We all have a longing, no matter how unconscious it may be, to experience nature—trees, wilderness, bodies of water, mountain air, freedom unbound. Even if it’s just sitting on the front porch of the house that we work so hard to make livable and secure, often we want to be “outside.” Children know this best because they are close to their natural yearnings. The following poem stirs this nature-awareness in me and reminds me that we are a part of nature, and the wildness of animals is also a part of our nature, an element of our true Self. I hope it reminds you too.
WILDERNESS by Carl Sandburg
THERE is a wolf in me ... fangs pointed for tearing gashes ... a red tongue for raw meat ... and the hot lapping of blood-I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me and the wilderness will not let it go.
There is a fox in me ... a silver-gray fox ... I sniff and guess ... I pick things out of the wind and air ... I nose in the dark night and take sleepers and eat them and hide the feathers ... I circle and loop and double-cross.
There is a hog in me ... a snout and a belly ... a machinery for eating and grunting ... a machinery for sleeping satisfied in the sun-I got this too from the wilderness and the wilderness will not let it go.
There is a fish in me ... I know I came from saltblue water-gates ... I scurried with shoals of herring ... I blew waterspouts with porpoises ... before land was ... before the water went down ... before Noah ... before the first chapter of Genesis.
There is a baboon in me ... clambering-clawed ... dog-faced ... yawping a galoot's hunger ... hairy under the armpits ... here are the hawk-eyed hankering men ... here are the blond and blue-eyed women ... here they hide curled asleep waiting ... ready to snarl and kill ... ready to sing and give milk ... waiting-I keep the baboon because the wilderness says so.
There is an eagle in me and a mockingbird ... and the eagle flies among the Rocky Mountains of my dreams and fights among the Sierra crags of what I want ... and the mockingbird warbles in the early forenoon before the dew is gone, warbles in the underbrush of my Chattanoogas of hope, gushes over the blue Ozark foothills of my wishes-And I got the eagle and the mockingbird from the wilderness.
O, I got a zoo, I got a menagerie, inside my ribs, under my bony head, under my red-valve heart-and I got something else: it is a man-child heart, a woman-child heart: it is a father and mother and lover: it came from God-Knows-Where: it is going to God-Knows-Where-For I am the keeper of the zoo: I say yes and no: I sing and kill and work: I am a pal of the world: I came from the wilderness.