Where the Wild Places Are: Jon Stewart Has the Right Idea

Jon Stewart, Sanctuary, Animals, racism
Humans need sanctuary. We need private places, trusting places, places to let go the troubles of the world and places to feel our own potential. We need places that let us lick our wounds and get back on track.

I turned off the DVR. Did Jon Stewart just talk over Tom Cruise? On purpose? No idea, but it seemed so.

Obsessed about Stewart, especially since he’s leaving The Daily show, I googled jon_stewart_wife and followed a few links to Tracey McShane, now Tracey McShane Stewart. Nice photos. I love when couples seem in sync with one another.

I read they’ve bought a farm in New Jersey in anticipation of Stewart leaving The Daily Show. The farm is slated to be an animal sanctuary for abused and neglected farm animals. Maybe a few lizards will get in under the radar.

I’m so happy for the Stewarts’ kids. My family lived on a farm when I was a small child, and later in a very small town. I wore out too many pairs of pants sliding down a nearby hill and playing outside, so many my mother forbade me to slide again. The freedom in my childhood was incredible, from the sliding to roaming the nearby hillsides to swimming in the creek. Reading the Stewarts’ plans brought back memories.

Humans need sanctuary, too. We need private places, trusting places, places to let go of the troubles of the world and places to feel our own potential. We need places that let us lick our wounds and get back on track. The farm the Stewarts bought for the animals will be a sanctuary for all of them.

Some people live in their sanctuary. For a fortunate few, it’s a six thousand square foot home on five acres with a three-car garage and a pool. For a small number of others, a home in Monte Carlo or Jamaica and a private plane whisking them back and forth. Others consider anything with four walls and a roof a sanctuary, even a VW Westfalia Vanagon.

And for many, sanctuary is not a home, it’s a place, often in nature: a lake, a tree that shelters, perhaps an adventure that takes one out of time and mind. Sometimes our sanctuary is portable: a dearly beloved dog who goes everywhere with us.

Wouldn’t it be something if a place like an animal sanctuary was also a place where someone having a hard time could live in exchange for shoveling manure in the barn, feeding the animals, or cooking for the crew? Not that Jon Stewart’s farm needs to become a sanctuary for humans, but you get the idea.

In our world where so many are struggling to make ends meet, others are struggling just to stay alive, and where there seems to be an increasingly narrow definition of what success looks like, we need sanctuary.  When the death of a lion  causes a greater uproar than five dead women in jail cells, how is our spirit still alive? How is it we aren’t drowning in sorrow?

Some of us are drowning in sorrow, desperate for a place to regroup and heal from the relentless bad news of these modern times. Economic disasters, environmental disasters, personal disasters brought on by national disasters. Wars.

And so we all need some sort of sanctuary, whether we have means or not. Our city parks, our heritage trees and access to our waterways; all those places can provide a respite. We need those sacred places even as they continue to be destroyed by development, drilling, greed. We must have the wetlands and the streams too many insist on paving over.

The Stewarts are doing a good thing. Take heed. Create your own wild place. Save the ones we have. We need wild places to remain intact. We need them to nurture the need for peace and sanctuary in us all. In the act of saving the wild places, we will save ourselves, and the animals. Most of all, we’ll resurrect our spirit.

Joni Mitchell had it right:“don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.”

Kim Cottrell is an educator, Feldenkrais® practitioner, and former speech pathologist. She blogs at ahealthystepmother.com and is hard at work on a book of tales for stepmothers. Kim writes regularly about self-image, change, and living inside one’s skin.

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