I first encountered “wild” as a college student in the 1960s. Walking down the back stairs of the student union one day, I asked my fellow student, “What’s that smell?” He laughed. My first whiff of marijuana. I didn’t like the smell then and I don’t like the smell now. I don’t like the idea of smoking at all.
Marijuana use can impair cognitive abilities but the degree and/or duration of the impairment depends on when a person starts using and how much and how long that person uses. If pregnant women use marijuana, well, I won’t go there. Memory, learning, and impulse control. I need them–all of them, all the time. I voted no on legalizing marijuana in California, knowing I was throwing my vote away, but I didn’t care. I don’t like what happens to people on marijuana and I don’t like driving on the road with them, either.
Back in college, I’d already lived in a number of countries, gone to school in two of them, but I had no clue. In the English Department, my major, any sort of wild was sub rosa. No one talked about smoking marijuana, although they talked freely about alcohol. Drinking was acceptable and students went to the DH (Dominion House–this was Canada) or the Bridge (with reference to the Ambassador Bridge which looms over the University of Windsor). I didn’t go because I wasn’t 21 until I got to grad school, by which time, it was too late for me to join in and I didn’t care. I occasionally drank a glass of wine, still do, but I didn’t like the taste of much of it. Nothing’s changed, even though I can drive to Napa or Sonoma in an hour, traffic permitting.
In the Theater Department, my undeclared other major, marijuana and alcohol at cast parties was de rigueur. If the party was in winter, I left early or found somewhere, like the hall, to get away from the smell, the liquor, and the stupidity which resulted from inhaling or imbibing. In summer, I spent time in a lot of back yards.
Today, drug and alcohol abuse are rife enough to make me wonder why the human race is prone to addiction. And the mask of prescription drug abuse has been torn away by the opioid crisis. Marijuana’s okay to most people and alcohol continues its sad path through society, but I don’t want any of it.
Drugs and alcohol are what people think of when the word “wild” is first raised, but I’d like to propose another definition based on what I found in the Oxford English Dictionary. Wild can be an adjective, a noun, or a verb. The OED defines wild as “living in a state of nature, and related uses.” Not sure what the ‘related uses’ are, but I like “living in a state of nature.” Another definition is “of a plant (or flower): growing in a state of nature; not cultivated.” Only the second definition in the dictionary is “not submitting to control, and related uses.” (I really must find out more about ‘related uses’, such a delightfully vague term).
I want to start from the first definition, the one about living in a state of nature or not cultivated. I want to think of wild as a place that offers me a wide open space, but I want to expand that to encompass not just a physical wild, but a mental wild. I want my synapses to hum, everyone’s synapses to hum. Think of it: wild world, wild thinking. Inventions pouring out of many minds. Creativity solving our growing problems.
An excellent example focuses on trees. One of my favorites is the California Buckeye. Why? Because it can’t be domesticated, even though we’ve tried. We’ve domesticated other trees, but not this one. We can plant it, we can prune it, but it stands alone, untamed, wild. Giving nutrition and medicine, according to our indigenous peoples. That tree is one of my heroes.
Now I’ve added mechanical trees to my hero list, along with their inventor, Klaus Lackner. They absorb CO2 and may well be one of our saviors. Like real trees, mechanical trees suck carbon dioxide out of the air, only they do it at faster rates than nature and that helps to reduce global carbon emissions.
So let’s give up on the sordid side of “wild.” Let’s embrace the gift of “wild” and let us be wild ourselves.
Wild (definition): The process of inventing, creating, and finding the wide open spaces of our physical and mental worlds.