Keeping Language Wild


The river gushes and rushes and makes rivers of our tongues. We are wise as owls, thunderously angry, our skin ages like bark. Is it possible that our capacity for symbolic language, which we often view as that which separates humans from all other beings, is what most powerfully ties us to the Earth? Language, after all, is rooted in nature's imagery, from the obvious metaphors to the etymological roots of words. When we speak or write, we draw to us the great web of words that arises from natural symbols, natural sounds and onomatopoeia, the symbols and the rhythms of nature.

Language breathes. It draws inspiration from the breath of the world.  It is embodied, ensouled––rich and fecund with wildness and tendrils of association that speak to an ecology of mind: an ability to make wild leaps of connection, to breach false divides and illusions of separation.

Writes Gary Snyder in his brilliant essay "Tawny Grammar" in The Practice of the Wild.

“Language is not a carving, it’s a curl of breath, a breeze in the pines.”

More and more, reduced to soundbites and talking points, our language rebooted in technology and abstracted techno-linguistics, we find ourselves drifting further from language that reaches deep into the Earth. In her essay "The Sacred Bee" from the book Biophilia Hypothesis, Elizabeth Lawrence writes, "If we continue our current policy of destructiveness toward nature, does this mean that human language will contain fewer and fewer symbolic references  to animals [and to the natural word] with consequent impoverishment of thought and expression?"'

Will we lose part of ourselves if language, too, is uprooted from the Earth?

As a facilitator of poetry therapy, I believe the aim of poetry is to invoke language that penetrates to the wild places in us––that awakens us to our own wild nature. Poets or not, we each have within us the power for keeping language wild.

We can:

Learn the names of our other-than-human neighbors;

Write poems, speak them out loud, feel them thrum in our bodies;

Express our love for the Earth through dance, song, poetry;

And we can share our Wild Soul Stories, the stories that speak to our oneness with the Earth.

How will you keep your language wild?