Wild Rose, Wild Mind

Innovations from Alberta have broken many of the molds that have trapped Canadians within the momentum of outmoded approaches. Think Chief Crowfoot, think the Famous Five and the Persons case. Think its predecessor, the United Farm Women of Alberta. Think Preston Manning and the Reform Movement. Think many things in the disability field. (During my recent visit to Australia, the commitment of Alberta’s universities to admit folks with developmental disabilities was frequently mentioned.) Think too of Pembina Institute, Banff Centre and the Edmonton Community League. And so many more. Why? Here’s my wild stab at an answer.

Since humans appeared on the scene there’s always been a relationship between culture and nature. No one knows that better than wildness. Wildness knows there that there is no existence without coexistence.

Take roses for example. Cultured and cultivated over time. The varieties esoteric and subtle, grafted and genetically modified into unimaginable splendours.

The wild rose is different. It doesn’t suffer the afflictions of its highly bred cousins. It’s the only species of rose that we humans have never been able to improve on. And why should we? Rich in Vitamin ‘C’ they have provided food and medicine for animals and humans forever. Indigenous people boil their roots for salves and ointments. They are beautiful and fragrant to boot.

Wild roses refuse to be the roses we want them to be. They are in Emily Carr’s words, “perfectly ordered disorder.” Life isn’t orderly either. Shit happens. Surprise is inevitable. Despair and friction too.

Nature helps. Gardens, groves and wilder grandeurs are good places to remember and imagine that old essential – wildness. Stay long enough and her patterns become visible. Here are a few: there are no unsacred places; goosebumps never lie; adversity is a teacher; rebirth is a delicate loosening of holding on and letting go and finally, as described by Corb Lund, dragons reside in everyone’s chest.

We are nature. If we stand still in nature long enough we’ll become wilder than we were before. A wild mind is a fresh mind, a do-nothing mind, a deep breath mind, a not in control mind, a big sky mind, a jagged edges mind. There’s no place for nuance and subtlety in wildness. There is for plain spoken-ness.

Wildness isn’t primitive, it’s sustenance. How else did we get here? How else will we get there?

Culture sends us down one path. Nature sends us down another. And of course, they intersect. Which is why, if we pay attention we can spot that old essential. There it is blooming. Amidst the twists, tangles and thorns of wild rose country.

I’m counting on it.


  1. The wonderful folks at Mount Royal University’s School of Midwifery and Nursing are sponsoring “We.Are.Nature” all day Friday, November 3rd.  Vickie and I are participating. Come and join us. Registration here.
  2. Last year I teamed up with a group of young social innovators to capture Alberta’s top ten historical innovations and innovators. It’s an impressive list.


Yesterday, no trees demanded insight from me. And they won’t again today. Therefore, I walk among them again. ( from “There is no place that does not see you” by Calgary’s poet laureate Micheline Maylor’s latest collection, Little Wildheart. )

Musical selection this post is The Weight of the Gun by Corb Lund. Do listen, this guy is a musical genius. Think Ian Tyson. (“The weight of the gun and the wrong I have done…”) Support his music.


The Injustice of Acting Boldly

From a Stretch to a Leap, Adam Kahane’s Collaborating with the Enemy

Inspector Gamache’s Recipe for Boldness

Goosebumps Never Lie

It’s Good to be Lost

Take a Leap – Take a Bold Leap

You Can Learn About Social Innovation by Paying Attention to the World of Disability


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