(this is the first in a recurring series of five question interviews with awesome humans who continue to inspire my own heart to rewild.)
I met james wood when we both worked at an organic food co-op here in san diego. we ended up briefly sharing space in a communal house a ways up north, on four acres that hosted a strangely beautiful melange of pines, riparian wilderness and overgrown apricot and avocado orchards. he left town shortly after I moved in, but his knowledge of plant medicine and healing struck a chord whose resonance began to shape my own path. on a brief visit recently, I was honored to catch up with james on a day hike into one of the breathtaking slot canyons of our nearest desert.
I was inspired anew by his wealth of knowledge, his depth of experience with the wild world, and his wise and beautiful approach to life. james was kind enough to sit down to answer these questions and share some of his gems of insight & information with this wild heart and with yours.
1. where did you grow up and what was your relationship to the wild earth in this place?
My youth was spent in a small town at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range called Shingle Springs. There was quite a lot of open space to roam around with a landscape scattered with oak and pine trees, Manzanita bushes, mountain lions, rabbits, and many more wild plants and creatures. My family lived on 6 acres, which gave me a safe space to get in touch with the land. On this land I developed, and have carried ever since, a connection to the natural world that influences my thoughts, actions, and feelings to this very day. I feel blessed to have been exposed to such a raw connection with the earth at such a young age. I spent most of my time outside climbing trees, exploring trails around the neighborhood, and shooting off the occasional round on my BB gun. I feel that a raw connection to nature is essential for any child to grow into a healthy and caring steward of the planet.
2. what is your relationship to the wilderness around you now like?
Currently, I am living on Fidalgo Island, Washington, in the San Juan Island chain. The nature here is quite different than anywhere else I’ve lived, and is what intitially attracted me to move to the area. I am surrounded by enormous cedar trees, large Jurassic Park-like ferns, giant nettles, moss covered maple trees, and more blackberry bushes than your grandma would dream of (that is, if your grandma likes making pies). Everything here is extremely soft. There is quite a lot of rain, which keeps everything very green all year round. The softness here fosters a deep level of comfort, which allows me to feel safe walking barefoot everywhere in the forest. Bald eagles are an everyday sight around the island as well.
I have connected with the ecosystem here in a few different ways. First, I have incorporated a lot of wild foods into my diet. Nettles, self-heal, salmonberries, huckleberries, blackberries, wild rose, red-belted polypore mushrooms, usnea, and more. I also collect all of my drinking water from a spring not too far away, which has been an integral part of my life for the last three years. Making my body out of wild food and water has been a life altering practice, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking to deepen their connection to the wild world of nature. Building your body out of your local ecosystem through wild food and water allows you to get in touch with the heart of the place you reside. You become it. You then begin to act out the evolution of that very place, and line up with the life cycles of the area.
3. on our trip out to the slot canyon, you talked a lot about plant medicine and even wildcrafted some ocotillo and chaparral. can you describe your connection to the plant world and what drew you to it? Continue reading