Wilderness is engaged through lived bodies in a lived world. We share a pact with wilderness; a compact. “[E]ach entity shares in a common integumentation” (p. 185). Integumentation is the state of being covered with tough outer protective layers. This is another way of saying that all is enfolded with all else in wilderness. Of the arcs considered previously in the book, the articulatory and tensional arcs belong as much to the body as to the world as is.
The articulatory arc is traced out by limbs, hands, feet, and head. The body articulates in place by picking out places that are already immanent from surrounding regions. The tensional arc is determined from the tension that exists between here and there. Husserl’s ‘abyss’ between self and another and Levinas’ ‘infinity’ between self and other speak to this tension. This tension seems similar to Harman’s relation of withdrawal between the real object and real object. For Casey, this creates “counter-places” existing in opposition to the self. Counter-places stand in relation to somebody from unreadiness to hand to absorbed dealing and skillful involvement qua readiness to hand.
There are three eco-variables to consider nature on its own terms: region, cultivation, and encounter. Nature is a region of regions. A region is “a gathering of places” (p. 73). Regions are concretely experienced as a landscape (cf. Ch. 4 pt. I). Wilderness has a sense of an uncultivated region “in which no protective shelter or predelineated pathways may be proffered to us” (but what about game trails from the wild deer, p. 187) and we may become lost in terms of space and time. Wilderness has a sense of the unencountered place that exists without human actions and motions. To discover commonality among nature and humans means to consider things not from humanity’s encounter with nature but from the “engaged ecocentric” perspective of earth’s encounter with humanity (p. 187).
Wild places are uncultivated. They are unmodified and unrestrained (untrammeled). We can’t use these qualifiers if we consider hunter-gatherer times, places, and sociocultural engagements because wandering and residing are undifferentiated in those cases. Settlements or “steads” (homestead, farmstead) that involve cyclical cultivation otherwise frame the wilderness. (This seems problematic as well considering the Mississippean mound building peoples that had agricultural settlements. I’m not sure wilderness existed for them.)
Two features of wild lands: allure and complexity. The allure draws people to imagine a wild paradise in the back of beyond. It is akin to the adage, greener grass on the other side. The complexity results from wilderness as “an amalgam of the real and the imagined, the actual and the idealized; its types are manifold, ranging from Edenic to chaotic, the Paradisiacal to the perverse, not to mention the monotonous and the uninspiring” (p. 191). The phenomena of displacement and desolation help in characterizing wilderness.
Desolation is “an intensified solitariness” (p. 192). Also it is feeling hopeless and in despair relating from “displacement from one’s own habitat” (p. 192). A desolate place is “empty, open, and unable to support vegetative life except in its most limited forms” (p. 192). These desolate places are unamicable and uninviting.
These are landscapes best suited to “dwelling-as-wandering” in the sense of letting the place take the lead as somebody drifts within it. The sense of belonging is lacking. Paradoxically consolation may arise. The consolation arises as the lonely individual is con-soled and soothed within wilderness.
Desolation of the human kind stems often enough from “significant displacement from one landscape in another” (p. 194). Displacement generates physical and psychical desolation. Psychophysical in that it is neither physical nor psychical only. The desolation stems from 1) “loss of an accustomed center” (p. 195) which equates to losing the “abiding familiarity” of dwelling-as-residing in place. 2) The way the land lays in its appearance may exhibit barrenness, vastness, impenetrability or isolation to name a few features that compose the desolate landscape look. Barrenness consists in the lack of sustenance or basic habitation necessities. Vastness comes from the indiscernibility of any specific perimeter and unpopulated emptiness. Impenetrability lies in the extreme resistance to cultivation and a sense of adversity. Isolation is from utter separation.
Custom and familiarity come from exploration through habituation and into habitation. To lessen feelings of isolation and desolation, decathexis as effective detachment from place is called for. The possibility of place internalization is given through the extension of Freud’s model of mourning. This sinks place attachment to the subconscious level. “Displacement can give way to re-emplacement” and the “displacement may be superseded by an authentic consolation that no longer leaves us isolated from others, form place, or from our own divided selves” (p. 199).
Wilderness has autochthony. It rose into being from where it is. Therefore it is sublime. It is characteristic of the mathematical sublime such that it dwarfs all else in comparison. “Yielding to survey only with difficulty” (p. 200). It’s characteristic of the dynamical sublime in its ‘might’ (citing Kant). Wilderness thus is “too great to measure but also too forceful to contain” (p. 200). Kant further characterized sublimity in two senses of desolation. Wilderness is sublimely desolate 1) in its power to displace us and 2) in its disorder that is beyond the eidos or logos giving it to ananke and chora. Wilderness “possesses an inherent power of its own that can no longer be contained within coherent eidetic form” (p. 201).
While human order cannot exhaust wilderness, a wild place has immanent order. Casey now distinguishes a wilderness from a landscape. Wilderness “is the undespoiled natural realm, Nature is its aboriginal independence.” While landscape “is the natural world as collected in coherent cluster and placed on view. … Wilderness is the natural world not on view” (p. 203). Landscape is the “physiognomy of the land, the manner in which the land appears and is taken in” (p. 203). Casey quotes Heidegger (p. 48) in terms of earth from “The Origin of the Work of Art” by stating that wilderness is “continually self-secluding” (p. 204). This then leads to Casey’s description of the “forms of wild places” considered “moments of Nature” (p. 204). He names six moments that are intrinsic to and essential parts of wilderness. They are surrounding array, sensuous surface, ground, things, arc, atmosphere.
Ground and things are entirely bonded. “Things relate to each other” (p. 204) “The grave end of the spectrum of wild places” (p. 204) characterizes these first two. Arc and atmosphere “account for most of what is moving and changing in wild places.” They furnish the surrounding array with “transitory aspects” (p. 205).
The sensuous surface is just between ground and things; and arc and atmosphere. The sensuous surface has “a level of sheer immediacy” and “serves as the interface between ground-things / arc-atmosphere while “[a]cting as a bidirectionality porous membrane” (p. 205). Body is “insistent interloper” that “transforms the kaleidoscopic presentations of the surrounding array into a readable text of qualities and forms” (p. 205). The array “disposes itself in varying patterns that nevertheless help to compose the scene as one identifiable whole” (p. 205). These moments as leading traits of wilderness solicit further description.