For wilderness is not space, but the life force that inhibits that space. Marie Haley
In 2007, I spent the first of three summers working on Campbell Island, amongst the royal albatross and New Zealand sea lions. They were to be some of the most formative episodes of my life. It was here with the vast expanses of ocean around me that I first felt the freedom experienced by wild animals, and it was like taking a deeper breath than I known was possible. A breath that still manages to fill my soul with a mix of joy and hope. For wilderness is not space, but the life force that inhibits that space.
To live in a place where no humans reside, where animals rule, turns what we know of the world on it’s head. Our daily experiences are defined by interactions with the world that are controlled and measured, we know the weather forecast, we hear the daily news, we can adjust the thermostat to make our environment more comfortable and all of our experiences with animals tend to be with ones that are either domesticated or have habituated to a human modified world.
All in all we control our world so we are safe, and that safety limits our depth of experience of nature. On Campbell Island, we were the odd ones out, there were no tracks, no roads and no vehicles, no internet, not even a weather forecast and whatever news came was weeks too late for it to be new anymore. We had one heated room and spent weeks on end camping right in a sea lion colony or in tiny huts on the exposed headlands surrounded by albatross.
Living in such simplicity gave the mind so much time to slow down, to notice the finest details of life and to expand into poetic daydreams. The abundance of nature was captivating, so that I never felt a moment of boredom (that feeling of reaching for updates on your phone). There were always interactions to watch, penguins coming ashore in their daily commute or albatross gliding in from ten long days at sea, sea lions defending their place in the world or even just little pipit birds working as camp cleaners hoping around our feet for crumbs.
After some time I felt these experiences of freedom and the beauty of nature working their way inside my brain and rewiring my neural pathways so that I know I think differently than I did before. For me it has left me with a lifelong yearning for more wildness, more freedom. For some time I sought it out by moving from place to place, but when I found that wherever I went in this human world, it was not there, I decided to stay home and recreate it for myself in the world around me. I started to plant trees and flowers to bring in the birds closer around me and to slow down and watch the wild species that are actually all around us, that go unnoticed in our speed.