After two years living on a 160-acre, mostly off grid ranch, surrounded on three sides by protected Canadian wilderness, with every species of wildlife, insect life, and plant life imaginable, I have come to a realization.
The real reason mankind has sought to tame nature, is because nature is inconvenient, dirty, messy, annoying, frustrating and painful.
For example, you wait all winter long for the snow and ice to break, dreaming of the beautiful warmth of summer. You have 1.5 to 2 months of idyllic existence, otherwise known as Spring, and then summer is full upon you. So you have the beautiful sun and flourishing of all plant life and bees, and new life being born for meat and milk. Along with a most uncomfortable and often painful number of biting insects. This is not just a mirror inconvenience, it is akin to a plague, that will drive you inside your walled-off spaces, seeking refuge. The bites that you receive, can burn and itch for up to a week solid. Again, not a minor discomfort, but a major determinant of quality of life.
I suspect this is one of the reasons humans created mostly concrete jungles to live and work in, with bug-filtered air conditioned spaces, where the temperature can be kept at a comfortable level. And there are no biting insects to be found. But plenty of cafés serving delicious food and refreshing drinks. Nature is enjoyed by gazing upon pots or vases of colourful flowers, and ornamental trees placed here and there. It feels comfortable and safe.
There is none of the threat, or unpredictability, or persecution of wild nature in these sterilized spaces. I get it.
And yet… As difficult as the conditions of wild unpredictable nature can be, this is something our body longs for. Because when we live in these uncomfortable, often painful places, our body responds with robust health and vitality. How can this be? Are we resonating with the foundational yin/yang of life on planet earth?
How is it, that what most people feel is most comfortable, and most enjoyable, is not what is best for us as a living organism? And when city dwellers go to beachfront resorts to sit in nature, alongside madré de dios (the ocean) they are on towel-covered lounge chairs, where the resorts are sprayed early every morning to kill all insects, and the rooms are swabbed with insecticides. Are we willing to trade our health, vibrancy, and vitality for the removal of discomfort and occasional pain? It seems we are. And I include myself in that paradox.
It is not simply a matter of living within the rhythms of nature, and coming into alignment with her. My wild horses live in nature 24/7, yet they come to me for wild oregano oil to be applied to the worst of their bites and infestations, as the insect world attacks them with vigor. It is painful and uncomfortable, and they seek relief from me; from my human-generated technology of herbal medicine that is not available to them in their environment.
So where is the truth between these two opposing camps of rewilding into the alignment humanity has always had with nature, versus the insulated comfort of our constructed barren concrete cities?
These formerly wild and semi-feral horses live completely aligned with nature on a 160-acre wilderness ranch. Yet they come to me for assistance with insect bites. They asked for fans to be put in the pole barn to keep away the horseflies. They don’t always go to the trees for shade. They go to the pole barn and the small barn for shade and insect protection – human constructed spaces.
Do wild creatures prefer the wild?
When the wild horses were first culled straight off their wild range, they preferred the 24/7 hay available in the slowfeeders, rather than going out to graze in the pastures. They literally did not move from those slow feeders for 18 months. It was as if they could not believe the abundance, the bounty and fortune that had appeared in their world . Again, something that doesn’t exist in nature, but that has been entirely engineered by humans for increased comfort and ease of living:
“It feels like the barn and slow feeders represent incredible abundance to horses who have been through seasonal starvation their entire lives. So they have very little desire to go out and forage when this incredible banquet is in front of them, full, all day every day, no walking required! Also key, the barn has the least flies and biting insects of anywhere on the property. So by their behavior they are choosing domesticated comfort and ease, over wild and natural.
In this period of climate change, back-to-nature movements, and the growth of earth-based spirituality, many humans are focusing on our lack of connection to wildness, our lack of connection to nature. And feeling like everything would be made so much better, and we would be much happier and more peaceful, if we re-wilded ourselves.
In the midst of all of this, we have these powerful beings who have come straight out of the wild, with no pressure to even be touched by humans, and they are choosing domestication. What??”
Where is the balance point; where is the ideal intersection between mother nature and the connection with nature that nourishes and sustains the human organism to its maximum capacity of health and vitality… and the ease and comfort that is possible through human-engineered structures and resources?
These structures that separate us from nature, and cut us off from alignment and harmony with the rhythms of nature, for the purpose of suffering less. Yet if the disconnection is taken too far, will lead to greatly increased suffering, loss of vitality, loss of mobility, loss of contentment. Where is the healthy balance between these two environments?
How can we be essentially, and vitally connected to nature, in her rhythms, wisdom and proliferation of all life… And at the same time have structures and resources to minimize the discomfort of this connection?
In our human ingenuity, we are seeking to find the best of both worlds. But unfortunately, we have gone too far into management and control and disconnection from all of nature, in our attempt to lessen our suffering and the unpredictability that causes discomfort. Most of us have been disconnected from nature for so long, that we don’t even know the reasons why we sought to disconnect in the first place.
Living mostly off grid on this wilderness ranch in Canada for two years, has put me firmly in touch with all the ways wild nature can be painful and uncomfortable. Spring and Fall are the seasons of relief, and Summer and Winter are a series of trials, challenges, discomfort, and pain. I have a well informed understanding of how and why this disconnection from nature occurred. I get it.
Most people can experience this same dynamic and realization, by going camping for a week or two in the summer (or snowy winter!). The first few days of camping are either masked by the novelty, or they are a plunge into the discomfort of being dirty, grubby and besieged by insect life. As the days pass, the camper adjusts and becomes comfortable with natural dirt and dust, and they either slather themselves with chemical insect repellents, or they doctor their bites afterwards, and simply put up with the discomfort. Thousands of people enjoy camping so much, they do it every year. And then they return to their insulated, disconnected city life with relief, and a newfound appreciation for the comforts of home.
Some of the modelling for advanced cities, covered by a dome, shows an abundance of tree and plant life, but without the insects that bite or parasitize humans. This is envisioned as the ultimate ‘best of both worlds.’ But the fact that it is completely enclosed in a dome, is the ultimate and most permanent disconnection conceivable.
Where is the balance?
I have been so so fortunate on this ranch, to have virtually no mosquitoes! We have a number of other biting flies and horseflies, but almost no mosquitoes – which is unheard of in Canada. So I’m claiming it as a miraculous gift from the Divine, and am endlessly thankful.
The mosquitoes do however, prevent me to from going to the dozens of beautiful lakes in the area during the summer, or hiking in other lovely spots. It’s a small price to pay. Visiting those areas at other times of year, where there are no mosquitoes, is still beautiful and enjoyable.
In fact, the only place I get significantly bitten on our ranch, is if I’m right beside the horses! The horses draw the biting flies and then I get caught in the smorgasbord. We have plenty of wasps and hornets, but I worked out an arrangement with them long ago, so that’s never an issue.
The bears, cougar, wolves, coyotes and moose are never an issue because we have 4 LGD (livestock guardian dogs). But on the rare occasions I’ve hiked out on the land by myself, I simply send out a telepathic broadcast, letting all creatures know I’m there and where I’m heading. I ask them to please let me know if they want me to avoid an area as I have no wish to intrude. The only time I received a “please leave this area” message was when I was hiking near the creek in the Spring. I felt a mama bear had come out of hibernation with her cubs and understandably did not want to deal with a human. No problem, I immediately changed course.
In fact, except for creatures that eat humans (or our blood) I’ve never felt pain or discomfort from any wild critter. I have found wild animals – whether on land or sea – to be very responsive to negotiated boundaries. I have an agreement with all the predators in my vicinity that they do not eat our ranch animals. And in return, they are granted sanctuary here at all times (hunting season can get intense), they have a “predator feeding ground” in one corner of the ranch where they can bring their kill to feed in comfort. And if any of our animals dies of natural causes, I will place the carcass in their feeding ground for them.
Early this summer, 2 coyotes came to the horses’ waterhole near the house, in broad daylight. Our dogs were also at the waterhole, but not barking or chasing the coyotes. What the what?? I went out on the porch and said, “Coyote! What is going on? You know you’re not supposed to come near the house!”
Coyote sent me a picture of our 8 sheep, and of those sheep having lambs next Spring. And that lambs are the most delectable meat for any predator. They are the human equivalent of Tiramisu, or pizza from a wood oven in Florence. Coyote told me we were under-protected for the temptation that lamb would provoke for all predators in the vicinity. Ah, okay, gotcha. So I thanked Coyote and got 2 more Kangal/Alabai guardian puppies, who would be fully grown by the time the lambs were birthed. Coyote, cougar, bear, wolf all want to honour our agreement – but I need to do my part to help them stay in their lane. The sheep have been here for six months, totally unharmed. Long may it continue.
So for me, the discomfort/pain of unimpeded nature tends to cluster around the existence of biting insects (flies and mosquitoes), and the challenges of winter cold, snow and ice. This is where I struggle and where I have failed to make peace with my environment. When I dream of having a ranch somewhere temperate like Costa Rica, I don’t even attempt it because of the mosquitoes. And yes, I have developed a natural mosquito/biting fly repellent that works very well, but it has to be re-applied every couple of hours, and is very strong-smelling! The horses don’t want it either, due to the smell.
If you have been able to figure out any solutions, or at least have a working model for comfort amidst the wild, I would love to hear your ideas and experiences. Please share your thoughts and stories below…
JINI PATEL THOMPSON
I am. an international bestselling author, health product formulator, horse listener, earth singer, mother, entrepreneur, medicine woman, fungi friend, elephant acolyte and regenerative farmer.
I value friendships, loyalty, community, compassion, authenticity, health, vibrancy, strength, courage and truth-telling. More…