Rewild Yourself: Becoming Nature is the third book by UK writer Rachel Corby. Here, I’m giving you my personal review of the book.
A few years ago, I was extremely fortunate to have been given a copy of one of Rachel Corby’s earlier books, The Medicine Garden, and from that became aware of her passion and unique immersion into aspects of nature that most people pass by.
Fast forward a few years and the environmental movement is full of talk of ‘rewilding’, led in part by George Monbiot’s excellent and controversial book, ‘Feral’. In essence, George Monbiot says that we have lost all our truly wild places, and suggests that instead of paying farmers to farm sheep in the hills of Wales (as an example), they could be paid let places rewild through planting native woodlands etc., and allowing places just to ‘be’. Through this, we could eventually see the re-introduction of some of the large predator species such as wolves that were once common and a new (to us) ecology would emerge.
So it was with interest that I heard Rachel Corby had a new book called ‘Rewild Yourself: Becoming Nature’. In essence, the book is about how to unlearn some of the stuff that distances us from nature, from what we really are – an animal – and helps us connect back to the land in a physical, emotional and spiritual sense.
From the cover of the book:
Over the last millennia or so, as humanity has become more civilised, humankind has found itself increasingly removed from its own innate wildness. At the same time society has found itself beset with ever greater incidences of mental illness, stress, depression and antisocial behaviour. In Rewild Yourself: Becoming Nature Rachel Corby addresses the longing search for meaning, what she calls the dark cries of the soul, that have emerged alongside the human-nature disconnect.
The book starts with a discussion of what rewinding is, but I particularly liked the premise that before we can really contemplate rewilding a place, we need to rewild ourselves first. In Chapter 1, What is Rewilding, Corby writes:
“I believe the first step in reclaiming areas of land and habitat, to saving, refurbishing, rewilding them, is to find the wild place inside, to rewild yourself… By taming the environment we tamed an essential wild part of ourselves.”
There’s a lot accessible science in the book. In an effort to explain how interconnected we are to everything around us, we’re taken on a journey to explore cells, and atoms and even smaller things. We are told about the space between them and how vast that really is. We are made of stars and almost of nothing it would seem. We are made of the same stuff as rocks, trees, water, and so on.
There are practical tips on connecting with nature on daily basis that I really enjoyed. It’s not just about getting out there, but of stopping, connecting, feeling, being. The book teaches us the importance of seeing, not just with our eyes, but with our hearts too.
I can relate to this – years ago, we used to stay in holiday cottages with the in-laws. We’d go to some lovely places and admire a view to two, but it was as if we were looking at a photograph – go there, look and come away. I craved connection to the places, but went along with everyone else as a tourist. Now, I take my time and realise that looking and seeing are two different things.
Corby’s previous book and interest in herbalism shows through as she encourages us to eat wild too by foraging the wild places for leaves and plants that not only nourish and heal us, but act an a conduit to the wildness within ourselves.
Corby also recounts going on a ‘vision quest’, something that many indigenous people do as a rite of passage where you are alone for several days, without food and where ultimately the body ceases to have distractions and you become immersed both in the place around you and into yourself.
If I was critical of the book in any way, it would be that most people are unable or unwilling to fly around the world to undertake vision quests (nor would it be realistic – think of the environmental destruction all that carbon would cause). Whilst it is perhaps harder to be really ‘wild’ in the UK, I think people should try to find the wild within their own country, region and native culture and to experience that rather than one of another place and culture. I am nit picking here, because overall the book is simply superb.
So get the book and immerse yourself in it. I can’t recommend it highly enough. You can buy it direct from the author, but if you must, you can also try other booksellers and the ubiquitous Amazon too (but please try to support local businesses).