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The more I think about what re-wilding means in my life, the more I’m convinced that “re-wilding” is another way to say simplify. Get by with what I have. Lessen my contributions to the growth of the economy since we live on a finite planet. Be content with enough.

I’m fairly certain that the squirrels who make their homes in the trees around my house don’t have a closet full of clothes that are worn far too infrequently to warrant their long tenure and/or quick replacement. The wild ramps and bloodroot that grow abundantly on the shady hillsides of the ravine come spring only take in the sustenance that they need. The water lilies that pop up mid-summer around the marshy shallows of the lake don’t use cosmetics to enhance what they already are. The vegetables and fruits that we cultivate and harvest from the garden as summer turns toward fall don’t continually update their growing protocols to be more productive (even though sometimes we wish they would). The ice crystals that clothe the ash tree branches in the depths of winter don’t worry about being trendy. They just are what they are, unapologetically.

The wild creatures of land, water and air who share our soil, our waterways and our skies as they too make their homes on earth use only what they need. They don’t seek out items unless they are truly going to use them. A squirrel who hoards acorns gets no judgment from me-he’s going to feast on those acorns all winter long. I hoard jars of home-canned tomatoes, and I feel ok about that. Those acorns and tomatoes are life-giving.  I think as a whole, the world could use more things that are life-giving and, to use the buzz word of our time, sustainable.

As birds move through their migration cycles, as a mother fox nurtures her young and as the basswood trees nourish their roots, they live within a simplicity that can only be found in wildness. Of all the life on earth, humans are the only creatures who seem to crave excess and who have a tendency to pursue over-abundance, efficiency and ever growing productivity no matter what the cost.

I’m not saying we need to give up enjoying the things of daily living that bring joy to being human, like relishing in a wonderfully cooked meal, or living in a house that has a second bath, or owning musical instruments, or learning how to do a task more effectively. I’m not saying we need to strive to live a life stripped of nothing but the barest essentials needed to stay alive, or that we need to mimic the living styles of woodland wildlife. But we can learn from those wild things with whom we share this earth, and we can embrace every opportunity that leads to living a life punctuated by the happiness that comes from letting go of what we don’t truly need and finding contentment with enough.

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Heidi Barr

Heidi Barr

Heidi Barr is the author of 12 Tiny Things: Simple Ways to Live a More Intentional Life (due out in January 2021) as well as four other works of non-fiction. A commitment to cultivating ways of being that are life-giving and sustainable for people, communities and the planet provides the foundation for her work. She lives in Minnesota with her family where they tend a large vegetable garden, explore nature and do their best to live simply. Despite working for an app-based tech start up, she plans to put off getting a smartphone as long as possible. Learn more about her work at