I recently decided that it might be easier for me to fit writing this blog into my Groovy Mom Schedule if I had some themes. I spend a lot of time wringing my hands, pacing the floor, sweating it out and don't come up with all that much to say. Themes might narrow the topic a little so I'm not sitting at the desk, waiting for the spiritual solutions to the world to burst forth from my fingertips and transfer into a trancendent pattering of letters on the keyboard, leaving you with gaping ah-ha's and a new direction in life.
So I arrive at this Wednesday's blog with a new theme: Wild Wednesday. And to start off that theme, I'm presenting to you a book review of a wonderfully, wild children's book. But let's not get stuck here- it's definitely a book for all ages IF you like things wild.
The book jacket describes this book as "an eco- fable for kids and other free spirits" and we are definitely the target audience in our household! The Last Wild Witch, written by Starhawk, who is arguably the most famous and influential pagan writer of the last couple decades, begins with a perfect town, perfect children, and lots of rules. Since no one ever breaks those rules, "well, hardly ever," the narrator describes, the last wild witch that lives in the last wild forest is a disruptive force to this "perfect" town. They don't follow any rules in the forest and with the wild witch up all night, drumming, making her magic healing brew, and handing it out to whomever visits, they are not the poster children for civilization as this town knows it. Of course, sometimes that wildness gets into the children and they refuse to stand in straight lines, don't come in from recess on time because they are enchanted by the sun or the rain, and they even sneak into the forest at night to visit the last wild witch!
Trouble comes when the parents of this community are enraged by children sneaking out in the middle of the night. The town holds a meeting where only adults are listened to and children are ordered to be silent, and the problem solving, wildness stifling, forest burning, witch revealing plan is formulated. The children are left to worry over how to save the forest, the witch, and the wildness that is so easy to embrace.
As a rule follower and cooperative citizen, the adult that was taught to follow all those rules as a child objects to a few moments as the plot plays out. No, I definitely don't want my children sneaking out in the middle of the night to go have some "magic brew." ( I have first hand experience with this kind of thing, and it never led to anything good!) And as a parent, the protector/controller in me pushes against the idea of my children doing anything that might lead to their harm, even if I am a treehugging, nature worshiper that loves a good healing brew when I brew it. When the girls and I read this, every time, I find these parts of myself pausing and re-assessing, resisting and then surrendering to the message of the book, and have to face the truths of it with a mirror in one hand, and honesty in the other.
The key to this book begins on the first page when the narrator describes the rules always being followed and never broken and then says "well, hardly ever." On the surface, this town appears to be struggling against a foreign wildness, a wildness that threatens their eutopia, and the nature of nature, but in reality, that wildness is already inside them. What we discover as we read is that we all need wildness, but also that wildness, courage, and intuition are our natural states. We adults have had it "taught" out of us enough that we can deny our inherent inner wildness, and we can overlook the inherent and virtuous wildness of our children long enough to manipulate them into being rule-following conformists. Conformity is a necessity for a lot of reasons, but non-comformity, whether wild or civilized, is too often judged, ridiculed, and denied. This perfect town of The Last Wild Witch has some work to do, and so do we.
As wildness disappears at a rapid pace, both from our natural environment, as well as from our own inner landscapes, we risk losing what is truly real. I remember waking up on a summer morning, going outside and not coming inside until my feet were coated with a thick layer of dirt, the chiggers had bit every inch of my ankles, I'd gone a good 7 hours without eating because I was so enthralled with whatever wild play my friend and I were engaged in, and dropping off to sleep with little struggle because I was so worn out from the constant movement of the day. I woke earlier than my school friends throughout gradeschool and jr. high because we didn't have air condidtioning or expensive curtains to block out the sun. We had no cable; we had two channels on the tv and the control of that was given to my mother. No video games, no internet, and no twinkies to sedate us. We were not the norm for my generation, but it gave me a wildness that was undeniable. That wildness was smothered for a few years here and there, put on the back shelf at other times, but I never stopped identifying with what was wild, never stopped being pulled into the deepest currents of wildness, like a mermaid needing to stretch her fins in the depths of the deep blue sea.
When the girls and I go to the library on Wednesday mornings for story and craft time, there are lots of soon-to-be soccer moms ready for action. Every now and then I spot another Wild Woman herding her little ones into the circle, but the great thing about the preschoolers and toddlers is that their wildness has not yet been contained. They haven't learned to stand in straight lines, haven't learned to sit all day at a desk, haven't learned to accept fluorescent light instead of sunlight as their primary source of rays. But as the landscape changes, inhibitions to natural living and natural healing become more common, and the wild part of the natural world shrinks, I wonder, have they? Do those children still have wildness in them, or are they already watching hours and hours of tv, playing just as many hours of video games, eating pounds and pounds of sugar each year, and unknowingly having that wildness sedated and soothed with the drugs of technology and genetic modification?
The Last Wild Witch is an entertaining tale that will keep most children engaged, but be warned! It teaches non-comformity, listening to our own inner nature, tuning into intuition, using herbal healing medicine and magic, treehugging, independent thought, environmentalism, standing up for what you believe to be right, and preserving natural resources. And if you are okay with all that, be careful when you read it. Some of that wildness just might get inside you.