uva rotunda
October 1, 2022

Finding Your Wild on UVA Grounds

What is your routine, and how can you rewild it, as you walk through the University of Virginia (UVA) grounds?

Among students, it is no secret that it is difficult to commit to an overnight camping trip or weekend getaway into nature. Despite my best efforts, I even find it hard to carve out the time for a day hike. Between funky class schedules, late-night deadlines, extracurriculars, and simply important life events, even having a short vacation in wilderness seems near impossible.

Before I continue, allow me to first distinguish between wilderness and wildness. Wilderness, as defined by the Wilderness Act of 1964, is “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Humans are merely visitors to these spaces. Meanwhile, wildness is ‘otherness’, evoking a sense of wonder, danger, or even more mildly, a soft fascination. Found in both rural and urban areas, wildness doesn’t require focus or an investment of energy in order to be found evoking.

Therefore, unlike wilderness, wildness can be integrated into our daily lives.

Where do you study? Is it an open area with expansive sky, like the Lawn? Or is it an enclosed area, shaded beneath trees or tucked in between stately university buildings? Do you prefer serene quiet, or the clamor of the city? A gentle breeze or a storm? Indoors, do you linger by the windows, or by screens?


Start asking yourself these questions and try to spend more time with the wildness around you. Observe yourself.  Science shows that your body will thank you for it. Phytoncides, natural chemicals given off by trees, have been proven to elevate human immune system response, reduce cortisol levels, and enhance sleep. 

Destress, refocus and recharge.  Breathe, walk and force yourself into awareness.

Nature grows throughout Grounds, towering quietly over you, sprouting up through sidewalk cracks, and creeping down parking garages. This daily wildness can be invisible, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

What is your routine, and how can you rewild it?  

The next time you work outdoors, pitch your hammock, or simply pause to inhale on your way to class, snap a quick photo of the wildness. If you find your WILD on campus, send in a photo to info@wildvirginia.org to be featured!

By Haley Freeborn