

Published by littleseedsread

Hello, my name is Julie Lerczak. For over twenty-five years I worked as an educator in a variety of art, history, and anthropology museums in Illinois, Iowa, and Virginia. Then, for the last five years of my career, I was an environmental educator. I am now retired and am pursuing my dream of being a children's book author. I am a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. I live in Illinois with my husband Tom and our rescued pet turtle "Tootles." When I'm not writing stories I enjoy gardening, painting, making pottery, beekeeping, photography, hiking, and traveling.

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