Book Review: One Man's Wilderness

Let me just start by saying: "Wow!" This is a fabulous book. I had seen "Alone in the Wilderness" and "Alaska: Solace and Solitude" on PBS a few times in November and December and decided that I must have this book. Santa was good to me, and I was not disappointed.

Dick Proenneke moved to the Alaskan Wilderness in the late 1960s. He built a cabin by hand, using only hand tools. He cut his own timber, milled his own lumber, and hauled his own stone. He was a carpenter, mason, farmer, fisher, explorer, protector, and homesteader.

"One Man's Wilderness" is mostly comprised of Dick's journals of the first year. Although it's not a how-to manual, there is certainly a wealth of practical information to have. He talks about the problems he faced and the solutions he came up with. He discusses living with wildlife and some of the pitfalls he came across.

As I read the book, I longed to be there, in that unspoiled land. I think deep down, most of us do. What man could honestly prefer the dirty, crowded streets of modern cities and suburbia to the freedom and relaxation of relative solitude? I know I wouldn't. To not have the clock constantly rushing you, the incessant ringing of the phone, the stack of email offering to improve your life through more borrowing; what could be better?

The first publishing of "One Man's Wilderness" was in 1973. There was one passage that touched me to the core, which is even more relevant today.

"News never changes much. It's just the same things happening to different people. I would rather experience things happening to me than read about them happening to others. I am my own newspaper and my own radio. I honestly don't believe that man was meant to know everything going on in the world, all at the same time. A man turns on the TV and all those commentators bombard him with the local, the national and the international news. The newspapers do the same thing, and the poor guy with all the immediate problems of his own life is burdened with those of the whole world."

"I don't know what the answer is. In time, man gets used to almost anything, but the problem seems to be that technology is advancing faster than he can adjust to it. I think it's time we started applying the brakes, slowing down our speed and slowing down the world."

One Man's Wilderness, pg. 212-213

I wonder what Dick would think about the web, RSS feeds, ipods, message boards, and all the other tools we use to fill our heads with the worries of the world?


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