I have taken an extended break from blogging, which has coincided with my extended break from work as I visited my family in Mississippi and took a quick jaunt down to New Orleans for a work-related conference. While enjoying a prolonged stay in Mississippi, I worked through a theory that probably has zero support in the world outside of my own personal experience. So maybe this just a theory about myself which makes it incredibly narcissistic. I live a fairly well-ordered, plain life. I am generally my conservative in my behaviors and appearance, if not in my politics. Nonetheless, I have this streak that runs through me where some of my behaviors and tastes and preferences seems discordant with the rest. It is that small part of me that relishes taking risks and living in the moment. And that is explained by Mississippi.
It is the Leslie that loves running with the dogs through the woods. It is the Leslie that doesn’t mind getting stuck in the mud and getting dirty.
This is the same version of myself that loves nothing more than being in the African bush watching animals or lost in the red rock canyons of Southern Utah. It is the version of myself that is the most authentically happy. So here is my theory (which I am sure has been put forth by Thoreau and a thousand other brighter minds before mine), we human beings need this wildness. We need a place where we can let the dogs play off leash and run fast and hard.
When we don’t have enough of that and we spend our lives in cities, in close proximity to other people who demand that we adhere to certain social norms, then our souls suffer. I think some of the coping that people do through various substances and various behaviors in the cities and suburbs of America have to do with the fact that they don’t get to be wild in a natural kind of way. They don’t have places to be natural, and I mean that in the most literal sense of the word. So they must be wild in their unnatural surroundings. I feel so lucky, because all my life I have had middle of nowhere Mississippi in which to be wild. I have been able to act upon the suggestion of my cousins Josh and Matthew, that why not go on an evening hike through the woods in search of an 800 pound wild hog that could be the death of us?
In a place like Mississippi, you realize all of the people hiking around on the city’s paved sidewalks in Wellington boots really are idiots. When you get down in the bogs, in the mud, you finally feel purpose for your Le Chameau boots. But really, who needs boots at all? Why not just go barefoot (well, at least in summer, when the temperature is above sixty degrees farenheit).
I don’t mind the tangles there. I don’t mind the scrapes and bruises that come from encounters with fallen trees in the woods. I don’t mind smelling of campfire, and going a few days without showering.
I need these prolonged trips to feel like myself again. I need them to be able to exist in an ordered, structured day-to-day life. I needed them more than anything to end 2012 and to begin 2013, to remind myself that I am okay with myself in spite of all of my failures.
Of course, it helps to be surrounded by the people who know me best and with whom I can be most authentic when I am in these places. But that is the subject of another post.