Re-Wilding by Laura Marello

There is a 1990s concept, or perhaps an older concept made new and currently gaining currency, called “re-wilding.” It is the prospect of making tamed and domesticated things wild again. Since 2008 or so, this concept has skyrocketed in book titles, and I imagine other places.

It was originally used by Michael Soulé in the 1990s to capture the idea of restoring a landscape to its original wild state by introducing keynote species, native plants, and thereby allowing the natural environment to slowly return, restore itself. The major example was returning wolves to Yellowstone.

But what about re-wilding beyond nature?

Vocabulary can be re-wilded. The journalist Robert McFarlane has written an article about his own attempt to bring back very precise, accurate and locale-specific wilderness terms by compiling a glossary. He started with the Scottish Moorland, and ended up finding words from all over the globe and as far back as the Sumerians.

Well, what else could be brought back to its wild state? Re-wilding the National Parks has only been done in one park. What about the others? What about other wild places? What about re-wilding completely domesticated spaces, like our farms, our backyards, or our diets (paleo diet, now called, but not entirely wild, from the recipes I’ve seen)? Gourmet cooking? Restaurants? There was a Wildwood cookbook once, in the romping 1970s, I believe.

Re-wilding the vocabulary of the wild, the vocabulary of landscapes, and vocabulary that hovers, poised at the intersection of landscapes and weather has begun. But, what about re-wilding the vocabulary of the novel or the short story? Re-wilding the language of poetry? What would that entail?

And our emotions? our social interactions? What about re-wilding love? Re-wilding friendship? Re-wilding social ties and activities?  What else could be brought back to it’s original, wild state, with positive, productive consequences?

A friend of mine from high school, David Bollier, has for the last ten years concentrated his activist efforts on re-wilding democratic nations’ economies that have fallen prey to rogue 1% Capitalism (economies which favor only the top one percent). He calls this proposal for a socially just economy a Commoner Economy, in which all the citizens of a nation become the commoners, as in a Commonwealth, as the days of original democracies.

What about the Arts? Could Art be re-wilded? Dance? Music? Classical music? Rock music? I mean this without returning to the art and music of ancient civilizations, the way Picasso did, for example, in the Demoiselles D’Avignon, but perhaps by applying ancient concepts or beliefs about the Earth in a contemporary way?

Photo of purple marigolds
Purple Marigold by Demetri Dourambeis. CC license.

Laura Marello
Laura Marello is the author of Gauguin’s Moon, The Gender of Inanimate Objects, Maniac Drifter, Balzac’s Robe, Claiming Kin, The Tenants of the Hotel Biron and the forthcoming Matisse: The Only Blue. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, Fine Arts Work Center Provincetown Fellowship and Stegner Fellowship. Her first novel was nominated for the PEN/Bingham award and a finalist for the Paterson Prize in Fiction. Her collection of stories was shortlisted for the Saroyan Prize.

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