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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. Below them grew tall grass, herbs such as mint, and a few late blooming flowers. The area below the trees had never been cleared because it was unfarmable land; too wet and steep.

I had done this walk a hundred times and had come to understand 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 pursuit of one plant.

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. In one, humans have 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 from our original nature. With these facts, we are asked to redefine what wilderness is.

Can we find eveness between human control and natural thriving? And can we learn something from wildness? 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 may teach. I’ve found so far that it teaches more in body than in mind: through long walks, silence, and discomfort. By reading listening to this podcast, you’re invited to come along on this journey with me.

— Hudson Gardner, @rivrwind

About Me

Hudson Gardner is a writer & photographer who drinks a lot of tea in the woods, usually made with boiled creek water and whatever medicinal plant is growing nearby. He has hiked, biked, and paddled hundreds of miles in the USA, and has lived in California, Maine, Vermont, New York City, New Mexico, Nebraska, Oregon, Idaho, and Washington. He has completed a full-length book of Poetry titled A Body of Water, and is currently working on another called Rocks.

His work has been published by On Being, The Sun Magazine, Patagonia, Taproot Magazine, and others.