Some people view deer as the guardians of the forest. So, it’s appropriate that we get our word “wilderness” from deer.

It’s fall in Wisconsin where I live; and during these moody, gray November days, the white-tailed deer “begin to run,” as we say. It’s the time of year when I see them the most.

The sight of them reminds me that although we usually think of the wolf or the grizzly bear as the ultimate icon of the wild, it is actually from deer that we get our word wilderness.

The word deer (in its original spelling, deor) was once the Old English word for an animal, in general. And wilddeoren (or wildeornes) once simply meant “the place of wild animals.”

The Wilderness Act of 1964 defines “wilderness” as a place where humans are only transitory. From the video “America’s Wilderness,” ©National Park Service

One of my favorite definitions of wilderness, however, recently came to my attention. It comes from the Wilderness Act of 1964, which will soon mark its 50th anniversary. The act defines wilderness as the place where “man himself is a visitor and does not remain.”

So take a brief moment out of your November day for a bit of reflection about our wilderness areas and how fortunate we are to have them. Watch the short video below produced by the U.S. National Park Service.

I’m sure you’ll find meaning in it.

Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,