Category: Gary Snyder

Knowledge is Wild

Knowledge is Wild

Gary Snyder’s collection of essays in his book The Practice of the Wild is an opening into his own personal mind. In his first essay in the collection, “The Etiquette of Freedom”, he talks about freedom, wildness, culture, and nature/wilderness. The understanding of the term wild is a hard one to wrap my head around. Therefore, in this first essay he allows for a broad definition of what it is to be wild and to have wildness. The first thought that comes to my mind when I think of wild is truly the nickelodeon tv show, the Wild Thornberry’s. Maybe it is just the fact the the word wild is in the title or maybe it is the meaning behind the show. We are all wild in our own ways and this children’s tv show proves it. The oldest sister is so interested in being a teenager and being into the technology, which in the time that the show was made there wasn’t anything like what we have today. Technology is wild. The youngest sister can speak to animals and her best friend, Darwin, is a monkey. Of course the irony behind Darwin and Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection is the perfect fit when it comes to letting the wild take hold of a person and how the wildness in life can choose ones fate. The little brother, Donnie, is literally wild, in a more modern form. He doesn’t speak or wear clothing besides shorts, he is the definition of wild when it comes to the Webster Dictionary; undomesticated and living in the natural environment. Thinking of the term wild in a younger version helped me get through his first chapter because knowing what wildness is explains a lot of what Snyder is saying.

Wild Thornberry’s -Buzzfeed

Snyder compares being wild to a fox. He states, “The word Wild is like a gray fox trotting off through the forest, ducking behind bushes, going in and out of sight” (9) this paints a picture in every readers mind. This fox is free, he isn’t running he is trotting. The fox is wild while he is in the wilderness. To be wild and to have wildness is to have the freedom of yourself. “but wildness is not limited to the 2 percent formal wilderness areas. Shifting scales, it is everywhere; ineradicable populations of fungi, moss, mold, yeasts, and such that surround and inhabit us” (15) is how Snyder describes that wildness is in the wilderness but it isn’t held to the standards of what we as humans consider to be wilderness.

Originally the word wild was used when the Europeans met the Indians, they saw them as untamed and savage. Their ways of living was different that the Europeans therefore, they considered them to be anything but normal so they chose for them to be ‘wild’. I think that when someone is wild it means that they can survive off of the land, they have the capability to learn things through nature and the wilderness to stay alive, just like how animals do. We are animals in our own way, we came from primates and through human evolution have come to where we are now. This whole idea of human evolution is wild. The term can be used in almost any form and especially as an adjective. But the major question that I have found myself asking throughout the entirety of The Practice of the Wild is: Isn’t wilderness, nature, animals, humans, bugs, insects, aren’t they all wild and not in the sense that they are living but that we still only know so little about everything in our world and that is what makes things wild. Our pure lack of understanding/knowledge with everything we encounter is what defines this word wild.

Language is wild as well and Snyder really enjoys the fact that we as humans have language. In this chapter he uses almost an entire two pages to discuss what the dictionary says different words/sayings mean. The point behind him doing this is for the reader to ask themselves, why is there a defined answer to these words/sayings’ and truly no one will ever have the same personal definition of what animals are, what plants are, and what food crops are but then he takes these words and puts them with the word ‘of’ in front and it makes the entire definition change. Words themselves are wild and the mouths that are speaking them are wild because, “our bodies are wild” (17).

Universal Language: Gary Snyder’s Turtle Island

Universal Language: Gary Snyder’s Turtle Island

Language itself is universal. Although we may not all speak the same form or type, we all have a language. Some may have a mixture of multiple languages and that is what they consider their own. Just because I don’t understand someone else’s language doesn’t mean that theirs is wrong. I find the idea of language, words, and grammar to be extremely fascinating, especially when it came to Turtle Island. The one thing that every single person on this earth has in common is that we all live here. We all inhabit the earth and its materials and sadly we are all single handedly destroying it. Gary Snyder’s Turtle Island is his form of how humans and animals could hopefully at some point live together happily and comfortably.

The language that Snyder uses is simple yet complex and his reasoning behind it is universal. The idea that we can live in the world that we do while not killing it seems so easy when reading through the poems on each page of his collection. The book involves every single possible form of language all saying the same thing but differently. He did this so that way everyone could understand it, everyone from children, to parents, to ancestors in every culture. Everyone needed to grasp the greater meaning behind these poems and he made that possible.

Sabri-Tuzcu: Unsplash

We as human beings have the ability to understand the difficulty behind knowing the truth and the facts. and we all have the flawed characteristic of denial. Luckily we have people and authors like Gary Snyder, Rachel Carson, and Wendell Berry who have their eyes wide open when it comes to the destruction we have set upon our earth. These authors write about what is real in our world and what is happening to it because of human beings actions. But for people to listen to what they are actually putting down on the page the language has to be there. Open, front and center, and easily comprehended.

Pine Tree Tops (33)

in the blue night

frost haze, the sky glows

with the moon

pine tree tops

bend snow-blue, fade

into sky, frost, starlight.

the creak of boots.

rabbit tracks, deer tracks,

what do we know.

This poem uses short words to describe a setting around a person walking in the woods. The elements of the earth surround this person in such beauty. The earth floor has yet to be harmed by anything except for the natural creatures that live there. The last line of the poem states, “what do we know” as if it were a question but instead a statement. What do we know, everything we know is that the most beautiful things are earth are the things we as humans rarely get to see.

Two Fawns that Didn’t see the Light this Spring (58)

A friend in a tipi in the

Northern Rockies went out

hunting white tail with a

.22 and creeped up on a few

day-bedded, sleeping, shot

what he thought was a buck.

“it was a doe, and she was

carrying a fawn.”

He cured the meat without

salt; sliced it following the



A friend in the Northern Sierra

hit a doe with her car. It

walked out calmly in the lights,

“and when we butchered her

there was a fawn-about so long-

to tiny-but all formed and right.

It had spots. Ant the little

hooves were soft and white.”

This poem is a sad truth about life and death. We as humans have the right to kills animals for food but only under the rules that have been determined in each state. Using words like butchered, calmly, sliced, and soft are completely contradicting themselves because of the two opposite common uses of them. When Snyder uses these words together it shows both the harsh truth and the sad truth behind what we as humans do to animals whether it is on purpose or on accident.

Turtle Island uses language to portray the multiple sides of nature, human beings, and our harm to earth and its living creatures.