Saturday Reflection

Guess a man needs an upset now and then to remind him that he doesn’t know as much as he thinks he does.
-Dick Proenneke, One Man’s Wilderness

It has been such a roller coaster this year so far. I’ve read One Man’s Wilderness many times since I bought the book on my first trip to Alaska ten years ago. We need these hiccups, especially in our interactions with Mother Nature, to help us remember our place. We are part of the greater ecosystem, not in charge of, despite the common perspective of our culture.

Yesterday’s experience with the older lady from south Texas on the ice made the quote stand out further to me.

My fear of going down the steep, narrow section of trail, and the woman’s fear of ice and falling, were enough to make me ponder. We each need to get out there and test ourselves. We aren’t all-powerful and we can only conquer what we try.

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30 Day Writing Challenge — Day 8: A Book You Love and One You Didn’t

Since I have bookshelves in three rooms of my apartment, it’s hard to narrow down which book I want to discuss here.

So I won’t choose, because I want the best of both worlds.

Here are two that I have read many times and love, each of which shows a different part of personality, tastes and dreams.

First, Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen). If you don’t fall in love with the father’s snark from the first chapter, you’ll probably never appreciate all of the great lines, characters and nuances of this classic. So while my everyday life is nothing like that of Elizabeth or Darcy, I see parts of most of the characters in me at some point. Like Elizabeth, I can be stubborn, strong and I sometimes see the world differently than the people surrounding me, or so it seems. Really, aren’t we all blinded by our own perspectives at one time or another? But like her sisters, I sometimes want to be responsible for nothing more than choosing my clothing and dancing all night.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have next to no limit and be able to buy what you want and need? And maybe buy something pretty while you’re at it?

Of course, my relatively free life would have never been possible back in Regency and Victorian Periods in England, so I’m also glad I’m living now. I’m not forced to spend my days crying because my neighborhood doesn’t have enough eligible bachelors. (No matter how true it might be.)

Of course, if you look at the screen versions of Pride and Prejudice, you can’t help falling in love with Darcy. Oh, dear god, Colin Firth.

I’ll leave that topic alone for now. Suffice it to say, I have wanted to be like each of the women in that book at sometime or another. That’s parts of what makes a book great – characters you can identify with and who can make you feel emotions.

My other book love is One Man’s Wilderness (Richard Proenneke). Like Austen’s classic, One Man’s Wilderness shows how one person made a life where he was. Proenneke had a lot more freedom than any of the women in Austen’s day, but he did have limits. His limits (if any really existed) were self-imposed, rather than imposed by society and law. He chose to build a cabin by hand in the Alaskan wilderness, far from roads, people and the comforts of his younger days.

I think his choice of lifestyle was his ultimate mark of freedom. He lived without running water, he had to chop his own firewood, hunt his own game, tend his own garden and find ways to make it through tough situations – completely alone by choice.

I’ve always loved little cabins in the mountains, and after reading Proenneke’s journals (the book is the first compiled volume of what were his daily notes, observations, and musings), I became more entranced with the wilderness. Not that it was my first experience with wilderness, but I read it for the first time while living in Alaska for the first time. I’m not a fast reader and I had to spread the book out over many days. One thing I do remember about that time in Alaska were the rainbows – the simple beauty of the natural world around me. Beauty unlike the ‘beauty’ so often described in novels like Pride and Prejudice.

There is a part of me that longs to live the life that Proenneke lived at Twin Lakes, at least partially because he was so skilled and could make just about anything he needed. He was a master of invention, not spoiled by modern invention, and creative. He came up with solutions for everyday needs and comforts. I often think I’m skilled because I can make my own clothes. I’ve watched carpenters, woodworkers, and various craftsmen all my life, and I could probably talk through some of the steps it takes to build a cabin like Proenneke’s, but could I do it all by myself? No. For that, I am jealous of him.

But isn’t that was Lizzy was fighting for? Independence?

A book I didn’t love: Um, just about any history book from any such class I had to take in school, at any level of school. Let’s face it, those classes put me to sleep. But I can’t actually say I hated those books – I don’t remember a word of them because they bored me so.

It wasn’t until I finally got to learn history hands-on in parks, museums and monuments that it started to sink in.

History textbooks should be banned.