This post relates in part to my identification as a “city witch” and is also somewhat inspired by Miss Sugar’s recent post, “Semi Civilized”.
See, me? I love being outside. Getting a solid 30-60 minutes (if not more) of outdoors time – typically achieved by walking somewhere for errand-running purposes – on the regular is pretty important to my mental health.
I love going up to Champlain Lookout, or visiting the Mer Bleu bog, or taking a trip out to The Countryside to visit some of our rural-dwelling friends. But the thing about these is that they’re not really wild… exactly. Champlain Lookout is a high point, laced with board walks and gentle walking trails. Mer Bleu has a boardwalk – by necessity (you would sink and drown, fodder for paleoanthropologists in 5000 years’ time, without them) – to stroll along as you admire the bog and its (totally forbidden, alas) prolific wild blueberry patches. The homesteads of my friends are just that: Homesteads. Tamed areas of gardens and orchards surrounded by woods and wild(er) meadows, but not actually wild.
…And I like it that way. I like the not-exactly-wild of forest gardens, of stewarded landscapes, of wild things encouraged to take up residence in a tame(r) environment – like the yellow evening primrose, wild grape, and wild rose that took root, unplanned but welcomed, in the suburban postage-stamp garden I once had. I like the not-exactly-wild of domestic plants – squash, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, chard – who grow and sprawl and climb, tightly packed as any wild meadow, cheek and jowl with dandelion, plantain, garlic mustard, and wood sorrel, and thriving because of (or in spite of) it. I like the not-exactly-wild of grape and dandelion, catnip and motherwort, mustard and sorrel and lamb’s quarters and burdock: the neighbours I know. The neighbours who thrive in marginal places, like so many of my neighbours do.
So here I am.
Maybe I’ll wind up being a country witch one of these days. I’m not ruling it out. Though I’d rather stay in the heart of things and just manage to eke out an arable yard in the process.
For now though, I’m like a significant chunk of the planet: living in an urban environment. I’m put in mind of the Locavore and City Farmer books I read a few weeks ago, the premise of each being that urban people have to stop thinking of “nature” as “out there” or “far away”. Whether we’re talking food production – and, yes, I am a local foodie; yes, this is one of the ways by-which I connect with the ground, and the people, who sustain me – or religion, or just plain respect. Nature is here, where hive-dwelling mammals have built their concrete towers. We have to stop pretend that it isn’t. We have to stop pretending that we aren’t it.
I think it’s possible to “re-wild” in a city, though those changes are certainly trickier than they would be in a rural or already-wild-itself environment. Retrofitting a pre-existing house with geothermal heat and solar electricity-generation is very expensive. Disconnecting the gas heat and putting in a wood stove with a high-mass-density surround (concrete, brick, stone, iron) is scary in a “will our pipes freeze this Winter” kind of way. Switching to LEDs and Bullfrog Electric is easy. A little more expensive, maybe, but easy. Non-paraffin-based miniature lights (lard/tallow or beeswax candles/lamps, or even miniature solar garden lights, either way) are easy, and not that expensive. Mirrors to reflect and increase the natural light provided by your windows is easy. Water-bath canning is easy (once you know about the Acid Rule) and a way to preserve summer’s bounty without needing a fridge or a freezer (much – use single serving jars if that’s an issue for you). Food-dehydrating is easy, too, if you have a dehydrator, and results in the same thing: locally grown and foraged/harvested food that will last you through the winter. Passive solar is easy – even in an apartment that doesn’t get much solar at all.
Paying attention to your local year-wheel, eating what’s in season, eating from The Land (no air quotes for me 😉 ), being neighbourly to the human and non-human, corporeal and non-corporeal people in your neighbourhood is… easy. Once you get in the habit of it.
So get in the habit of it.
Meliad the Birch Maiden
 Not every day, I know, but I try to do at least a little bit (10-30 minutes) of Physical Activity – whether that’s yoga, a modeling gig, biceps/triceps exercises, swimming, or just doing a quick circuit of the couple of blocks closet to my apartment (see: January).
 Albeit because they – at least the garden lamps – are made in China, from plastic (which comes from the same source as paraffin, so… not the best option), and shipped a long-ass way overseas.
 Like these, or else you can build one, if you’ve got some fairly simple materials (works best, I suspect, if you live in an area with dry heat).