Wild Places–Winners of the 2nd Annual Berkshire Magazine Photo Contest
(All winners and honorable mentions are below. A reception will be held at the Scott Barrow Gallery in Lenox on Tuesday, December 3, from 6 to 8 p.m.)
Wildness, like Tarzan, is the invention of a society at odds with nature. Human rewilding can be thought of as an attempt to reclaim something of what we were before words like “civilized” and “wild” became terms by which to define ourselves. To rewild is to reach out and embrace the earth; it is a coming home to our roots and a recognition that this planet, and our local environment, is a priceless gift from the very mysterious forces of life unfolding in our universe.
We live in a time when technology has become a huge part of many people’s lives. The internet and portable touch-screen devices have altered human societies radically. Fewer and fewer people are connected to where their food comes from, or the land on which they live. There is growing realization that this break in our relationship to nature could lead to current and future generations whose alienation from the generative forces of our living earth could have catastrophic consequences. Indeed, it seems apparent now that we already live in such times.
Human beings evolved in intimate contact with the land, the seasons, and our many relations in the more-than-human world. Rewilding invites us to become reacquainted not only with our environment, but with ourselves. To experience the comfort and joy of a sacred fire, the sweetness of a freshly picked blueberry, the sense of inter-species connection when we make eye contact with a wild creature, and the fellowship of friends sitting on the earth sharing stories of their day.
Although the seasonal balance on our planet and relative equilibrium of our climate which we have enjoyed in our lifetimes is rapidly changing, continuing to retreat to indoor environments and virtual worlds is not a solution. Burying our heads in our screens and air conditioning will not help us adapt to the new world we are living in. But stepping outdoors, lifting our noses to the sky, smelling the wind and becoming students of nature can. If we are to adapt to the times we are living in, if we are to respond with skill to the real-life conditions on our home planet, then we need our senses about us, we need to be aware and alert, and we need to know basic skills to help us stay close to the wisdom of nature.
I have been practicing yoga now for over 20 years and guiding others outdoors for just as long. I’ve been a Kripalu yoga teacher; a mindful volunteer dishwasher (a profound learning experience); a therapeutic wilderness counselor with at-risk teens; an outdoor educator for middle schoolers; a yoga retreat leader; a residential volunteer manager; a student of primitive skills; director of the Kripalu Schools of Yoga, Ayurveda, Integrative Yoga Therapy; and most recently founder and lead trainer of mindful outdoor guides in the Kripalu School of Mindful Outdoor Leadership.
I approach the topic and practice of human rewilding very much through the lens of mindfulness, which I define as “non-judgmental, present moment awareness.” The philosophies, methodologies and practices of yoga also inform how I engage with rewilding as a practice. Being outside, exploring the natural world, supports a calm and alert state of mind, but learning to deepen and stabilize that state through breathing practices, meditation, and other nature connection techniques can make your experience even more rewarding.
Take a deep breath, walk with our feet on the ground, and sit by a fire as we listen to the wind in the trees. This can help us settle back into a wisdom that is older than language and written history, something foundational to who we are. It can help us to remember what we are, where we belong and how much we have to be grateful for on this precious planet. The seasons still turn and birds still sing in the trees. We can all take a few minutes to breathe, we can learn who we share this land with, and we can become a part of our forests and wild communities again. We just need to slow down and open our senses up to the wonder that is all around us.
— This is an excerpt from Micah Mortali’s new book, Rewilding, the inspiration for Berkshire Magazine’s second annual photo contest. The book guides us to the return to our essential nature. Entries were reviewed by a team of judges that include Mortali, photo editors/photographers Christina Rahr Lane and Kim Hubbard, and Berkshire Magazine editor Anastasia Stanmeyer. The winning images are here and will be exhibited at the Scott Barrow Photography Gallery, 17 Housatonic St. in Lenox. A portion of the contest entry fee goes to Mass Audubon’s Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, where the exhibit later will travel. Join us at an opening reception at Barrow’s gallery, in conjunction with the release of Rewilding, on Tuesday, December 3, from 6-8 p.m.
List of Winners
“Bartholomew’s Cobble” / The cobble is a beautiful place to wander in any season. The summer has its special treats and mysteries. (Photographed at Bartholomew’s Cobble Reservation in Sheffield with a Nikon D810.)
“Konkapot 1” / I was walking in the Konkapot late in the evening, with my camera and tripod, waiting for the light to fade before capturing this photo. (Photographed with a Hasselblad at the Konkopot River in Mill River.)
“Luna Moth Landing” / Heading out to the hot tub, this luna moth was resting on the storm door window. Photographed on Fujifilm X-Pro2 in Becket.
“Wahconah Falls” / Winter makes for beautiful land and water. There is a peace and quiet to watching the water. (Photographed with a Nikon D810 at Wahconah Falls State Park, Dalton.)
Robin Slick “Overhead” (Stockbridge Bowl)
Maz Ghani “Busy in the Berkshires” (Pittsfield)
Robin Slick “Morning Canoe” (Stockbridge Bowl)
Kara Thornton “Breathe” (Mount Greylock)
Maz Ghani “Fleur Du Sol” (Pittsfield)
Dana Goedewaagen “Winter’s Survivor” (Stockbridge)
Amy Lyons “Devotion” (Stockbridge)
Bruce Panock “Housatonic Winter” (Stockbridge)
Christy Butler “Brrrrr-Onota Lake” (Pittsfield)