“And he sailed off through night and day, and in and out of weeks, and almost over a year to where the wild things are.”
The world is a safer place today, and that’s not a good thing.
Where the Wild Things Are was my first favorite book, even before I really grasped what authors were. Max was my first friend.
I grew up in a semi-rural, wooded area. It wasn’t exactly wild, but it was close enough for a five year old. As soon as I was old enough that my parents let me out of their sight, I was disappearing into the woods. There’s still a part of me that wants to go into the woods and never come back. There are a lot of reasons for that, but I first recognized it in Max.
We go to great lengths to assure children that the world is safe, but children know that it’s not. Children want to be acknowledged. Max, and Sendak, acknowledged that. More than that, they enjoyed it. Coming home to a warm bed and a hug at the end of a long and dangerous night means so much more than never leaving it. Max taught me to take joy in danger, and in living, and never to let fear stop me.
There’s a lot there that let me accept other things later… the astral journey, the initiation by wild spirits… maybe my childhood experiences in the woods would have happened anyway, but they wouldn’t have been the same. Because of Sendak I had a vocabulary and a framework, even if it never left my head. I knew I was a Wild Thing, and that was enough to get me through until other books, and concepts, picked up the slack.
I may have a degree in all the fancy names of God, I may be able to compare and contrast Indo-European root words and trace the history of my gods through archaeology and anthropology, I may code switch between religious groups to better express myself to each. But today I am a Wild Thing and nothing else, and that is still the only word I need.