The green areas on this map (from the Forest Frontiers Initiative) are all that is left of the world’s wild forests, the only remaining areas that are large enough and sufficiently intact to support a natural and largely undiminished ecosystem. At current rates of deforestation they will all be gone in 50 years. The light brown areas are degraded forest, fragile and disrupted and now dependent on human ‘management’. Both the light and dark brown areas, comprising half of the world’s land surface, were wild forests as recently as 8,000 years ago. And most of the world’s deserts and grasslands, shown in white, have also been, at least intermittently, wild forests since the end of the last ice age, before human civilization spread across the Earth.
I think I am irrepressibly, compulsively drawn to ‘gentle’ beauty, and grace.
- What I have been looking for in a ‘winter home’ here in New Zealand and Australia is a place of extraordinary physical, natural beauty. I have come to see cities as ugly, fragile and crumbling human artifacts that deny and work against nature. Likewise farms and fields, monocultural lands that have been made possible by the atrocious razing of ancient forests. I have found beaches of staggering beauty here, but the best of them have no real forests nearly. So I am coming to the conclusion that my summer home on Bowen Island, Canada will have to fill my need for wild forests, and my winter home (probably Down Under) will fill my need for warm white sand and blue seas. As much as I appreciate and love to visit wild places that are windy or cold or rocky, I am not at home in such places. I long to find and belong to the last few places on Earth that are both gentle and wild.
- What I look for in people is likewise gentle yet wild beauty. That can be physical, or emotional (strength, sensitivity, grace and creativity — I am drawn to artists who share my sense of unbearable grief for Gaia’s death), or intellectual (wit, articulation and ideas can also be beautiful). I don’t even have to have a personal relationship with these people — it’s enough to be in their presence, seeing, hearing, reading, witnessing their beauty.
- I am also drawn to beautiful aesthetics on a smaller scale, both natural and human-made (light and shadow, scents, music, art, the tastes of natural food and the sounds of wild birds, trees and surf).
- Although I once swore I had no needs, only wants, I think I was self-deluded. I need these different kinds of beauty like I need air. Without them I am apart, empty. Without them I retreat inside my head and imagine them. From too much practice I have developed a great imagination, invented a whole world of beauty to replace what has not been in my ‘real’ life. I was drawn to the virtual world of Second Life not for the usual reasons many others were (loneliness, boredom, low self-esteem etc.) but because it is a place of great, collectively-imagined and collectively-created beauty. More ‘real’ than my imagination, and who is to say any less ‘real’ than the physical world?
I don’t know why I need such beauty, or why this need drives so much of my passions and behaviour. When I am surrounded by gentle beauty I am both happy and present, in that magic state of awareness and relaxation that makes everything possible and effortless. In this state I often do my best creative work, and my best writing, and in this state I am most in love. In this state I can spend most of each day just eating and sleeping and playing and making love, and still sometimes somehow find the time to reflect and create and do what I do best to make the world a better place.
When this profound beauty is missing from my life, anxiety rushes in to fill the void, and with it the need to retreat back inside my head, to shun all responsibility and commitment, to create space and time for me to hide from all my fears and anxieties, to imagine them away.
I think this insatiable desire to be surrounded by physical, emotional, intellectual, erotic, sensory and aesthetic beauty accounts for much of my recent and intended behaviour — my move to Bowen Island, my polyamory lifestyle, my desire for company and for time and space alone, my endless fascination with walking at night, sleeping in safe wild places, brilliant women (and sometimes men), raw foods, marathon sex, candlelight, firelight and streetlight, world-weary women singer-songwriters, clever humour, silly infectious childlike laughter until you almost make yourself sick, intense late-night philosophic conversations, making love in the forest and on the beach, brilliant evocative writing, the sight of birds soaring.
Perhaps I’ve never grown up, and that’s why I want to cocoon myself in an impossible world of limitless and inextinguishable beauty. Perhaps I just can’t bear to face, and truly live in, the terrible ‘real’ world. Perhaps I just can’t see the terrible beauty of the real world. Perhaps I’m just still tired, exhausted, from living most of my life as a sheep in wolf’s clothing, pretending, from necessity, to be what I was not for so long I have forgotten who I really am. Still living in my sleep.
When I find out, I will let you know. Until then at least, this blog will continue to be my diary of discovery and learning, sometimes about the world and what must be done, but mostly about myself. I hope it will continue to be of use to you, dear readers, in your own journeys, until I am ready to face the real world and, finally, be of use to it. I owe the world that much, and more.