Week 5 – Trees and Toilet Paper

Week 5 – Trees and Toilet Paper

The most common question I get regarding the year of rewilding lifestyle pertains to toilet paper (or lack thereof in my case). At the risk of generalizing, I call attention to the frantic hoarding of toilet paper at the beginning of the pandemic as an indicator that the typical Westerner cannot conceive of life without this commodity. The US is the largest consumer of toilet paper in the world, with the average US American consuming three rolls per week (Dobush, 2019). Multiplied by the 2020 US population (329.5 million), this translates to the consumption of 51.4 billion rolls of toilet paper in the US alone every year. With each person consuming 12,293 rolls across an average lifetime (78.8 years).

Perhaps no other consumer product exemplifies Western consumerist detachment from the more-than-human world than toilet paper. It is used for one of the culture’s unspeakable but necessary activities – to wipe excrement from our bottoms – then flushed away, out of sight and out of mind. But toilet paper doesn’t miraculously materialize from magical factories. Like every single manufactured good, the raw materials used to produce it come from the living Earth. The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) recently exposed the fact that Charmin, the US’s leading toilet paper brand, contains no recycled content; therefore, all the pulp used in the manufacturing process comes directly from Trees, primarily Trees in Canada (Vinyard, 2021), where 405,000 hectares of Boreal Old-growth Forests are denuded each year to satisfy American lust for convenience (Wulfhorst, 2019).

Tucked away far north and out of the sight of US Americans, Canada’s Boreal Forests are part of the venerable legacy of Earth’s few remaining Old-growth Forests. They provide habitat for 1000s of species, including critical nesting habitats for three billion Birds. They sequester carbon on a scale more than twice that of tropical rainforests and support more than 600 Indigenous human populations (Gauthier, Bernier, Kuuluvainen, Shvidenko, & Schepaschenko, 2015; Vinyard, 2021). In addition to these attributes, scientific evidence, in addition to thousands of years of Indigenous knowledge, now increasingly supports the hypothesis that forests are comprised not simply of arboreal resources for human raping and pillaging, but of communities of diverse sentient floral beings (Simard, 2021; Trewavas, 2014; Wohlleben, 2016).

In a seminal tome, Anthony Trewavas (2014), a molecular biologist, plant physiologist, and Emeritus Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, outlines the case for Plant intelligence, astutely observing that Plants have been dismissed as insensate automatons based on biased standards.

They [Plants] are commonly assumed to be simple organisms in comparison with mammals, but isn’t this judgement made because they do not seem to move or really do anything obvious? What is being used here is the imposition of human criteria on the behaviour of other organisms. (p. 67) 

Furthermore, “We regard ourselves as complex and, therefore, judge other organisms on the basis of how similar their behaviour is to ours” (p. 67). Instead of relying on self-reinforcing, anthropocentric criteria for intelligence, Trewavas applies an analysis of complexity (a commonly accepted variable for aptitude) and behavior to point to Plant intellect, essentially allowing them to speak for themselves according to their own rules. With painstaking, rigorously supported, empirical evidence, Trewavas details indicators of Plant sentience, including self-recognition, capacity to make decisions (and to correct them), future planning, intentionality, learning, memory, and game playing.

For me, the most telling truth regarding Plant sentience and intelligence is their impressive capacity for communication. Plants communicate via chemical signals, producing an extraordinary array of volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) that eclipse (by orders of magnitude) the words in the English language (Simard, 2021; Trewavas, 2014; Wohlleben, 2016), Plants release these messages into the air, via their stomata, or into the soil at their roots.  These chemical messages can warn neighbors of threats, such as invading Insect predators or humans with chainsaws; coordinate synchronous flowering and fruiting; develop strategies for resource acquisition and sharing; and negotiate agreements with other organisms, such as Mycorrhiza (Simard, 2021; Trewavas, 2014; Wohlleben, 2016). Trees also release VOC signatures, which identify them to others as both unique individuals and members of specific familial groups (Trewavas, 2014), essentially broadcasting their names into the winds.

For every chemical communication that scientists have been able to decipher, thousands more remain unknown. So far, we have no Rosetta Stone to unlock the mysteries of complex Plant languages, and given the physiological differences between our Kingdoms, we probably never will. The anthropocentric orthodox scientific community dismisses the communicative capacities of trees as mechanistic, automatic, responses to stimuli, but if we take the time to work with more-than-humans of any kind, we find evidence of communication, relationship, cooperation (and antagonism too!). Isn’t it a better bet to assume that sentience infuses each of these functions, rather than assuming it does not? Humans did not just appear from an evolutionary void, fully emotionally and cognitively fledged. We are kin with all our more-than-human neighbors, and at the risk of being labeled as an anthropomorphizer (a common criticism from those who would mechanize the living world), I think it is safe to assume that sentience is the rule, rather than the exception.

When I was walking my Dog friend Goober the other night, the hazy atmospheric conditions that lend these Blue Ridge and Smokey Mountains their name were in spectacular view. Everywhere the ebullience of consistently warm springtime days erupted forth, encouraging trees to awaken and to begin speaking to each other – the stunning bluish haze writing in the sky the words of Trees for all with eyes to see.

I wonder what they are saying. Are there any Rilkes, Shakespeares, or Goeths among them? Who better to appreciate the fine art of crafting communication than a silent, audience who stand patiently and permanently listening? And what genius has been lost with the clearcutting of Forests so humans can conveniently wipe their bottoms and thoughtlessly flush devastation down the toilet?



Dobush, G. (2019). The Average American Uses 3 Rolls of Toilet Paper Each Week: And it’s devastating forests. Fortune. Retrieved from https://fortune.com/2019/02/28/us-toilet-paper-consumption-canada-forests/

Gauthier, S., Bernier, P., Kuuluvainen, T., Shvidenko, A., & Schepaschenko, D. (2015). Boreal forest health and global change. Science, 349(6250), 819-822.

Simard, S. (2021). Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the wisdom of the forest: Alfred A. Knopf.

Trewavas, A. (2014). Plant Behavior and Intelligence: Oxford University Press.

Vinyard, S. (2021). Charmin’s Toilet Paper: Thin sustainability claims. Retrieved from https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/charmin-sustainability-claims-fs.pdf

Wohlleben, P. (2016). The hidden life of trees: What they feel, how they communicate—Discoveries from a secret world: Greystone Books.

Wulfhorst, E. (2019). Consumers’ use of toilet paper wiping out habitat, heating planet, report says. Reuters. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-canada-tissue/consumers-use-of-toilet-paper-wiping-out-habitat-heating-planet-report-says-idUSKCN1Q935B



*Throughout this website, I will use capital letters for the names of more-than-humans to signal their personhood.

One Month of Rewilding – A typical day in the life

One Month of Rewilding – A typical day in the life

Today marks the completion of an entire month of rewilding. Many people have asked me questions about the practical aspects of this project, such as: What do you eat? What do you actually do every day? What about toilet paper? etc. So, I have decided to take a break from philosophizing for this post and outline a typical day in my progressively rewilding life.

Since I am eschewing television and other forms of electronic media, my sleep patterns have changed. I typically read for pleasure in the evenings and fall asleep early. I also wake up early feeling well-rested. With rewilding, I have started a series of morning rituals, which include 15-20 minutes of meditation; journaling about the previous day’s experiences and any dreams I remember; and learning about and/or engaging with some form of Indigenous spiritual practice, including ancient European practices that honor the wild world.

Breakfast usually consists of fresh eggs from my Chicken companions in the backyard, cooked with some cultivated or foraged wild greens, such as Nettle, Dead Nettle (pictured), Wild Onion, Chickweed, Spinach, etc. If I am feeling decadent, I enjoy my eggs with a piece of sourdough bread from Hominy Farm, a local bakery that specializes in making baked goods with locally grown and milled grains, slathered in local, grass-fed ghee from Goddess Ghee. If my logs are fruiting, I will add some fresh Mushrooms to the mix, and I also source Mushrooms from the West Asheville Farmers’ Market from Asheville Fungi.

Ideally after breakfast, I settle into a few hours of computer work. I should be working on my dissertation in addition to attending to work-related matters. However, this time of year, Spring is erupting, and I have an almost inexhaustible to-do list of highly seasonally dependent things to attend to outside. Cooler weather crops, such as Cabbage, Broccoli, Spinach, Beets, Carrots, Potatoes, etc., need to be planted now or yesterday. In addition, I have acquired (and continue to acquire) several native bare-root fruit Trees, Shrubs, Herbs, etc. to augment my co-researchers’ contributions to the Land rewilding effort, and these need to go in the ground as soon as they are received. I am working on some hügelkultur beds that I am hoping to plant my summer crops in after Mother’s Day. I need to meaningfully engage with my co-researchers, and I still need to finalize my pre-wilding ecological baseline as soon as the Trees leaf out, allowing me to confirm their identities.

My computer work is falling behind, but I am not stressing about this too much. In accordance with the seasons, I am assuming that I will be able to catch up once the Spring frenzy of activity eases into the less frenetic days of Summer, Fall, and especially Winter. I offer my labor and sweat to the more-than-human world as reciprocity, and the physicality of the outdoor work seems to serve as physical and emotional therapy. My mood seems lighter, and I am slowly gaining strength and endurance. My ageing back and shoulders complain, but my younger friend and helper, Kimberly, stops by about once a week to help out with the physically grueling tasks, and friend and neighbor Mary rescues me with excellent acupuncture and massage therapy when I overdo it.  

On market days, I ride my bike to stock up on local produce, trout, humanely raised meats, milk, mushrooms, cheeses, and other delectables that I am currently not growing myself. My community is expanding, and I am supporting and getting to know like-minded humans who are invested in co-creating healthy and wild ecosystems. Foodwise, I am probably eating consistently tastier, healthier, and better than I ever have and for a much lower cost. Although I will miss Olive oil when the last few drops I am savoring are gone, I have otherwise suffered no hardship, pangs, or cravings.  

In the afternoons, after I have done all I can mentally or physically for the day, I read, either working my way through the mountain of literature I need to review, or simply enjoying some light fiction. In the early evenings, I take Goober for walks, catch up with neighbors, and/or spend time with my adult children, who stop by regularly to play board games and enjoy a locally grown, mom-cooked meal.   

In general, I am feeling less stressed and anxious. Of course, reducing my workload and not having any coursework to worry about undoubtedly contributes to this, but I also am experiencing that having limited consumer choices alleviates a lot of stress. I have stopped worrying about what I have to do to get the things I think I need. Between my farmer friends and the Land, I know I will have enough to eat. Everything else is either unimportant or something I will find a wild solution for. For example, I have started making delicious wild fermented sodas from local honey, flowers, and herbs. Hydrosols, distilled from various plants and coupled with homemade vinegar, serve as excellent and wonderful-smelling cleaning fluids, and endless combinations of teas replace coffee. Because of its incredible environmental impact, toilet paper deserves its own post, but I will say that I am also probably the cleanest person around without it. Who would have guessed that good old-fashioned soap and water works better than dragging the dry, dead carcasses of murdered trees across one’s bottom?

There are caveats to all this rewilding positivity. I am a reclusive introvert by nature, so loneliness and the need to get out of the house and socialize regularly are simply not an issue for me. I derive a satisfactory amount of human interaction from my partner, family, close friends, neighbors, and trips to the market. In fact, I need to do more to engage, particularly with the local Indigenous communities. Furthermore, humans are the only organisms on Earth who limit their own freedom to rewild via the inequitable constructions of capitalism and private property. Everyone should have the access and capacity to make a wild living within a healthy Land community, so I also need to be dedicating more time and energy towards figuring out how to engage in activism to support this natural right for all.


Recipe for wild fermented soda

Ingredients and Equipment

½ gallon mason or other jar

½ gallon filtered spring water (chlorinated water will impede the fermentation process)

Choice of local fresh Herbs, Spices, etc. to fill ½ of the jar (my favorites include combinations of Mountain Mint, Pine needles, Ginger, Hibiscus flowers, Dandelion, and Violet)

¼ to ½ cup local honey according to taste

Sprinkle of champagne yeast or 1/3 cup wild yeast starter


Add everything to the jar. Shake vigorously to mix. Cover with a loosely fitted lid that allows fermentation gasses to escape. Leave on a countertop away from direct sunlight. Tighten the lid to shake a few times per day. Then loosen the lid again. Once fermentation starts you will hear a fizzing noise when you loosen the lid (24 to 48 hours). Filter out the herbs and transfer to clean recycled soda or swing-top bottles. Leave on the countertop and test for carbonation by opening the lids until desired level of carbonation is achieved (no more than 24 hours). Refrigerate and enjoy.



*Throughout this website, I will use capital letters for the names of more-than-humans to signal their personhood.


Reflections on Week Three – Lessons from “Native Science” and Black Locust

Reflections on Week Three – Lessons from “Native Science” and Black Locust

In the specter of global ecological cataclysm, Bill Plotkin (2013) implores  humans to remember our true, ecological natures. Although Western philosophical thought attempts to firmly establish humans as exceptional among and separate from the wild world, “we, too, are expressions of nature’s qualities, patterns, and motifs…” (p. 2). Like all Earthlings, the human species arose from within the cauldron of evolutionary alchemy, and we are connected and related, through billions of years of co-creation, to every other being on Earth. We did not spring forth from a void fully formed like Athena from Zeus’s head. Instead, “The ways we think, feel, perceive, imagine, and act have arisen in attunement to the rhythms of the day and the turning of the seasons and in intimate relationship with myriad other life-forms and forces” (p. 7).

Because of the radical interconnectivity of all beings within the cosmos, the myriad Anthropocene crises, created within the delusion of human exceptionalism, cannot be resolved until the realities of universal interdependence are remembered and embraced, not only practically in the real world, but also within research processes. Western environmental scientific culture requires “objective” analysis, detached from the subjects one is studying, and elevating one form of knowing, rational thought, above all others.  The idea of “objectivity” also suffers from a core fallacy. As Gregory Cajete (2004) observes, “Any attempt to explain the story of the cosmos is also metaphysical, as the method of research always stems from a cultural orientation, a paradigm of thinking that has a history in some particular tradition. Therefore, there can be no such thing as a fully objective story of the universe” (p. 46).

Despite my personal opinions and values, as an environmental scientist specializing in environmental impact assessment, I have necessarily assumed the role of “objective” researcher for my work. I was quickly disillusioned as a budding young scientist, when I was chastised by mentors and peers for any displays of emotional attachment to my research subjects, which were seen as a feminine sentimentality that was definitely “unprofessional.” Proving I could be as detached and emotionless as any man, I embraced the cool rationality of mathematical equations and statistical analyses, developing models to assess “ecosystem services” and “biodiversity values” that not only reduced living beings to utilitarian values but also almost removed the researcher from analyses entirely, thereby ensuring “objectivity.” Ironically, rather than reducing environmental impact, the worldview that values more-than-humans based on their benefits to humans actually fosters the destruction of ecological integrity, by supporting the delusion that humans can weigh costs and benefits and terraform the living world accordingly to suit their individual purposes without any consequences.

Despite my attempts at dissociation, engaging with more-than-human research subjects, who more than likely would end up destroyed or “managed” beyond recognition, perpetually traumatized me. My doctor recommended antidepressants for chronic depression, and I came to realize that most of my colleagues suffered from the same affliction. Ironically, while the scientific orthodoxy is largely dismissive of emotional standpoints, which are seen as “irrational,” the economic and political structures that underpin environmental destruction are simultaneously held as “rational” (Kent & Brondo, 2020). Aldo Leopold observed that “one of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds” (Leopold, 1953, as quoted in Cunsolo & Ellis, 2018, p. 276). Indeed, the lack of safe space within the orthodox community to express emotional distress has been traced to chronic and acute emotional responses in affected persons, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, increased risk of suicide, disempowerment, hopelessness, increased drug and alcohol abuse, and psychosis (Clayton, 2018; Cunsolo et al., 2020; Marshall et al., 2019; Walker, Leviston, Price, & Devine-Wright, 2015).

Shaming, Ignoring, or medicating away these symptoms does not address the core problem. Cajete (2004), who explains the philosophical basis of Native Science, says, “We cannot help but participate with the world. Whether we acknowledge and are creatively open to the perceptions that will result, or remain oblivious to its influence and creative possibilities toward deeper understanding, is our decision” (p. 50). In sharp contrast to Western science, Native science embraces all forms of knowing and perception, including the metaphoric mind:


Connected to the creative center of nature, the metaphoric mind has none of the limiting conditioning of the cultural order. Its processing is natural and instinctive; it perceives itself as part of the natural order, a part of the earth mind, inclusive and expansive in its processing of experience and knowledge. It invented the rational mind, and the rational mind in turn invented language, the written word, abstraction, and eventually the disposition to control nature rather than to be of nature. But this propensity of the rational mind also leads to the development of anthropocentric philosophy and of a science that would legitimize the oppression of nature, its elder brother… (Cajete, 2004, p. 51)


With this in mind, during week three of the year of rewilding, I committed to spending more time outside with co-researchers, trying to quiet what my rational mind thinks it knows in an effort to foster the integral metaphoric mind that knows how to observe, listen, and participate differently (Heddon, 2017; Noorani & Brigstocke, 2018; Plumwood, 2002).

In my meanderings through the wooded areas of the Land, I meet with an old Black Locust Robinia pseudoacacia tree. Although the scientific literature suggests that Black Locust is a medium-sized (40-60 feet tall and 12 to 30 inches in diameter) and relatively short-lived (approximately 90 years) species, this Individual lies beyond these limits and is in excess of 100 sprawling feet in height and a meter in diameter. I cannot fathom their age, and growth factor charts for popular forestry species offer no clues.

I decide to sit with them for a while. I introduce myself and present Tea and Tobacco as offerings. I lament that I do not know their true Indigenous name, as I have become aware that English, a colonizing language that carries on the winds of destruction, may be traumatizing to more-than-humans (Berry, 2019). Instead, I chant the Indigenous name for this region, hoping to convey my sincere desire for reparation.

As I sit with the old sentinel and look around, I see only human destructiveness. They are surrounded everywhere by “alien invasive species” – Wineberry Rubus phoenicolasius, Multiflora Rose Rosa multiflora, Asian Bittersweet Celastrus orbiculatus, Privet Ligustrum spp., and Autumn Olive Elaeagnus umbellata. I am overwhelmed by the seeming impossibility of ridding this place of colonizers. The familiar telltale clouds creep into my mind, manifesting as a sense of hopelessness. The pain becomes overwhelming. How can I possibly fix this?

I notice an inviting little spot in the cool leaves, mosses, and detritus near the Tree’s trunk, and I curl up there to indulge in a little crying. As I am lying there, staring off into the tangled branches of the mostly non-native underbrush, feeling sorry for myself, I cannot escape the ebullient songs of a nearby Mockingbird. Chickadees, Carolina Wrens, and others chime in. How can they be so joyful in this broken world with so many odds so clearly stacked against them? Who am I to sit here coddling my misery while the world sings? And then it hits me. A lifetime of conditioning does not fall away easily. How is my compulsion to “fix” this Land any different from any other Western notions of controlling “Nature”? And isn’t such an anthropocentric idea actually insulting to a sentient world perfectly capable and in the process of healing itself? The discovery of my residual, arrogant, human exceptionalism stuns me. Almost simultaneously a Blue Jay, a Tufted Titmouse, and a Red-bellied Woodpecker all alight in the branches of the Tree above my head and stare down at me, cocking their heads from side to side with curiosity, and I know in that moment that the best I can offer is to at least do no more harm.

As I sit with Black Locust’s revelations this week, I realize that my self-flagellation regarding my propensity for human arrogance still carries the taint of false separation. I and all humans are, after all, part of this erotic fray, as Cajete observes, whether we realize it or not. Rather than seeking to control, I can participate. I can sing songs for and with the beloved beings with whom I am sharing space. With my opposable thumbs, I can plant seeds and hope for the future. I can add to the collective appreciation for beauty, and as an ecologist, I can also use my brain to offer appropriate support to all the Land’s residents. Earth needs humans to remember how to be humans and to share our unique gifts with the world.




Berry, G. (2019). Speaking English with Country: Can the animate world hear us? Can we hear it? Pan: Philosophy, Activism, Nature, 14, 24-29.

Cajete, G. (2004). Philosophy of native science. American Indian thought, 45-57.

Clayton, S. (2018). Mental health risk and resilience among climate scientists. Nature Climate Change, 8(4), 260-261.

Cunsolo, A., & Ellis, N. R. (2018). Ecological grief as a mental health response to climate change-related loss. Nature Climate Change, 8(4), 275.

Cunsolo, A., Harper, S. L., Minor, K., Hayes, K., Williams, K. G., & Howard, C. (2020). Ecological grief and anxiety: the start of a healthy response to climate change? The Lancet Planetary Health, 4(7), e261-e263.

Heddon, D. (2017). Con-versing: listening, speaking, turning. In M. Bastian, O. Jones, N. Moore, & E. Roe (Eds.), participatory Research in More-than-Human Worlds (pp. 192-208): Routledge.

Kent, S., & Brondo, K. V. (2020). “Years Ago the Crabs Was so Plenty”: Anthropology’s Role in Ecological Grieving and Conservation Work. Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment, 42(1), 16-24. doi:10.1111/cuag.12235

Marshall, N., Adger, W. N., Benham, C., Brown, K., Curnock, M. I., Gurney, G. G., . . . Thiault, L. (2019). Reef Grief: investigating the relationship between place meanings and place change on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Sustainability Science, 14(3), 579-587.

Noorani, T., & Brigstocke, J. (2018). More-than-human participatory research: University of Bristol/AHRC Connected Communities Programme.

Plotkin, B. (2013). Wild Mind: A field guide to the human psyche: New World Library.

Plumwood, V. (2002). Environmental Culture: The Ecological Crisis of Reason: Routledge.

Walker, I., Leviston, Z., Price, J., & Devine-Wright, P. (2015). Responses to a worsening environment: relative deprivation mediates between place attachments and behaviour. European Journal of Social Psychology, 45(7), 833-846.



Throughout this website, I will use capital letters for the names of more-than-humans to signal their personhood.


Time and Other Constructions – Reflections on Week Two

Time and Other Constructions – Reflections on Week Two

The relationships between spatial and temporal dimensions clarify when one ditches the automobile in exchange for feet and a bicycle. Slowing down to a natural human pace, I feel a nostalgic linking across pasts, presents, and futures – a remembrance of a simpler, carefree childhood, when time was rarely measured, and spatial relationships manifested in a felt bodily awareness. Driving a personal vehicle from place to place for all my adult life (apart from walking and biking as a form of exercise), I realize how the world outside the car blurs, becoming backdrop, reinforcing the bifurcation of humans from the more-than-human world. How can one connect when one is encased by metal and glass, whizzing past the world at speeds no human would otherwise achieve? But this separation is mere delusion. For while humans in their cars, on their highways, on their ways to various human-designed and built spaces can ignore the more-than-human world, the more-than-human world cannot ignore the climate-altering gases spewing from tailpipes, the coal-fired powerplants climate controlling their constructed spaces, or the deforestation, mining, and toxic contamination required to extract the materials needed to maintain the delusion. As much as we can construct narratives that we are separate from our environment, such constructions are nonsense. Everything we do co-creates the world, for better or worse (Bawaka-Country et al., 2020; Bawaka-Country et al., 2016).

As I pedal to the farmers’ market, I relax into the unscheduled mind space that opens up in the absence of quick transportation. I will get there when I get there, spend as much time as I need to, and then head home. I have dedicated a whole day to this adventure. I feel a familiar urgency in the cars zipping past me on Asheville’s bicycle-unfriendly roads, heading everywhere in a hurry. I am grateful that most motorists are polite. In fact, my life probably depends on it. In the squeezed narrow roads without bike lanes, they must wait patiently to pass me in the presence of oncoming traffic. Many then put pedal to the metal and fly past, anxious to make up for those few lost seconds. On my bike, I am unable to somnambulate through traffic, as I often did in my car. I am very much in the world – wind in my face, sun (and rain) on my back, taking in every sound and sensation.

An interesting and beneficial byproduct of my self-induced braking to bipedal speed has been that time itself seems to slow. In fact (ironically), a relatively recent study discovered similarly that the “time-saving” technologies modern Western humans have grown accustomed to actually accelerate one’s temporal awareness (MacDonald, 2015). Embedded in technological, as opposed to more-than-human worlds, time flies by, and the minutes saved using technology are usually used up pursuing a Western capitalist agenda instead of actually enjoying one’s life. A recent Gallup (2017) poll found that of the 100,000,000 employees in the American workforce, only one third find their jobs fulfilling and enjoyable.

My capacity to rewild time undoubtedly reflects my white, settler, land “owning,” middle-class privilege. On the other hand, refusing to engage with consumerist capitalism, I spent in total only $30 this week at the farmer’s market. In the absence of television, shopping for things I thought I needed, and compulsive attention to social media, I read more, sleep better, save money, and generally feel less stressed. And, I have the great satisfaction of knowing this week, that my carbon footprint is negative (I planted some trees) and that nothing I did enriched the pockets of the already-rich corporate masters who are destroying the planet.

However, as I attempt to re-condition myself to the natural rhythms of the more-than-human world, the time constructions of Western contemporary life still confound my attempts.  The tick-tock of the clock forces me to conform, whether I want to or not. Yoga at noon, farmers markets on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, deadlines, appointments – I can’t seem to avoid the scheduling that characterizes globalized Western life. And I begin to experience that this scheduling is not just a benign tool. A certain quality of tension or anxiety flutters up when I glance at the calendar and the scribblings that commandeer my freedom for an hour or two here and there. Scheduling minutes, hours, days, and weeks comprise such a ubiquitous part of Western daily lives, it has come to seem natural, inevitable, unquestionable. I wonder. Do our constructions of time serve or enslave us? And can different notions of time liberate us? What other seemingly imperative narratives (e.g., about work) could we reject to create happier, healthier communities?



Bawaka-Country, Wright, S., Suchet-Pearson, S., Lloyd, K., Burarrwanga, L., Ganambarr, R., . . . Maymuru, D. (2020). Gathering of the Clouds: Attending to Indigenous understandings of time and climte through songspirals. Geoforum, 108, 295-304.

Bawaka-Country, Wright, S., Suchet-Pearson, S., Lloyd, K., Burarrwanga, L., Ganambarr, R., . . . Sweeney, J. (2016). Cobecoming Bawaka. Progress in Human Geography, 40(4), 455-475.

Gallup. (2017). State of the American Workplace. Retrieved from https://www.gallup.com/workplace/238085/state-american-workplace-report-2017.aspx?thank-you-report-form=1

MacDonald, F. (2015). Science says that technology is speeding up our brains’ perception of time. Science Alert. Retrieved from https://www.sciencealert.com/research-suggests-that-technology-is-speeding-up-our-perception-of-time


Rewilding Challenges and Reflections – Week 1

Rewilding Challenges and Reflections – Week 1

The first week of rewilding has come and gone, with many challenges and discoveries.

 Daily Rituals

In rejecting the One-World World (Escobar, 2016) or “a world allegedly made up of a single Word, and that has arrogated for itself to be “the” world, subjecting all other worlds to its own terms, or worse, to non-existence…” (p. 15), I seek to explore and understand the diversity of other worlds, including but not limited to Indigenous North American and European traditions and Eastern philosophies. I do this not to appropriate but to search for commonalities. The simple acts of mediation, yoga, journaling, and daily ritualized engagement with the more-than-human world transport me past the tyranny of “consensus consciousness” (Canty, 2017; Tart, 1986) and reveal a rich tapestry of symbolic knowing beyond the objectivist “facts” of a dominant worldview that has rendered the Earth into inanimate resources.

 Challenges with Co-operative Inquiry with More-than-Humans

As I meet and greet my more-than-human co-researchers this week, I begin to understand that fulfilling the objective of this research – to work co-operatively with all the more-than-human beings with whom I share a Land community to restore ecological flourishing – I immediately discover complications. If I subscribe to the panpsychic belief that all who inhabit this space are subjective beings, I must also contend that the significant proportion of these beings, who happen to be Alien Invasive Species (AIS), also possess agencies that must be accounted for in accordance with the axiological imperatives of co-operative inquiry.

 In my professional field, AIS represent a scourge to be defeated. Indeed, the means of managing AIS often sends otherwise rational humans into a tailspin of murderous rage (Bocci, 2014), whereby no option save complete annihilation is worthy of consideration. The binary invoked – that AIS are all bad and should therefore be eliminated in order to help “good” native species– suffers from the same myopic dysfunction that characterizes all Western binary constructions. In reality, complexity characterizes ecological systems, and good versus bad species narratives and the drive to eliminate AIS can be ridiculously costly, futile, and oftentimes fraught with unintended consequences.

 In the case of this Land community, AIS, such as Multiflora Rose Rosa multiflora, Asian Bittersweet Celastrus orbiculatus, Privet Ligustrum vulgare and Tree of Heaven Ailanthus altissima, dominate the landscape, enabled by historic clearcutting by Western settlers of the Old Growth Forests that once flourished here. In the resultant void created by clearcutting, native fauna, particularly Birds, have now come to depend on the forage and shelter provided by non-native species. Removing them would not only decrease the Land’s capacity to support the Animals that now depend on these AIS but would also, as Toby Hemenway (2000) notes, be an exercise in futility due to simply recreating the conditions that allow AIS to proliferate in the first place – open Land.

 Hemenway proposes recreating facsimiles of the natural communities that existed prior to the settlement of AIS and allowing natural successional changes to do the work of restoration as the best strategic means of dealing with AIS. While this approach takes time and does not necessarily work on the One-World World’s human timeframes, it rings true to me. Rather than inflicting additional violence, in co-operation with my co-researchers we will instead foster new life that will eventually rewild the Land, restore ecological health, and provide habitat and food for humans and more-than-humans alike.

 Letting go

The rewilding process feels like a shedding, not a peeling away of defined layers, as with an onion, but more like dead skin cells, no longer serving any purpose and floating away almost imperceptibly until one notices the fresh, pink, newborn skin that has been revealed. Like watching seeds grow, waiting and watching with anticipation is painfully slow, but if one simply invites the inevitable to unfold, then joy and deliciousness ensue.  

 Contrary to what Western acculturation says to my ego, letting go of combustion-fueled transportation, oranges, lemons, and avocados (which due to their tropical nature I won’t enjoy again for a year) does not feel like depravation. Instead of easy food from the grocery store and greenhouse gas-producing adventures, I find joy in an unhurried pace and an abundance of food in my own backyard. In the space vacated by completely unnecessary items of Western entitlement, I discover intention and the simplicity and acceptance of learning that I don’t need all the things I thought I did.


Reclusive by nature, early in the first week of rewilding, I find myself questioning my decision to expose myself by putting this personal journey “out there” in the blogosphere. My childhood programming to avoid drawing any attention to myself screams in indignation at the audacity. But without community, How am I any different than just another hermit living in the woods (not that there’s anything wrong with that!)? The global nature of research problem demands that despite my discomfort, I share it. I do this with great hope of discovering and building a human community of more-than-human allies committed to the cause.





Bocci, P. (2014). Tangles of Care: Killing goats to save tortoises on the Galapagos Islands. Cultural Anthropology, 32(3), 424-449.

Canty, J. (2017). Seeing Clearly Through Cracked Lenses. In J. Canty (Ed.), Ecological and Social Healing: Multicultural Women’s Voices (pp. 23-44): Routledge.

Escobar, A. (2016). Thinking-feeling with the Earth: Territorial Struggles and the Ontological Dimension of the Epistemologies of the South. AIBR. Revista de Antropología Iberoamericana, 11(1), 11-32.

Hemenway, T. (2000). Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green.

Tart, C. (1986). Waking up: Overcoming the obstacles to human potential. Lucidity Letter, 5(2).



It Begins – Day One, Spring Equinox 2022

It Begins – Day One, Spring Equinox 2022

But when night had fallen, the sorrow of the worshippers was turned to joy.  For suddenly a light shone in the darkness: the tomb was opened: the god had risen from the dead; and the priest touched the lips of the weeping mourners with balm, he softly whispered in the ears the glad tidings of salvation” (Frazer, 1922, p. 407). 

 The Vernal Equinoxes mark the point in the year when, rather than favoring either the northern or southern hemisphere, the Sun exactly aligns with Earth’s equator, resulting in a (mostly) equal day and equal night. For Indigenous cultures across Earth, even Europeans, the Spring Equinox represents a joyous time of reawakening, resurrection and rebirth. In the modern era, Christian Easter, Jewish Passover, Wiccan Ostara and the Zoroastrian celebration of Nowruz, to name a few, represent fragments of a collective human heritage commemorating Earth’s reawakening from a long winter slumber to once again bring forth life.  Mythologies invoke variations on the theme of mortality and rebirth.  Cybele and Attis, Persephone and Demeter, Jesus and Mary, etc.

 For me, the day also marks a death and resurrection, the dying of a lifetime of a Western lifestyle characterized by human exceptionalism, waste, excess, and repression of my emotional attachment to the more-than-human world. Clawing my way out of the debris of my past existence, I hope to be figuratively reborn, not as a perfect Human, but as an integral participant in the messy entanglements of wild earthly materiality.

 Day one begins like any other day, except the television in my bedroom that typically blasts inane distractions is gone, and no social media scrolling infuses the morning with an unhealthy dose of doom. Instead, I get out of bed immediately, attend to the needs of the furry residents of the household, and begin the first of many morning rituals to come. I choose to mark this year of rewilding with daily ritual, not because I subscribe to the dogma of any particular religious tradition, but because, as many have observed, the more-than-human world communicates not with words but through a “language of things” (Mathews, 2019; Weber, 2014). Perhaps this is at the heart of the almost universal human desire to express ourselves with song, incense, fire, dance, meditation, and feasting in an effort to reconnect within a wholeness greater than ourselves.

 I begin with the lighting of a candle and incense, centering of breath, and an invocation of my intentions – From the compost of my life’s destructiveness, I seek to resurrect flourishing for myself and the more-than-human community of which I am a part. The Australian Aboriginal notion of “deep time” blurs distinctions between Western linear notions of past, present, and future. The vestiges of this Land Community’s cumulative ecological and colonized histories are not isolated in some distant timeplace outside the present and future. The eternal now emerges from collective and co-created abundance, scarcity, love, violence, joy, and sorrow of all beings who make home here (Bawaka_Country et al., 2020).  

 I therefore think it’s fitting to mark the first day with offerings and engagement with Se-di and Sowo[1], two Black Walnut trees with whom I have already fostered relationships. These two Trees, one in the front yard and one in the back, dominate the visual and ecological landscape. Their substantial size points to their “old growth,” with lifespans that predate the settlement of this land by white European descendants and even the founding of the City of Asheville. The deep time knowing of this place infuses their ancient wood.  

 Their natural histories also dictate which more-than-humans will be welcomed to this rewilding party. Generous to a fault with mast fruiting, Se-di and Sowo feed countless birds, squirrels, humans, and other fauna with their abundant nuts each year. On the other hand, their roots, nuts, leaves, and wood are infused with allelopathic juglone, a chemical that acts as a natural herbicide, inhibiting the growth of many plant species, although not all. In co-creating and co-designing a forest of food for all who choose to live here, I will necessarily need to work with these most influential architects.

 I take them each an offering of incense and precious last cups of Coffee. I explain my intentions, ask for their cooperation, offer gratitude for their existence, and sing a spontaneous Black Walnut song for them. Then I just sit. The Rooster crows his ode to the morning, and neighborhood Crows respond with a raucous chorus. A Nuthatch swoops from Sowo’s branches to the bird feeder and back again, offering a mate (or newly fledged chick) a seed. The cool but not cold breeze brings the promise of the season while myriad voices from the surrounding hills cheep, chit, and chirp, rejoicing and co-creating this glorious morning.  





Bawaka_Country, Wright, S., Suchet-Pearson, S., Lloyd, K., Burarrwanga, L., Ganambarr, R., . . . Maymuru, D. (2020). Gathering of the Clouds: Attending to Indigenous understandings of time and climte through songspirals. Geoforum, 108, 295-304.

Frazer, J. (1922). The Golden Bough: The Macmillan Company.

Mathews, F. (2019). Living Cosmos Panpsychism. In W. Seager (Ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Panpsychism: Routledge.



[1] For reference, I have given the trees human language names. “Se-di” is the Cherokee word for Black Walnut, and Sowo is the Cherokee word for the number one. By measuring the Trees’ diameters at breast height and multiplying by a standardized growth factor, I have estimated their ages at approximately 220 and 280 years respectively.