1: of, relating to, or suggestive of a wild beast <feral teeth><feral instincts>
2: a : not domesticated or cultivated : wild
b : having escaped from domestication and become wild<feral cats>
I once viewed this term as a bit of an insult, ‘she’s gone feral’ being Aussie slang for ‘letting ones self go’. Unkempt, trailer trash, bogan etc. Not any more. Thanks to George Monbiot Feral now means something magical, wild, free, natural and exciting. Damn, I actually WANT to be feral. I NEED this in my life!
I’m not going to offer a long drawn out review of the book here as there are plenty of much more intelligent reviews to be found online including that written in the UK’s Daily Telegraph or here on Monbiot’s website. No, I’m going to focus on how the book made me feel.
I walked into the small book-cum-fishing tackle shop in Tobermory on a chilly, damp October day looking for something as good as the book I’d just finished reading (Stoner by John Williams) but different. I wanted to feel the enchantment of the land that I was standing on. Feel the flow of the words like I felt the wind in my hair and become immersed as if swallowed into the ginger heather-covered hills and the moss-covered rocks. I wanted to smell the sea coming through the ink, taste the rain and sea splashes in each paragraph and weave myself into the very fibre of this great part of Scotland.
I was on holiday with my husband, children and mother, taking it easy, enjoying the wildness from the comfort of our car while allowing our minds to wonder deep, deep into the fabric of the island. I’d become obsessed with the history of this small piece of paradise. The clearings. Dreadful, shameful, heartless clearings that had tried so hard to wipe out the celtic spirit that sang the lands song replacing it with the march of profit and progress. I dug deeper, further and further back in time, intent on finding my own place in this landscape on finding out if my blood came from here? Did my ancestors toil this land, worship her gods, give birth amongst the heather? It would seem not but that was of no consequence. We had come to this land via Scandinavia in an un-planned re-tracing of Viking steps. I learned of the raids that had peppered this and the other islands. Of the temporary shelter offered by Iona to holy men on their missions, of the subsequent bloodshed and tragedy. The hills bore the scars and imprints of these human-led action packed triumphs and tragedies. I wondered what they thought about that. The hills, not the people…..
I fingered each book that I came to as if one of them would grab me back and pull me in but it was my eyes that found it. We had seen a deer earlier that day, a beautifully disguised specimen camouflaged amongst the autumn leaves but not quick enough to be missed by us in our tour-mobile.
This was the sign that I was looking for. It felt right to buy it despite the fact that I had no idea what rewilding or George Monbiot was. It was just meant to be.
I’ve often wondered why I feel dead when walking around one of those new housing estates or gigantic shopping malls. I assumed it was the fakery, the man-scaped skyline (or lack of), the un-natural assault on the senses, the monotony. I assumed that this was just a matter of taste rather than a biological longing to escape but now I’m not so sure. No, I am sure, that sort of thing quite literally KILLS me. It is biological torture.
For me a day in the forest amongst the trees and birds is not just a pleasant day out, it is a re-birthing and I had plenty of opportunity to experience that as I journeyed both physically and mentally through the pages of the book.
I realised that I had been allowing myself to re-wild for the last two or three years after falling out of love with the life that I’d created back in 2011, just after my book (my supposed Magnum Opus) was published. It had started simply by forgoing my bi-monthly hair dressing appointment, dressing for comfort more than ever before, saying no to outings in favour of sitting, listening to the birds for just a little longer. I had what seemed to be a thousand things to address back then and I did so, with the diligence and determination of a Doctorate student, becoming both subject and teacher seeking answers amongst books such as Bill Plotkins Soulcraft (where I learned about letting go) and “The Spell of the Sensuous” (which re-connected me to our animalistic origins) by David Abram. Now, three years on I’ve found the missing piece of the oh-so fashionable trilogy here in Feral, a book that has given me so much rational fact to justify what really doesn’t need justifying – that it isn’t feral that is uncivilised, it’s domestication. Our world would be a different place if in the ships of the 1600’s had felt this.
Reading this book made me feel alive, real, vital and connected. It is the kind of pivotal book that makes everything make sense. Re-wilding myself, my environment and my family is no longer a choice, it is our destiny.