A Packet of Nuts?

There’s a tendency to focus on the ways in which we are no longer in contact with wildness.

In his book ‘Feral’, George Monbiot bemoans that the closest we now get to nature is “feeding the ducks in the park”, and “the greatest trial of strength and ingenuity we face is opening a badly designed packet of nuts”. In short, he says, civilisation has squeezed the wildness out of our environment, and out of us. When I’m teaching in London I sometimes get rather melancholy about the absence of nature around me. Did you know that when the foundations of Trafalgar Square were dug in the 1830’s, builders exposed river gravels crammed with the bones of hippopotami, straight-tusked tigers, giant deer, giant aurochs and lions?

But the truth is that it’s not all doom and gloom.

We can choose our world view, by choosing our statistics. We can be glass half-full, rather than glass half-empty people.

After all, new forms of wildness are being discovered all the time…

Recently, a species of bird that is completely new to science, The Cambodian tailorbird (Orthotomus chaktomuk), was found - hiding in plain sight in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh.

And it’s just been announced by World Wildlife Fund, that more than 400 new species of plants and animals have been found in the under-explored Amazon rainforest in the past four years. They include a newly discovered species of monkey that purrs like a cat, a flame-patterned lizard, a vegetarian piranha and a frog the size of a thumbnail.

So how does this relate to our wild words?

Firstly, we should never give up hope that the passion and power that has become deadened and buried through overuse and over-familiarity, can re-find it’s wildness, and right under our noses, in fact.

Finding the wild words is like finding any other wild creature. It’s in the moment of awe-filled discovery that they live. And it’s through the variety of expression and movement that they move the reader.

When those words begin to purr, when they leap and roar, it’s then we know we’ve unleashed the wild in them.

The Weekly Prompt

Write a 1000 word, fiction, or non-fiction piece, in prose or poetry, using the following prompt:

“the greatest trial of strength and ingenuity we face is opening a badly designed packet of nuts”.

First published November 19th 2013