Wild #002: Jacob / by Boyce Upholt

Tishimingo State Park, Mississippi

Tishimingo State Park, Mississippi

Jacob, 28, teacher coach

That I’m likely to survive. A weak, skinny ass dude? [Laughs.] But also, intellectually—right? My mind is not just on survival. It’s on survival plus.
— On the virtues of not being a caveman

Jacob struggles when he's asked about home: He was raised in Italy, attended college in Philadelphia, taught in Arkansas, went to a grad program in London. He now lives in Mississippi (and is a good friend). We spent a weekend camping this spring in Tishimingo State Park, and I took the occasion to ask him about his experiences with wildness. I'm taking the liberty of paraphrasing, but he sees wildness as the nonhuman elements in the world. Sometimes they're overwhelming: as a boy, Jacob once stumbled upon a dead snake, or maybe a snake eating something dead. "It just freaked me out," he said. But it can be freeing, too, when humanity seems to recede into the background.

Me and my ten buddies took this ten-day trip of the national parks. We got to the Grand Tetons and it’s gorgeous. We realized we are alone there—and that’s nuts in the middle of summer. We just got naked and jumped in the water. I don’t remember us being like, ‘Hey, are we going to jump in the water?’ It wasn’t a said thing. We just… I forget who did it first, even.