Thomas Wild wants to run away and live in the Amazon jungle. Preferably, a permaculture eco-community, but the jungle all the same. He has no plans, besides when his money runs out, no phone, laptop or tablet to speak of and speaks six languages – English, French, Spanish, German, Italian and Mandarin. Five and a half, to be precise. Thomas Wild is a gardener by trade, studied environmental engineering back home in Switzerland with a specialization in ecological agriculture. He wears baggy trapezoid pants, a sleeveless tunic, hates the cold, knows how to wield a machete and was vegan for five years – now vegetarian. Thomas has a secret world he’s been drawing since he was a child, a world with demons and dragons and all sorts of mythical creatures he calls Diadrin. He spent three days at a silent meditation retreat up in the Swiss Alps with a group of Buddhist monks, is an artist and painter and sculptor, and knows all the words to the Pocahontas Colors of the Wind song, Adiemus, loves Florence and the Machine, doing yoga and Japanese films.
Thomas knows about astrology and the zodiac, tells me Pisces is the hardest to define because we want to be everything – the universal oneness, without distinctions, without divisions – and knows about Joanna Macy’s The Work That Reconnects, John Seed’s Deep Ecology – central tenets of the WakeUp also – and shies from anything that vaguely resembles a ‘dogma’ or ‘doctrine.’ He wants to give and work from the heart – he’s had enough of working for whatever society thinks is ‘respectable’ or for money. His birthday parties from the age of 21 onwards have consisted on mystery-tea-parties with the Dare Tea, the Truth Tea, the Shame Tea, the Love Tea, everyone dressing up as animals of the forest and baking a giant unicorn cake – horns and all – and running away to a mountain hut with some friends. He’s been dumpster diving and has doubts about his name – go figure, Thomas means the one who doubts. Thomas Wild believes in awe and mystery.
For his civil service, he worked for a year with kids with mental and physical disabilities, later going on to become a scientific research assistant at the most diverse cactus botanical gardens of the world, reading a plethora of journal articles, entering data and leading kids and groups on tours. He’s WWOOFed on organic farms and eco-communities throughout Australia and New Zealand for a year and been part of the queer movement back home. Thomas Wild is 25, and his life dream is to create a space of healing and magic – he sees himself as a healer. He has dark circles under his eyes, a sharp nose, hair shaved from the sides but long in the middle that falls over his forehead in a shining flap or is sometimes tied up in the weirdest-looking ponytail behind, and looks like he’s been fasting for months. He’s tired, cosmically tired. He needs trees like fish need water. After travelling with his mother for five weeks, he ends up in Chile and Bolivia, and has no plans and is uncertain about all this, uncertain but excited. He says, But that’s right now. I can’t trust my feelings right now. I can only trust my feelings in the future, when I’m actually living it.
Thomas Wild turns up at Chakapata Ecolodge, Peru, with his mother who barely speaks a word of Spanish nor English, being barked at by the dogs, grins and says, “Tiene alojamiento?” Do you have lodging?
I explain it’s an eco-lodge that’s not quite ready yet but yes, we have been receiving guests now and then.
“We’re looking for a place with silence, nature and cute dogs,” he says.
I smile, and open the gate.
The next evening after his adventures at the hot pools and Mirador del Condor – yes, the same condors from El Condor Pasa and at the second deepest canyon in the world – we talk until late. You’re always giving, he says, and I can see that it often costs you a lot to admit what you need, what your soul is wanting.
I burst into tears.
He gives me a song list, tells me about films he calls soulfood and explains how to explain permaculture to the manager. He draws mythical creatures in his diary as I talk. I can’t stop laughing, I feel like my heart is going to explode out of my body with joy at having met someone who just gets it. Yes, he says later, as we lie side by side on the patterned mattress by the fire, it’s so wonderful to be around you, I feel like I can just be completely myself, be exactly who I am, and it’s okay. I want to shout from rooftops and jump buildings. I feel like my batteries are charging around you, he says. As he leaves that evening, I’m suddenly unsure when I’m going to see him next, if I’ll see him again. That’s the thing with traveling – you can only pray and hope you’ll run into your friends once more, but there’s no guarantees. And most often, you don’t.
We have a pact that we will let the other know if we find a place that does permaculture in the jungle, the kind we’re looking for, in whatever country on this continent we are part of. We also have a half-dream of travelling through the jungle together, following the Amazon downstream. Do you know how to wield a machete, I ask, before everything. Yeah, he grins, I worked in Panama in an eco-place for three months in the forest, remember? I grin back, you’re in, I say.
He’s at the door, and I am suddenly overtaken by a rush of deep sadness and deep joy at once. I look at his face, his eyes sunken in and shadowed by possibly the largest dark circles I’ve ever seen in my life, and I march over until I’m almost in his face. Thomas, I say, before you go, I want to give you something. He is silent. I’m going to give you some energy, I say, and give him the most back-crushing hug I can muster.
The funny thing is, I already dreamt of his arrival two days before he showed up.