My Wild Return: Part 1 - Shell Shocked

Outside my house growing up, in the middle of the block, was a large black locust tree, the only tree on the block. The homes on my block in St. Louis City were tiny, made for poor folk like my family. Behind our homes was a dust bowl, a large lot with no grass and soil eroding away - and behind that, across Broadway, were chemical companies and metal works - and behind that, the great Mississippi River. In front of our block was a huge foreboding convent, set up on a hill, where spooky nuns in habits walked the grounds. There were trees on their land, but they were off limits.

For my siblings and me, the wild was all bottled up in that tree, this glorious tree of my memory, as it's been cut down now. For my first eleven years until my family moved, that tree was my wilderness, with it's glorious white locks, dangling white flowers, soft green leaves and sturdy thick trunk. One August afternoon, at age 7, I looked up at that locust tree and wondered where all the noise was coming from it. The noise, an undulating buzz that crescendoed then fizzled out, only to start up again, was deafening. Asking my mom what made the tree hum like that, she said, "Those are cicadas. Hiding in the leaves." I had no idea what a cicada was, but when I noticed this creepy empty crusty brown shriveled shell thing stuck to the bark, I gasped, literally 'shell-shocked' and pointed to it. Mom said, "That's where the cicada came from." "Ew," I said.

What a portentous shell it turned out to be, staying stuck as a memory in my brain for years, to reawaken when I finally saw my first cicada emerge from its shell, some forty years later, a beautiful sight by that time, no longer an "ew," but a gushing "wow." It took forty years for me to ripen and burnout as a social and environmental activist, ending up so truly shell-shocked in a whole new way from witnessing the enormity of human brutality, and experiencing a never-ending 'ew', that I ended up suffering from a deep rooted secondary post-traumatic stress. In 2009, I made the momentous choice to leave my activism behind and return to the wild for healing, if healing was possible. The wild I'd known during those forty years had mostly been in the abstract, with that shell and that tree the last memories I had, besides a few incidents here and there over all those years, of any real up close and personal wild in my life. Thus began my wild return.

Next installment: Getting Fat On Beauty - Transforming My Anorexic Life

Publicado por wildreturn wildreturn, 21 de septiembre de 2022

Comentarios

I didn’t grow up with locust trees or cicadas, but like you, lived on the edge of ‘civilization’ in a tiny- house neighborhood bordered by rural farmland on two sides, and industry and a big river on the other—the Columbia. Because our little yard had many plantings and the neighborhood had trees, the ‘wild’ was essential brought to our back door. However, watching a mud caked, brown and bulbous carapace travel up a tree trunk a few years ago, split and produce an amazing big-winged neon green adult—wow. I share your wonder.

Publicado por zerbek hace 11 días (Marca)

Interesting. I never thought of myself as living on the edge of 'civilization' in the city, but I guess I did. That wild untamed river was only a block away, but it might as well have been a hundred miles, blocked mostly from view by industry as it was. You were truly on the edge in the country, in my mind. Where I grew up, the poison Union Carbide dumped into our sewers exploded in ominous green fire from our manholes. The stench was pervasive. Asphalt and concrete was my playground, except for a tiny patch of a 15' incline of grass that we called a hill leading to the stone wall of the convent. Grass was our savior as we played King of the Hill on it. Our neighbor next door, a kind woman we adored, grew wild roses everywhere, but fell in them one day and was covered in bloody sores, giving my siblings and I an early fear of 'gardens.' Ah, memories.

Publicado por wildreturn hace 11 días (Marca)

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