A few days ago, I found myself walking in the most primal forest I’ve ever had the privilege to see.
Live oak branches twisted and tangled together in every direction—around me, above me, stretching as far as the eye could see into a clear blue sky. Palmettos were as tall as me, taller sometimes, and they brushed up lightly against thick tree trunks that seemed as old as time. Spanish moss clung to twisting branches, swaying in the breeze like ship sails or ghosts.
I saw two wild horses—three, if you count the one I saw from the ferry; although, it could have been one of the two I saw later at the ruins on the island. They were chestnut-colored, and one of them seemed a bit skinny with a rough, patchy coat. I also saw a raccoon near the estuaries, with an orange-striped tail and clever face. It ran when it saw me coming around the deserted boardwalk between estuaries, making my way to the beach.
So much wild there—the forest, the animals. I’d heard that there were wild turkeys on the island—donkeys and alligators too. So many wild things live somewhere in the thickness of forest, and marsh, and beaches.
I felt like my soul opened wide there. For the first time in a long time, mindfulness fully took the place of stress. The island wasn’t the only thing that went wild; my hair went native too. I had straightened it carefully before leaving for the trip. Within an hour of the beach, it had relaxed into waves. By the time I was boarding the ferry, it had gone to curls. Not just a few tame curls, I might add. It was the thick tangle of salt-water curls, true beach hair. Although I never got my hair wet on this February excursion to the shore, my hair immediately became as wild as its surroundings. And, for once, I didn’t try to tame it.
It’s funny that I’ve always seen my curly hair as being messy. I didn’t see it as sexy, wild, or free. I’ve been taming my hair, and I’m wondering now if I’ve been taming myself too. Maybe we should all be more wild. Primal. Feral, even. Perhaps I’ve been contained when I should have been powerful—polite when I should have been raw. I wonder if there’s a path inside of us where we can return to the wild of our childhood—and, perhaps, to a wild we’ve never known.
I missed the ferry in my search for the wild in me. I secretly wanted to miss it, but then I nearly panicked when I realized that it was happening. There was no way for me to make it across the island in time. That’s when I ran into a group that reminded me that another ferry would be along. I wouldn’t miss that one. If I did, they offered me a ride back on their boat, should I need it.
It came to me then: we can’t miss what is meant for us. And what we do miss was never ours anyway. I slowed down then and enjoyed the wild of the sea running over my feet, soaking the bright silk of the dress that I was wearing. I liked the wet silk against my skin as I walked in the cool tide, taking in the expanse of sea and sky.
I could have spent days there, but I was grateful for the hours I had. I felt like I was kissed by the sea, embraced by the forest, blessed by wild horses and raccoons on the run, stroked by the sun, and brushed by the wind.
I felt loved, cherished, known by the universe—and reminded that we need to embrace being wild in favor of being tame. We need to be a little less polished and a little more real. We need to show up with our raw selves if there’s any chance of encountering souls, rather than facades.
We’ve been tamed, but some of us are reaching out and finding our wild.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Flickr/Katia Romanova; author’s own
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy Editor: Travis May