In many cultures, the prescription for chronic illness was a stay in the country (not necessarily the wild country). In ancient Greece, the chronically ill went to Asklepian Temples for relief. The priests created tenemos — sacred space — for the patient to help facilitate healing. The ill went to the temples and prepared with purification and ritual for a healing dream. Then the patient went to the abaton — the sleeping chamber — and dreamed. Often the dreams either healed the patients or told them of a remedy which would heal them.
Today, practitioners of integrated medicine believe the body wants to heal, and the patient needs the time, encouragement, support and space to be able to get well. In many instances the time, encouragement, and support can be found, but wild spaces are lacking. Silvia was able to travel deep into a wild place. Where do we go? Where do the wild things go (including human beings) when no wild remains?
Perhaps medicine for the land in the form of a conservation movement called rewilding can be medicine for us all. The Wildlands Project describes rewilding as restoration of "big wilderness based on the regulatory roles of large predators." Using various methods and bringing together disparate groups of people, they put into practice methods which help the natural and native ecology of a place reassert itself. If the land is restored so that certain focal species — bears, wolves, ocelots, jaguars — are healthy and thriving, then the rest of the ecosystem will be healthy too.
If we follow the logic of the "Silver Hands" story, the members of the rewilding movement are comparable to the forest people who help Silvia; those of us who are chronically ill are like the jaguars, grizzly bears, and wolves. If we can thrive in a habitat, then the habitat is probably healthy.
Yet the ill cannot be responsible for healing ourselves if healing ourselves requires a rewilding of nature. That's a great deal of energy which most ill people cannot muster. We can rewild our inner wilderness, we can connect with our wild soul, we can listen to the land and tell her stories. We can also be the priestesses, priests, and shamans encouraging the rewilders to "Be wilder! Be wilder!" (After all, long illnesses are de rigueur for shamans.) And perhaps being amongst those who hear the call to the wild will enable us to grow hands again. Then once again, we will be wild, living where the wild things are.
The Armless Maiden and the Hero's Journey by Midori Snyder
Surlalune's Girl Without Hands Page (information on the Armless Maiden / Girl With No Hands / Silver Hands fairy tale cycle)
Girl Without Hands (poem) by Margaret Atwood
The Girl With No Hands (poem) by Rigoberto González
The Rewilding Institute
The Wild Mind of Gary Snyder by Trevor Carolan
The Green Man and the Green Woman