The Wild Tide.

I’m amused by people who don’t think they’re animals. People who say things like, “They had us packed in that bus just like a bunch of animals,” or, “Quit behaving like an animal,” really give me a giggle. What is it you think you are, exactly? Just because you have been so thoroughly domesticated, you should never underestimate your capacity to revert to the more wild side of your nature.

This is a herd of rare Roosevelt Elk in Redwood National Park. Passers-by on the 101 can view them right from the road.

They look like wild animals...

And they behave like wild animals, too, in spite of the distinctly domestic setting. These are the largest subspecies of elk surviving in North America, they’re armed better than samurai, and they regularly charge intruders. There are signs everywhere for people to stay in their vehicles and not approach the elk - advice these good citizens should take more to heart.

But it’s this very thing that makes me wonder... These elk are limited in their range to just a couple of fenced prairies right off the highway, and their numbers are very small. There are signs all over this stretch of the 101 warning people to keep their speed down because these elk aren’t afraid of crossing the road to get from pasture to pasture. In fact, the human presence doesn’t seem to bother them at all. Unless you count that whole getting-hit-by-cars thing, but still... Are these animals wild or domestic?

What about this cat? She shows up at my house every other day or so. I call her “Tide” because she’s mysterious and keeps to her own schedule. Plus, she smells like laundry detergent. I have no idea why.

Here’s how Tide rolls: She cruises out of the woods, looks in my window, and meows until I let her inside of the cabin. Once inside, she takes quick stock, moving from room to room, hesitating only when she notices that something isn’t in the same place as it was the last time she was here. When she’s done, she’ll meow until I scratch her head and ears. After about a minute or two of that, she’ll go to the door and wait for me to let her outside. Once out, she’ll disappear back into the woods at a trot. These visits last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Apparently, I am at her beck and call, and these visits are entirely on Tide’s terms. How the Tide has terms... Hehe.

So. Wild? Domestic?

I promise you that Tide doesn’t think she’s domesticated. Her beautiful markings certainly say "wild," that's for sure. She wears no collar, but she’s clearly healthy and well-fed. She never begs for food when she visits me, even when I’m eating. She just wants her ears scratched. Until she doesn’t anymore, then she’s out. She’s probably owned by someone, but I guarantee that Tide doesn’t see it that way. Just like my being owned by my job or by the government or by capitalism or by my feelings or by those I love doesn’t register that way to me - it doesn’t feel like I’m owned, but I am all the same. Just like Tide.

So what does that make me, then? Am I wild or domestic?

Eating huckleberries straight off the bush makes me feel wild. Or when I swim in the surf until I’m freezing and exhausted to the point that every ounce of my energy becomes entirely focused on retrieving my next breath. I feel very wild then. On nights when I wander in the woods under the moon and stars, half-lost, half-blind, deliciously scared... Then I feel wild. And any time spent naked is wild time. Or when I smell meat grilling and it makes my stomach growl. Wild, wild, wild.

But then I sit in front of the computer, frustrated because Google won’t put information at my fingertips in two seconds instead of four, craving a latte, but not one I make myself with the fancy machine in my kitchen, but rather one made by the place in town because the baristas make them with the cute little fern designs drawn in the foam, and I’m going to want a bialy - one of the nice onion ones, too, not one of those crummy garlic ones they’re always trying to foist off on you, and there’d better be a place to sit on the couch because the seats of those wooden chairs are super splintery, and I hope that the “Datebook” section of the Chronicle will still be there although probably not because that’s one of the first sections to disappear as the day goes on...

No! Stop!!

I am not a woman! I am an animal!!

... She typed on her laptop while sipping her latte...


  1. We are definately animals and if anyone thinks that they are not then they are seriously delusional. Now where did i put my remote control?

  2. Oh, where to start? Where to start? I'm wild about this post. Guess that makes me wild - at least for the moment anyway.

    Tide has a route. Each place has something magical. In your case, it's Magic Fingers. You give good scratches. Of course, he returns the favor by inspecting the abode. All is well, so he knows all is well with you.

    The elk - I have to confess. I'm one of the people out of the car. BUT, I'm not totally foolish and will stay behind a door, the car somewhere out of the way. Gorgeous animals.

    It's so funny how we give ourselves the machines we think we need with the objective of saving money. Gee, forget the "Starbucks" enough and the machine will pay for itself. Not a chance. I have to go to my House of Java and sit in a wooden booth, read my book, write in my journal, curse the lousy WiFi reception.

    Oh well, that only makes me wild for a moment. Usually I'm pretty tame. Of course, a sideways day on 4th street in Berkeley would definitely prode me out of my domesticated mood, for sure.

    Well, I could go on and on and on and on and on . . . I always did like that song refrain . . . Clearly, you pushed my wild button.

  3. I'm wild about you!

    P.S. I still think you should have gotten the polar bear cap/scarf/mittens from Tangents.

    Just sayin'.

  4. http://uponsomedistantshore.wordpress.com/2006/08/19/standing-tall/

    Reminds me of one of my posts from a long time ago. Some friends and I went camping up at Usal Beach when, on the first afternoon we were there, a small herd of elk wandered into our campsite. Though indeed wild, they also had no fear of people and I kind of think they were down to party with us as well. They stuck around for about an hour or so and then wandered back into the woods.

    I think they found that fine line between being wild and adapting to the human condition. If the roles were reversed, we'd be screwed.

  5. I've been referred to as a "Wild man" more than once in my life.

    I never took offense, because I knew they were right.
    People with a lot of passion often get hung with the "wild" label.

    Try as she might, my long-suffering wife whose tried to domesticate me for years, has failed by her own ommission.

    Time for me to fly off into the (you got it) Wild Blue Yonder!

  6. I'm wild about all of your stories! And how each of you is willing to view the line between the human animal and the other animals as at least a little blurry.