The Wild Within Us
By: Megan de Matteo
If you listen, you will hear her.
The ancient driftwood trees were wooly mammoth skeletons on the beach, and the girls walked among them. As they walked, weaving under and through the bare-boned canopies, their shirts and skirts slipped free from their skin. The clothes lay like deflated silk mannequins on the damp, packed sand while tiny shrieks and giggles bubbled up from inside the young women. The rising and popping of these bubbles picked up their bodies and carried them into the Atlantic Ocean.
I like the parts of me that are wild. The parts of me that don’t listen. The parts of me that are unruly, that hear a rule and choose instinctively not to follow it. My father deemed these parts of me “klutzy,” “rock-headed,” “reckless,” even “disrespectful.” For many years I didn’t know how to respond to these words. It’s not like I was trying to be any of those things, especially disrespectful. I just knew as a young woman that these parts of me were not to be ignored. And I always wondered why many people did ignore theirs.
Splash, splash, splash and the sea salt bathwater was up to our navels. Tumble, kick, scream. A flick of the leg, a shake of the shoulders, and water droplets flew through the air. Tink, tink, tink—they landed on the surface of the sea, barely causing the smallest ripple. A swish of the hands propelled our bodies forward and backward, forward and backward. We treaded water while bobbing with the sea.
While some girls dreamed about the pearls they’d wear one day at sorority luncheons, I boldly added “skinny dipping at the beach” to my bucket list at the age of 14. When we were old enough to do so, my friends and I drank stolen bottles of alcohol and kissed boys in secret groves of pine trees. We climbed lifeguard towers on the beach under a blanket of stars (and the influence of our parents’ beer). We went streaking on winter nights, wearing cowboy hats and snow boots. We stole stuff—objects like “Caution: Wet Floor” signs and pepper shakers—so that we could feel like “pirates.” We’d squint one eye, exclaim “Arrrrrrrrr!”, pull up a car, and cram, oh, I don’t know, a shopping cart inside. We were wild. The wild always finds a way to be.
Above was vast. The moon was on the first phase of its orbit, and it had stepped behind the curtain of darkness to let the stars steal the show. No moon, no lights. A sea above and a sea below. Stars twinkled in the sky and also in the sea.
Now, the wild shows up in my life in other ways. She lives in the scars on my body, in the stretch marks on my hips. In my eyes—sometimes green, sometimes blue, unruly. She’s no longer interested in childish pranks or the kisses of cute, shaggy-haired boys. She often shows up in dreams or in meditation to remind me of this. Once, she brandished a sword, shiny and silver and bright, nearly blinding. Another time, she led me to my ancestors, who formed a circle of spirits around me and said, “Keep going.”
We looked down at our hands swirling through the water and noticed that our palms and fingers sparkled.
When I let myself feel anger, the wild rumbles within the darkest places of my fleshy, wild belly. When I sing on these days, my voice is very deep, like it is trying to reach her way down below.
Could it be? Could the ocean have granted us—the girls camping in the “No Camping” area of the wealthy little island, the ones whose clothes now lay forgotten on the sand, a tell-tale sign of our spirited rebellion, the ones whose car was cleverly stowed away behind some palm trees—could it have granted us a miraculous show? Did the great father of the universe offer us a blind eye after lifting his bushy white eyebrow suspiciously at us? Was he allowing us to marvel in the secret splendor of the new moon’s late night show?
She is the force of undoing, of un-learning, of returning. She reminds. She enlivens. She acts through song and dance rather than through the act of doing. She was the voice that, after collapsing onto my lover’s chest, lamenting my “bull in a china shop” ways, wailing, “I wish I was not such a force,” responded immediately, in my own voice, “Actually, I take that back.”
As luck would have it, we realized that, yes—we were indeed allowed to witness this show. We were part of it, in fact, the three of us there. The beauty of the night rehearsed this one just for us. We were the island’s special guest stars and we arrived, right on cue, during the best part of the very best performance.
She lets you doubt, but only enough to be humbled. She then reinvigorates and restores. Or, she simply startles you into moving forward with what you know you must do.
We realized our hands twinkled because tiny phosphorescent sea creatures had emerged just in time for our naked plunge. As we tumbled into the waves, their tiny sparkles lit up like fairy dust. As we reveled in this magic, we realized that the whole night was our show.
The wild has her way with me. It will always be like this. As long as the world turns, the wild will find a way to be.
We recounted the night’s events and agreed that, before even arriving at the water, the wild was expecting us. After spilling out of the car, we had been ushered to the stage by tiny flashlights of island deer eyes pointing us in the right direction. The rustling movement of nighttime raccoon scavengers told us where the “campsite” was, and the wooly mammoths’ monstrous frames led us to the sea for the big finale, where we were the guest stars. We hadn’t needed anyone’s permission, after all, though it was fun to think of ourselves as children tiptoeing secretively in the sand. But the “Do Not Park” signs and the “Camping Is Forbidden” warnings were not meant for us, for the night was truly ours.
Plants will grow and subvert the concrete sidewalks positioned in their way. Unafraid to seek the nourishment they need, wild plants and trees never ask permission to drink in the sun. And as long as these plants ferment, people will be intoxicated by them and drink them in to shed inhibitions so that the wild may dance, sing, and procreate. So long as human spines are upright, the wild will come to us when we meditate, or even more simply, when we close our eyes and breathe. For as long as there is air to drink , the wild will dance through our bodies with every inhale.
“As above, so below,” we whispered, then chanted, then howled. The stars twinkled above and our bodies, surrounded by phosphorescence, twinkled below.
Megan de Matteo is a yogi and a writer exploring the intersection of the two in Asheville, NC. Visit www.narrative-yoga.com to learn more.