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The word ‘wild’ evokes a deep sense of beauty and freedom of expression. I grew up in rural Southern Iowa on a sustainable homestead off the grid. We lived without running water or modern conveniences, such as indoor plumbing and central heat. We had an outhouse and sometimes no electricity. My childhood was spent running wild in the creeks, fields, and forests that surrounded our house – way out in the countryside of Monroe County. I wove my days together immersed in the incredible beauty of nature, and also learned to respect and honor Mother Earth for her spiritual generosity and physical power. ‘Wild’ is the seed planted in us that grows into our individual connection to the larger world.
My thoughts on what we mean by wild have centered on the experience my two little boys are having grown up here in Georgia. They are two and five years old now, and both boys are (non-verbal/pre-verbal) Autistic with other special needs. While I grew up off-the-grid in rural Iowa, my boys are living out their childhood in the large city of Atlanta. My husband and I decided to stay here because the city gives us access to some of the very best medical care and specialists for the boys’ many medical needs.
A few years ago, we sold our house in the suburbs and moved to a small apartment in the city proper to be closer to the boys’ Autism Center. Just recently, we found a small home tucked back in tall trees, a pocket of wildness amid the cement of the city. Since moving here to the trees, our boys have blossomed. We have a safe outdoor area where they can run and play, spend time sitting in the sunlight and examining plants and trees, plus we often eat outside as well. Both boys have started speaking more now than ever before. They are sleeping better, probably because they are getting sustained physical activity running all around the yard. They go barefoot and get to touch the Earth. They collect rocks and make dirt sculptures. When it rains, the boys stick out their tongues to catch the water in their mouths. The improved development we’ve seen has been across all skill sets, including fine motor, speech, behavior, and cognitive. We’re convinced that the intense increase in outdoor play has given our sons the chance to grow and develop in ways they didn’t have before.
2) What changes are needed for us to live within the bounds of sustainability?
I believe there is an important change happening now, with a shift back toward a more Earth-centered society on the horizon. The more we focus our energies on bringing healing to our society through moving it closer to nature, the more sustainable our lifestyles will become. Each small change that each one of us makes is movement in the direction of this healing. Encouraging each other, supporting each other, loving each other into wholeness – each of these actions will allow for more movement toward humanity’s ultimate choice to heal our planet and live within the bounds of sustainability.
3) How can we create a wilder, more beautiful, more biologically diverse, and a more enduring Mississippi River Watershed?
We can create this vision by ensuring that our young people become dedicated guardians of the land they will inherit along the Mississippi Watershed. We can teach today’s youth about the lifestyle of sustainable natural living. We can show them the beauty of living a life in connection with the natural environment. By ensuring a trusted transfer of knowledge, we can help create a future filled with beauty, biological diversity, and the mysteries of the wild world we call home.
We understand we are so very fortunate to be able to make this move out to the trees, yet still be right on the edge of the city to access all of the medical and educational resources for our sons. Not all families with special needs kids like ours can do this. That’s why preserving our natural world and keeping access open for everyone to enjoy the outdoors is so important to us. Educating children about the value of our natural world and offering all children a chance to experience nature first-hand on a regular basis (including children with special needs), we believe this is a valuable commitment for our society to make.
*You can follow our sons’ story on Facebook.