Wasps, Ticks, and Lessons on Balance from Land

Wasps, Ticks, and Lessons on Balance from Land

During the summer, I stumbled into a Yellow Jacket Vespula maculifrons nest. I was already aware of two other nests, which, tucked out of the way, were easily avoided. But this one, perched along the border of an Apple permaculture guild, loomed threateningly, with its inauspicious and well-trafficked location. As I nursed my angry welts, I worried about Goober the Dog entangling with them. I struggled with the rewilding rules, devised with more-than-human co-researchers, to abide all beings who contribute to the community, despite my western human discomforts.

In Southern Appalachia, white settler lore recommends pouring gasoline down the holes of Yellow Jackets at night, when the Wasps are dormant, and setting them alight. Over-the-counter insecticides boast poisonous spraying capacities of up to 20 feet, thus protecting the sprayer from any undesirable consequences resulting from the mass-annihilation of a community of stinging beings. Commercial pest control companies offer “safe” removal strategies for an exorbitant price; and online remedies suggest covering the nest entrance with a bowl, administering dry ice or peppermint oil, or sucking out the entire colony with a wet/dry vacuum. None of these options seemed congruent with the ethos of the year of rewilding, so I decided to wait and watch instead.

One of the first things I noticed was that despite appearing to congregate at the nest site, the Yellow Jackets roamed over the entirety of the Land in large numbers. I found them with pollinating Insects in stands of Wildflowers but also at the Vegetable patch amongst the Lettuces and Tomatoes. In these locations, they both busily captured other Insects, such as Aphids, Beetles, and Larvae, and collected nectar from flowering Plants, thus aiding in pollination. I also noticed that Goober avoided the nests, perhaps from unpleasant lessons learned in the past or an innate instinct. My concerns for him lessened, as I began to appreciate his keen intelligence and capacity to safely navigate his own world. 

Avoiding panic or immediately defaulting to the western imperative to manage and/or destroy unpleasant imbroglios allowed me to explore what Donna Haraway (2015) refers to as “response-ability,” which she describes as:

…the high stakes of training the mind and imagination to go visiting, to venture off the beaten path to meet unexpected, non-natal kin, and to strike up conversations, to pose and respond to interesting questions, to propose together something unanticipated, to take up the unasked-for obligations of having met. (p. 8)

Bawaka Country et al. (2019) take this concept further, noting that response-able relationships with more-than-human kin requires both a response and ability. We are required to both pay attention and to act in ethical ways, recognizing our complicity and abilities in co-shaping worldly realities.  After gaining a greater appreciation for Yellow Jackets and their valuable work within this Land community, we managed to negotiate a détente, whereby I don’t disturb their nests, they don’t sting me, and we all get on with our work with Land to heal the community. The remainder of the summer passed without any further uncomfortable interactions with Yellow Jackets.

During the same summer months, I was displeased on a few occasions to discover, after a day’s work with Land, a Tick Ixodes scapularis or two embedded in my skin. Then I started noticing some strange things happening with my body. My right thumb and right big toe started painfully tingling; my energy levels, initially revved up from time outdoors and biking, started to wane dramatically; and sweats and chills started disrupting my sleep patterns. My doctor ran a series of blood tests, and sure enough, I have Lyme Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia mayonii disease.

Unlike Yellow Jackets, with whom I can choose to foster a relationship of mutual avoidance, I can’t circumvent intimacy with the Borrelia Microbes that have taken up residence with all the other Microbes in my bodily community. There is certainly nothing “natural” or “wild” about the pharmaceutical-grade antibiotics I am now taking or the indiscriminate, no quarter, mass-killing of tiny lives that is currently taking place in my body because of my decision to take them. 

Tick and Borrelia beings challenge delusions of utopian Edenic rewilding outcomes, as here-and-now realities illuminate what Donna Haraway (2008) refers to as “contact zones.” Originally coined by Mary Louise Pratt (1991), contact zones refer to contested spaces where conflict and difference, negotiated amongst humans with vastly disparate power differentials, results in cultural diffusions and co-created realities across boundaries. Haraway introduces the realities of multispecies contact zones where human cultural realities are better described as complex interspecies entanglements.

The avoidance of discomfort associated with such muddles is a hallmark of the dominant culture. Food is sanitized and packaged to shield the consumer from the brutal realities of industrial farming. Forests are razed and replaced by suburban homes, safely ensconced within manicured lawns and tidy shrubs, sprayed with poison to confer the delusion of human control over Nature.  Predators are annihilated, offering a false sense of safety, as Deer, Mice, and Ticks proliferate in the vacuum. 

In his Autobiography, Benjamin Franklin (1909) observed that in the quest of seeking moral perfection, focusing on improving one fault allowed others to burgeon in the shadows of abstraction. Similarly, the western utopian quest to circumvent the labyrinthine realities of life and death on Earth breeds dystopian consequences – climate change; pollution of air, water, and land; COVID-19; and Lyme disease.

Now I must confront contact zones within my body community. I choose to resort to the western “solution” of antibiotic chemical warfare, knowing that the collateral damage will not be inconsiderable. My body’s rewilded Microbiome, carefully cultivated over the course of this year via relationships with Land and eating only food, grown without chemical inputs here and in the bioregion, will perish along with the targeted Borrelia, effectively clearcutting an internal ecosystem. The irony, tinged with a hint of potential hypocrisy, does not escape me, as I grapple with the enigma of the meanings of wildness in the contemporary world.

A few nights ago, an Opossum Didelphis virginiana braved a perilous contact zone, digging up and eating one of the Yellow Jacket nests. After fostering a complicated relationship with Yellow Jackets, this dramatic event left me with mixed emotions. I found myself hoping that the season’s new queens were already safely hunkered down in autumn’s leaf litter, awaiting the spring thaw to bring forth new generations. At the same time, knowing that the protein and fat-rich Wasp larvae will sustain the Opossum and her young through the winter ahead delighted me. In the miraculous interwoven complexities of the wild world, the growing Opossum population will also curb Tick populations when the Northern Hemisphere turns once again toward the Sun, and my body will heal, as we collectively move closer to the moving target of restoring balance.




Bawaka-Country, Suchet-Pearson, S., Wright, S., Lloyd, K., Tofa, M., Sweeney, J., . . . Maymuru, D. (2019). Gon gurtha: Enacting response-abilities as situated co-becomming. Society and Space, 37(4), 682-702.

Franklin, B. (1909). The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (Vol. 1): Createspace Independent Publishing Platform.

Haraway, D. (2008). When Species Meet (Posthumanities): University of Minnesota Press.

Haraway, D. (2015). A CURIOUS PRACTICE. Angelaki, 20(2), 5-14. doi:10.1080/0969725X.2015.1039817

Pratt, M. L. (1991). Arts of the Contact Zone. Profession, 33-40. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/25595469



100 Days – Rewilding Land and Self

100 Days – Rewilding Land and Self

Tuesday marked 100 days of rewilding. For the past six weeks or so, writing duties nagged at the back of my mind – I should be writing a blog post and working on dissertation research – but the draw of the outdoors proved irresistible. As the world started to awaken and burst forth at Beltane with the exuberance of late spring, a primal urge to dig in dirt, plant seeds, and generally spend most waking hours outside overtook all my best scholarly intentions. I wonder if my rewilding psyche, withdrawing from an unhealthy addiction to electronic stimulus and other continuous distractions, now yearns to align more naturally with seasonal cycles. The Birds and Squirrels reported that late spring and early summer demand time for doing. Spending each day within the flesh of my body’s physicality, as I worked with more-than-human co-researchers to rewild the Land, felt like an imperative, not to be ignored. So, I went with it. As the wheel of the year turns again, and we enter the long, warm days past the Summer Solstice, the heat of midday once again drives me indoors. The computer and the research now seem approachable. The weeds, unlike the planting of seeds, can wait. Urgency fades, and I find myself moving again towards writing. Where to begin?

Changes occur within and without. A view of branches and sky, once filled with only the anticipation of budding trees, now dazzles with leafy green ebullience. Left to their own devices, the Land wildly designs, with a broad palette of both desirable and undesirable species (from a human perspective). In addition to the Goldenrod Solidago spp., Evening Primrose Oenothera biennis, Daisy Chrysanthemum leucanthemum, Joe Pye Eupatorium fistulosum, and other native Plants; non-natives, such as Tree of Heaven (ToH) Ailanthus altissima (or Hell, as I have come to think of it) and Asian Bittersweet Celastrus orbiculatus, threaten to entirely subsume some areas.

Bittersweet strangles and kills the hosts it twines itself around, and ToH is allelopathic, killing competing plants via chemical weapons produced in leaves and roots. If I recognize the agency of Bittersweet and ToH, and their right to exist, then how can I justify killing them? I have decided to subscribe to both the North American Indigenous imperative to honor all beings (Benton-Banai, 1988) and to Aldo Leopold’s axiology that determines an action to be ethical when it supports, protects, and enhances the natural world (including humans) (Leopold, 1949). At a recent basket weaving workshop at the Firefly Gathering, taught by Nancy Basket (a Cherokee elder), she expressed the view that all Plants (and all beings) have a purpose. She urged us to rethink our definitions and preconceptions of “invasive” species and view them instead as abundant producers, just begging to be put to work. Our lives depend on deaths of others, be they Plants or Animals, every day, but those deaths can be purposeful and honored (Kimmerer, 2013). Bittersweet seems to lend themself nicely to weaving of all kinds. I am still trying to discover how ToH can be useful.

The Critter population also booms. The former lawn, now a promising Meadow, reaches waist-high and shelters families of Rabbits, Turkeys, and Groundhogs. Indigo Bunting, Brown Thrasher and Flicker, all newcomers to the Land, also join the fray. The Tomatoes and Three Sisters (that haven’t been decimated by Groundhogs) set fruit, bean, and cob, promising an abundant harvest soon, and the permaculture guilds I developed along borders (with significant help from friend and worker extraordinaire Kimberly) establish themselves and settle into their new, permanent, perennial homes.   

I am changing too. After two years of living encumbered by long covid, my body now remembers its strength, agility, and overall sense of well-being. I have lost 13 pounds (without trying to do so), and my doctor says she wishes all her patients had my blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Psychologically, however, the baseline resists change. Despite feeling less anxious, I find my usual neuroses and triggers persist. To ripen into my full wildness, I must also recover and embrace the aspects of my psyche living in the shadows of the dominant worldview and dissociated via childhood traumas and cultural programming. Bill Plotkin (2013) says that in order to heal the planet, humans must first heal themselves. Therefore, in the interest of being fully available for the work that calls me in the world, I decided to take the plunge into the hidden psychological wilderness of my unconscious mind, and with the arrival of the Super Flower Blood Moon, I brewed myself a strong decoction of Mugwort Artemisia vulgaris, an Herb known to stimulate powerful and lucid dreams, and fell asleep under the eclipsed Moon. 

My partner of 34 years, Simon, and I are looking for a house to live in. I want to build a secluded place in the Woods, but he informs me that he has already agreed to buy a house in a neighborhood with a group of friends. The neighborhood, Leeward, in the Turks and Caicos Islands, is a trendy location for an elite few. I cringe at the thought but nevertheless agree to give it a go.

 The house borders the Ocean, and when I step outside, I discover the Sea lapping at the house’s foundation. I say to Simon, “We can’t live here! If it looks like this on a calm day, what is going to happen with global Sea rise or a Tropical Cyclone?” Fortunately, he agrees with me, and we inform our friend that we cannot go through with the deal. Our friend (who is not this way in real life) furiously starts lambasting me, accusing me of spreading deliberately alarming climate change “conspiracy” theories and telling Simon how stupid he is to listen to me and miss out on such an excellent investment opportunity. Persuading our friend of the risk inherent in building homes on the Ocean’s doorstep is futile. His financial projections outweigh any climate reality.

 Simon and I find another place to stay temporarily in a communal home shared with several other people. While I am unloading my few belongings into a closet, Cindy Crawford (supermodel) appears wearing nothing but a diaper. She says, “I thought I heard someone down here, so I just threw on the first thing I could find.”

 I went to sleep with the mysteries of the hidden world on my mind and upon awaking, initially interpreted my dream as a revelation about how Western culture relegates environmental truths and ecological imperatives to the shadows, focusing instead on profit margins and investment opportunities while the world burns, forests are razed, and a rising ocean threatens to subsume us. Cindy Crawford, a symbolic pinnacle of the culture’s fascination with superficial appearances, wears a diaper, suggestively covering her root and sacral chakras, representing early childhood and adolescent development and rootedness and belonging, respectively. The world’s major religions and myriad Indigenous cultures teach that practicing reciprocity, kindness, and generosity represents the pinnacle of human spiritual development. In contrast, Western culture rewards taking and hoarding of “resources,” selfishness, and “looking out for number one,” immature impulses arising from feelings of insecurity (root chakra) and fractured notions of belonging (sacral chakra).  

I thought my dream reflected the shadows of the dominant culture; however, being aware that dreams more often than not reveal truths from within oneself (Plotkin, 2013; Zadra & Stickgold, 2021), I committed to keeping my mind open to other possibilities. A few weeks later, on the Summer Solstice, I was outside offering water to some Plant co-researchers and ran into my human neighbor who was also watering. “What are you growing?” I asked. “Nandina” (Nandina domestica – an invasive ornamental floral species that is toxic to Birds) she replied. “While I have you here,” she added, “I was wondering if I could cut down that Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) in your yard. It’s spreading all over my property.” After explaining Virginia Creeper’s native status and usefulness to Wildlife, including Birds, Opossums, and Racoons, I said “sure” and then proceeding to tell her how to do it, thereby violating every tenet of my rewilding project. Later, an irate Bumblebee Bombus spp. accosted me and stung me three times. I didn’t even know Bumblebees could sting, given their typical docile nature.

 As I went inside to nurse my stings and sit with my own confusing behavior, I had a revelation. Although my neighbor, with her Virginia Creeper-free lawn and non-native, Bird-killing flora, could be accused of subscribing to ecologically unsound cultural landscaping norms, I crumbled at the first human challenge to the rewilding project. Although I think of myself as an independent outsider, Virginia Creeper and Bumblebee showed me that deep within my psychic shadows, my unconscious insecurity and need for tribal acceptance can overrule even my most strongly held values. I wrote my neighbor a note and told her I had changed my mind. My more-than-human co-researchers showed me the path of humility. Despite my self-aggrandizing feelings (courtesy of a privileged elite education) of ecological superiority, I need to start from the root – the most basic, infantile, and utterly human parts of myself – and work my way towards wildness from there. I am an experienced and knowledgeable environmental scientist and compassionate rewilder, but I am Cindy Crawford in a diaper too.






Benton-Banai, E. (1988). The Mishomis Book: The voice of the Ojibway: University of Minnesota Press.

Kimmerer, R. (2013). Braiding Sweetgrass: Milkweed Editions.

Leopold, A. (1949). A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There: Oxford University Press.

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

Zadra, A., & Stickgold, R. (2021). When Brains Dream: Exploring the science and mystery of sleep: Norton.


Week 7 – Staying with the trouble of ecological “discomforts”

Week 7 – Staying with the trouble of ecological “discomforts”

As Lawn morphs into Meadow (probably much to my neighbors’ chagrin), Wild Ones move into this suburban Asheville Land. Rewilding seems to be working from an ecological standpoint, and the fecundity of late spring ushers in a flurry of Animal activities amongst the Wildflowers, Grasses, Clover, and more than a few invasive species. As I wander, admiring the diverse varieties of pollinating Bees and Butterflies, I disturb a nest of tiny Eastern Cottontail Bunnies Sylvilagus floridanus. I quickly back away, fearing that Goober, my Canine friend (who is an unfortunately avid hunter of little furry beings), might notice my discovery. Later, I observe their mother enjoying the Lettuces, Cabbages, and Kale in the raised garden beds. I have more leafy greens than I can eat right now, and have been sharing them with humans wherever I can, so I don’t mind also sharing them with the charismatic, cute, and adorable Bunnies who also live here.

 Later in the day, I notice a Crabapple Tree (whose abundance of newly formed little Apples had me prematurely and joyously thinking of future cider and preserves) has been stripped of its leaves and immature fruit by a browsing family of White-tailed Deer Odocoileus virginianus. And a Groundhog Marmota monax, who has recently taken up residence under the shed, doesn’t share the polite manners of the Bunnies when it comes to food distribution. Rather than nibbling delicately at a few leaves and then wandering off to enjoy some Meadow grazing, he yanks entire Plants out by the roots, consuming them with impressive, albeit alarming, comprehensiveness.

My cultural programming immediately seeks to divide these discomforting relationships with more-than-human co-residents into binaries of “good” and “bad” and seeks a “solution” to control or solve perceived problems.  Should I build fences? Leave Goober to solve the Groundhog “problem,” while simultaneously hoping he leaves the Bunnies alone? Trends in “rewilding” tend to portray a return to wildness with exclusively positive narratives (Li, 2018; Mortali, 2019). We are told that getting out into nature is good for our health and overall well-being and that the reintroduction of keystone species, such as Wolves, boosts ecosystem health and restores biodiversity (Bekoff, 2014; Foreman, 2021; Monbiot, 2017).

These stories carry elements of truth, but in places, such as Europe (and my backyard), where rewilding is currently taking place, the complexities of inviting the Wild Folx back into historically domesticated, human-controlled spaces are revealing themselves (Tokarski, 2019).

My chosen methodological approach to rewilding, co-operative inquiry, demands that what matters to co-researchers/co-inhabitants is not only accounted for but awarded equal weight to my own concerns (Bastian, Jones, Moore, & Roe, 2017), further complicating issues of competing interests with Deer and Groundhogs. A well-ingrained sense of human exceptionalism thinks in possessive terms – my Land, my Crabapple Tree, my Crops – but in order to foster not only my own flourishing but also to work with Others to foster theirs, I need to challenge the impulses of binary thinking that would label these interactions as entirely problematic and “stay with the trouble” (Haraway, 2016) of the complexities of wildness returning to this Land.

I wonder if the psychological bifurcation of the “bad” aspects of Wildlife might cause humans to overreact to uncomfortable engagements with more-than-humans, such as by killing Groundhogs (which is legal in North Carolina, while relocating them is not) and erecting eight-foot-tall fences (which is the most-recommended solution on the internet to deal with Deer in the garden). Furthermore, seeing the wild world through the exclusively positive, rose-colored lenses of new age psychobabble, “we turn them into objects of admiration, beautiful and majestic, but still passive objects; or into ecosystem engineers, almost robotic in their efficiency. What we lose is the sense of these [A]nimals as independent agents that do not necessarily conform to our ideas and desires” (Tokarski, 2019, p. 59).  Pigeonholed viewpoints based on ideas, as opposed to real world relationships, prevent us from seeing the natural world in a holistic way that could lead to “possibilities of partial recuperation and getting on together” (Haraway, 2016, p. 10).

 As I rewild with the Land and all its inhabitants, and I dig into and deconstruct my conditioned responses to “problems,” myriad complexities reveal themselves: 

“…what seems needed to better understand the potential consequences of rewilding are approaches that seriously reflect on the resistance of nature and its disconcerting agency, the possibilities of coexistence with such agency, and the significance it acquires in our lives and in shaping our relations with nature. It is particularly the problematic aspects of living with such agency that form a challenge that we find difficult to accommodate and so must pay attention to—perhaps much more than we have so far” (Tokarski, 2019, p. 13).

Mateusz Tokarski (2019) suggests a hermeneutical approach, focusing on meaning, to attend to rewilding discomforts. In contemplating and researching meanings, I discover that for some North American Indigenous people, Deer represent the power of gentleness and unconditional love as opposed to force to foster flourishing (Andrews, 2010). In the tales of King Arthur, a White Stag leads knights of the round table toward the mysteries of their own essential wildness. In Indigenous European lore, the Celtic goddess of the Wilds, Flidass, drives a chariot driven by Deer (Ozurrson, 2018). The aptness of these meanings does not escape me. As I seek to shed my own cloak of domesticated conditioning, I must also learn to get along with the needs and interests of Deer and Groundhog co-researchers with an unconditional love that seeks to know them holistically – good, bad, and otherwise.

 I cannot and would not want to speak for Deer or Groundhog, but in considering what matters to them, I think it’s safe to assume that they want what all living beings want – access to food and shelter, safety for themselves and their families, an occasional treat, and spaces that allow for their own self-realization, whatever that may entail.  Groundhog is a complex, agentic being, both adorable and somewhat annoying, with a taste preference for cruciferous crops. I can protect early sprouts of Broccoli, Cabbage, Collards, and Cauliflower from him, allowing them time to grow for us both. Neither one of us will starve because of this delayed gratification. His existence is more precarious than mine, particularly with the ever-looming threat of Goober. My humanness allows me to offer him protection and safety, and by allowing this Land to rewild, plenty of wild food to enjoy while the Vegetables mature. This Land is his home as much as it is mine.

Unlike the sedentary Groundhog who lives only on this Land, the Deer range across a wider habitat. In watching them, I note the Land functions as a corridor for them, connecting two forested areas where they spend most of their time. They almost always take the same route, browsing whatever they find along the way. My human gift for reasoning suggests that I should probably find a different location for Crabapple. I can also plant other floral species to strategically attract and discourage Deer, thus ensuring their continued well-being, while at the same time protecting my own interests and increasing overall carrying capacities for other Wildlife.

I will certainly miss those Crabapples this autumn. Living together with Wild Folx, like relationships with all people, are complicated and not always perfect. The World Wildlife Fund (2016) estimates Mammal, Reptile, Bird, and Amphibian populations have been reduced by 68% since 1970. In 50 years, more than half of these sentient beings have been sacrificed on the altar of human greed, obliviousness, and selfishness. The least I can do is stay with the trouble and do my best to be a good neighbor.   



Andrews, T. (2010). Animal Speak: The Spiritual and Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small: Llewellyn

Bastian, M., Jones, O., Moore, N., & Roe, E. (2017). Participatory Research in More-than-Human Worlds: Routledge.

Bekoff, M. (2014). Rewilding our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence: New World Library.

Foreman, D. (2021). The Wildlands Project and the Rewilding of North America. Denver Law Review, 76(2), 535-553.

Haraway, D. (2016). Staying with the trouble: Making kin in the Chthulucene: Duke University Press.

Li, Q. (2018). Forest Bathing: How trees can help you find health and happiness: Viking.

Monbiot, G. (2017). Feral: Rewilding the land, the sea, and human life: The University of Chicago Press.

Mortali, M. (2019). Rewilding: Meditations, Practices, and Skills for Awakening in Nature: Sounds True.

Ozurrson, H. (2018). The Great Hunt: The historical perspective and themes in the mythology of the White Stag.  Retrieved from http://codextwobears.blogspot.com/2018/06/the-great-hunt-historical-perspective.html

Tokarski, M. (2019). Hermeneutics of Human-Animal Relations in the Wake of Rewilding: The ethical guide to ecological discomforts: Springer.

WWF. (2016). Living Planet Report 2016. Risk and resilience in a new era. In (pp. 74): World Wildlife Fund International.



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


Week 6 – The world is not broken

Week 6 – The world is not broken

The wheel of the year turned this past week. To the ancient Celts, May 1st or Beltane (which translates as “bright fire”) was a celebration of the beginning of summer. The fires of Beltane symbolize and rejoice in the Northern Hemisphere’s shift toward the Sun and the promise of the abundance of Earth’s fecundity. Here in the mountains, the drizzly, unpredictable days of early spring have passed into the certainty of above-freezing temperatures. The Bees are abuzz, Blue-tailed Lizards bask in warm sunshine, and Butterflies frolic amongst fragrant Wildflowers without fear of freezing to death.  Seemingly overnight the buds of early spring have erupted into a wash of greens painting the mountainsides, and the hopeful songs of avian suitors fill the air. The ebullient leafing out of Trees finally offers me the opportunity to definitively know their names, so I carved out some time for the painstaking tasks of counting, measuring diameters at breast height, and identifying the arboreal beings of the forested Land areas.

 A few months ago, Duke Energy and their hired assassins came through and brutally cut a wide utility easement through the middle of the Forest, cutting down 50+ year old Trees and grinding every, single, living Plant into mulch. Of course, this type of assault invites invasion by alien floral species, so it is no surprise that Honeysuckle shrubs and vines Lonicera spp., Asian Bittersweet Celastrus orbiculatus, and Multiflora Rose Rosa multiflora have sprung forth in profusion in the abhorrent vacuum. But seedlings of Red Maple Acer rubrum, White Oak Quercus alba, Black Cherry Prunus pensylvanica, and other native Plants have also answered the call to fill the void. Despite the horror of the ecocide, Duke’s barbarity provides an interesting case study for rewilding, providing a blank slate for more-than-humans to fill in with their own intelligent designs.

 I wrestle with my Western human ego’s desire to impose control over the situation, noting the strong sentiments for each species streaming in and out of my mind – annoyance (Multiflora Rose), delight (Chinquapin Castanea pumila), and hatred (Asian Bittersweet). I fixate on what I perceive as brokenness in this drastically human-altered place. As an environmental impact assessment specialist, I have been academically and professionally reared on such narratives, and media headlines serve to reinforce them. The climate is changing in ways never seen in the history of the Homo sapiens species. Air, Water, and Land choke on the byproducts of human technologies. Old growth Forests are being rendered into McDonald’s hamburgers and toilet paper. Species are disappearing into deep time at a rate three orders of magnitude higher than historic background extinction levels. All these things are true and overwhelming.

As I sit in the shade of a Dogwood Cornus florida Tree, enjoying a cool drink of water and a reprieve from the heat of the day, however, my attention is drawn to the abundance and variety of Plants springing forth on the Forest floor. Not just invasive species, but Solomon’s Seal Polygonatum spp., Sarsaparilla Smilax spp., and others emerge from the rich remains of the fallen. Earth’s capacity to perpetually regenerate life from death awakens in me the reverence paid this time of year by my Celtic ancestors. I find myself filled with awe despite my usual depressive affect. The world is not broken. Fixating on anthropocentric destruction overlooks the everyday miracles materialized by the trillions of beings who are busy at work crafting and recrafting Earthly reality. Perhaps it is the height of Western human arrogance to name a geological era, the Anthropocene, after ourselves. In fact, all beings, including humans, shape this world.

In thousands of years when humans are nothing but a planetary memory, the story of our life, death, nurturance, and destruction as a species on this planet will live on, an immutable history etched forever in geological time. The Earth will never be restored to an idealized, pre-human ecology (Donlan et al., 2006; Haraway, 2016), but it will always emerge, year after year, in a state of beautiful becoming. During our remaining time here, the chaotic reality of an increasing human population of almost eight billion people prohibits any ambitions for ecological utopias (Bekoff, 2014; Haraway, 2016), but rewilding can engage all planetary realities as sites for healing and coexistence, including and amongst the tangle of alien species in my backyard (Bekoff, 2014; Haraway, 2016). The Land here will rewild, but this will not eliminate death and suffering. Duke Energy will inevitably show up again, invasive species will move in, and the climate will change, but the ancient wisdom of Beltane promises that Persephone will reliably and predictably claw her way out of the underworld, miraculously morphing morbidity into new beginnings. And that gives me hope.




Bekoff, M. (2014). Rewilding our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence: New World Library.

Donlan, J., Berger, J., Bock, C. E., Bock, J. H., Burney, D. A., Estes, J. A., . . . Smith, F. A. (2006). Pleistocene rewilding: an optimistic agenda for twenty-first century conservation. The American Naturalist, 168(5), 660-681.

Haraway, D. (2016). Staying with the trouble: Making kin in the Chthulucene: Duke University Press.



*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.