wildhood welcome

Share what you have gathered wildly.

CHCB 467
Missoula, MT 59802

Wildhood is kinship of the wild in all people, places, and things.

Paul Shepard (1996) On Wildness


Welcome the wild.

Paul Shepard (1996) On Wildness

Mark Douglas


"Wildness... has for me an objective reality, or at least a degree of independence from arbitrary definitions. Wildness occurs in many places" (p. 195). Wildness involves "eagles and moose and their environments" along with "house sparrows, cockroaches, and probably human beings--any species whose sexual assortment and genealogy are not controlled by human design" (p. 195).

In Notes of an Urban Naturalist, Eugene Kinkead traces the origins of coyote to its indigenous roots in North America. "The coyote is the only one of the eight living species of Canis, the genus, or biological grouping, of dogs, that is completely North American" (Kinked, 1978, p. 52). Kinkead details the history of coyotes, their role as nemesis to sheep herders, and their wily resilience which has kept them home in the changing North American environments. Further evidence of coyote's maintaining their wild ways in increasingly developed regions is on display in the PBS film, Meet the Coywolf.

Beyond that, Shepard reminds us of the horror brought through the loss of the wild. When good intentioned conservationists intervene in the genetic variability of an ecosystem the results are "plants and animals that seem to be there" (Shepard, 1996, p. 195) but are in fact vacant behind a surrogate veneer. His eloquent analogy is that habituation is to wildlife as your grandfather's benign visage is to his fleeting sense of self. As humans, "as a species we have in us the call of the wild" (p. 195). Shepard continues

It is a call corrupted not only by domestication but by the conventions of nature aesthetics. The corporate world would destroy wildness in a trade for wilderness. Its intent is to restrict the play of free and selfish genes, to establish a dichotomy of places, to banish wild forms to enclaves where they may be encountered by audiences, while the business of domesticating the planet proceeds. ...My wildness according to this agenda is to be experienced on a reservation called a wilderness, where I can externalize it and look at it.(Shepard, 1996, p. 195)

Shepard follows up with a discussion of human perception. He's keen to compare the hyper visual and image based modern way of the world to what may be held as an "acoustical event world" Ong (1969). Shepard considers human perceptual habits along a continuum of wild style. "Perceptual habit is style in the sense that Margaret Mead once used the term, to mean a pattern of movement and sensitivity, the lively net of predisposition emerging from our early grounding, finally affecting every aspect of one's expressive life" (Shepard, 1996). This human wild style, perhaps the human enactment of wildhood, is "a way of expecting and experiencing, encountering inhabitance by a vast congregation of Others unlike us, yet, like our deepest selves, wild" (p. 200).