The cornfield and the wild apple tree

In late summer 2015 I was walking along the edge of a cornfield in Nebraska. The corn leaves were dry and tawny yellow. The ground of the field was bare brown clods, with nothing growing between the plants. Along one edge of the field was a row of trees, with tall green grass below and a few late blooming flowers. The area below the trees had never been cleared because it was unfarmable land; too wet and steep. But I had done this walk a hundred times and had come to see the difference between the trees, and the farmed land next to them. One supported many plants and animals, and the other actively killed them.

In Fall 2017, I found myself sitting in a forest of aspen and pine in Northeastern Oregon. Across the river I spotted a wild apple tree. The tree needed pruning, it’s branches tangled and overgrown. Because of this, the tree produced little fruit. But, with what little knowledge I had, I realized I could help the tree thrive.

These two scenes are similar, but different. In one, the human hand has controlled a landscape. In the other, the landscape was mostly wild, and the human aspect, a wild apple tree, was actually in need of human care.

Encountering wilderness

Every square inch of the globe has been touched by humans. Humans have also changed away from our original nature. These realities ask that we redefine what wilderness is.

Can we find a fairness between human control and natural thriving? In my way of life, of eating local, growing food, hiking and being outside, I am trying to learn as much as I can from what wildness can teach. I’ve found so far that it teaches more in body than in mind: through long walks, silence, and discomfort. By reading this newsletter, you’re invited to come along on this journey with me.

— Hudson Gardner, @rivrwind