He [Roger Deakin] was an explorer of the undiscovered country of the nearby. ROBERT MACFARLANE
Throughout the course of his book, The Wild Places, and throughout the course of his ramblings in the British wild, Macfarlane comes to appreciate more and more that 'wildness' exists not only in the grand, majestic, panoramic places, such as Sutherland or the Cairngorms, but also in the close-at-hand, often-ignored topographies of small canvas, such as the plant-rich cracks and crevices in the Burren's limestone pavement, or the ancient, sunken holloways of the Dorset chalkhills. If you look carefully, these unseen landscapes can be found in the bend of a stream valley, in the undercut of a river bank, in copses and peat hags, hedgerows and quicksand pools ... in the margins, interzones and rough cusps of the country: quarry rim, derelict factory and motorway verge.
He also realises that you don't necessarily have to travel big distances from human habitation - to the Arctic tundra or the Siberian taiga for example - to encounter 'wildness'. It exists right there alongside human activity, bound up with human presence - such as in the 'cleared' valleys of the Scottish Highlands, which are haunted by the ghosts of former shielings and settlements; and in the earthworks and burial mounds, and tree rings and stone circles you find all over the British Isles, which speak eloquently of past human ritual and ceremonial.
He concludes that the uneasy opposition between culture and nature, between garden and wilderness, need not be the hard-to-reconcile division we may at first imagine. We can recognise and fulfil ourselves in both apparent polarities. But we do need them both. This is essential both for us and the planet. This is what it is to be properly human: to know what to cultivate and what to leave alone. I fear we have a lot to learn (or relearn) - before it is too late.
(My posts on Edward Abbey, and his book Desert Solitaire, also touch on this subject - if you are interested, click on 'Edward Abbey' under the LABELS widget on the right hand side of my blog.)
The photo was taken on Mount Etna in Sicily.