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Poor Will's Almanack: September 17 - 23, 2013

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Flickr Creative Commons user hep73

Many autumns ago, my wife and I camped at the Cumberland Island National Seashore. Accessible only by ferryboat, Cumberland is the southernmost of the Georgia barrier islands, a wooded retreat with miles of white and empty beaches….and small herds of wild horses.

When we returned home, I started thinking for some reason about the wild horses, and I then decided that there should be a herd or two of wild horses in the suburban village where I lived, and I came up with a few reasons why this should be so.

A herd of wild horses, I concluded, would do more than a hundred miles of green space to protect the village from the surrounding society. For a community that allowed free grazing within its borders would set itself well apart from the urban mind.

A town full of wild horses would not really be so different because it had wild horses, but because the people in that town wanted them there and because they had different values and priorities.

Of course, there would be many problems with having wild horses. But a place which accepted and solved those problems for the purpose of improving the quality of life for itself and its horses might actually be a better place to live than a place which did not.

Modern wilderness areas are artificial constructs of civilization, sanctuaries of peace and perspective. Wild horses might remind us that a local urban habitat, like the fragments of wildness still alive on Cumberland Island, is also of our own making, that it can be a sanctuary for all of us and for our visitors if we choose to make it so.

Impractical and challenging as they might be, wild horses, could, like ecospiritual icons, teach us daily that we are stewards of all creatures, and that the wilderness is truly here, not distant or alien.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the Third Week of early fall. In the meantime, think about wild horses in your town.

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Bill Felker has been writing nature columns and almanacs for regional and national publications since 1984. His Poor Will’s Almanack has appeared as an annual publication since 2003. His organization of weather patterns and phenology (what happens when in nature) offers a unique structure for understanding the repeating rhythms of the year.