Sunday, January 11, 2009

A good book - "One Man's Wilderness"

One Man's Wilderness
An Alaskan Odyssey
By Sam Keith from the journals and photographs of Richard Proenneke

I just got done reading this book, and I just loved it. It's set up to read like a daily journal of Dick Proenneke and how he left civilization, and stayed in a friend's cabin in the Alaskan wilderness until he was able to build his own -- all with own hands. He writes a lot about building the cabin from as much natural surroundings as possible (and he pulls it off, by the way... all but a little tar paper on his roof to keep weather out). He even carves the door hinges out of wood from the forest around him, and the book has pictures of them -- I never thought door hinges could be described as beautiful, but these truly are amazing! :)

He recalls several wildlife encounters, including a charge from a brown bear on a day he decided he was sight-seeing only, so there was no need to bring the gun. He talks about all the critters around his cabin and how they became tame to the point of eating out of his hands. He wanted to get some close-up views of a wolf, so he rigged up some bait on his homemade sled, then strung a string into his cabin and tied it to his wrist as a "silent alarm" so he would be woken when the wolf was outside. There were several more with moose, caribou, fishing, birds, more bears, more wolves... just a lot of great stories. Even the days he writes about that didn't have a whole lot going on, except for taking care of odds & ends, and navy beans cooking on the stove with spices, were really fun to read. It kind of felt like I was hovering above, watching him as he created his home.

My favorite part of the whole book was one of the last chapters, called, "reflections." He talks about something I recently blogged about (before I read this chapter, so it really felt good for me to read it). He talks about how little one really needs. A quote:

"Needs? I guess that is what bothers so many folks. They keep expanding their needs until they are dependent on too many things and too many other people. I don't understand economics, and I suppose the country would be in a real mess if people suddenly cut out a lot of things they don't need. I wonder how many things in the average American home could be eliminated if the question were asked, "Must I really have this?" I guess most of the extras are chalked up to comfort or saving time."

He continues:

"Funny thing about comfort -- one man's comfort is another man's misery. Most people don't work hard enough physically anymore, and comfort is not easy to find. It is surprising how comfortable a hard bunk can be after you come down off a mountain."

I can certainly relate with that last quote. I've heard some people say, "I can't camp. I just can't sleep on the hard ground." This is one of many reasons why I love backpacking -- after hiking 20 miles, it's not hard to fall asleep anywhere. I'm sure after a long day of building his cabin, this is what Dick is referring to. After so much physical work, you could probably fall asleep anywhere!

I want to give more lines from this chapter about his feelings on fresh stream water, mountain air, working for his heat, transportation by foot and paddle only, and all the rest that nature can offer... but I won't. If you have an appreciation for nature, you'll like to read and relate to so many of his thoughts. If you don't have a particular interest in nature, I encourage you to read it anyway. It's got some really cool stories, and might have you thinking in a more comfy, relaxed way about the wilderness. It certainly makes me wanna hit the woods!! :)

And, just a couple other quotes from the book that made me dog ear the page. Good way to end this entry. :)

"It was good to be back in the wilderness again where everything seems at peace. I was alone. It was a great feeling -- a stirring feeling. Free once more to plan and do as I pleased. Beyond was all around me. The dream was a dream no longer.

I suppose I was here because this was something I had to do. Not just dream about it but do it. I suppose, too, I was here to test myself...."

"Chores are easier if forethought is given to them and they are looked upon as little pleasures to perform instead of inconveniences that steal time and try the patience."

"The wind I fought before, now helped me. Wind and fire. Help you one minute and kill you the next. All depends on the time and place."

And one more:
"I thought of the sights I had seen. The price was physical toll. Money does little good back here. It could not buy the fit feeling that surged through my arms and shoulders. It could not by the feeling of accomplishment. I had been my own tour guide, and my own power had been my transportation. This great big country was my playground, and I could afford the price it demanded."

1 comment:

gimpy geezer said...

nice work. I enjoy reading your comments. Haven't read the book but, I've seen a program about him on public television. A remarkable fellow.