That's not a figurative title this morning. We'll get back to my regularly scheduled programming of Feminism, Gardening and Politics later, but this is just too cool to leave unmentioned.
Last night after a full day of NFL viewing, Mr. D came to bed and opened a book. I was already tucked in, reading Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos (Thanks, Diane, I'm LOVING it, BTW). We lay in companionable silence, turning pages and I was grateful that Mr. D was leaving his new BFF, the TV remote, alone. But the temptation to check scores is a strong force for a man in 4 fantasty football leagues. Plus there was a baseball game on another channel. As he surfed, he came to PBS and exclaimed, "I love this show!"
I looked up and saw a man sawing logs in the woods. In simple, sparse language, Dick Proenneke narrated his life in the Alaska Wilderness. No whack-job like Chris McCandless, Mr. Porenneke retired in 1967 at the age of 50 and spent the summer finding a spot at Twin Lakes in Alaska to build a cabin. Using only hand tools, he built a log cabin. I watched with fascination as he whittled and worked his way around a log--taking an hour to fashion a wooden spoon for making hotcakes, a couple hours to build a sled which he used to carry meat across the snow-covered lake in the winter.
With only the basic necessities, Mr. Proenneke spent his days enjoying the wildlife, taking time off to hike and explore when he wasn't engrossed in the labor of making his home. (I mentioned he was not a whack-job, he commissioned a plane to bring him supplies on a regular schedule. There's a difference between living off the land and living in the wilderness.) He built an outhouse. He built a fireplace. By digging a hole in the ground, lining it and capping it with a coat of moss, he built a refrigerator. With a fishing rod, a shotgun and a small garden plot, Mr. Proenneke had daily sustenance.
I was charmed by this bachelor wilderness man--in his grey trousers and brown jacket, he climbed up mountains with the dexterity of a mountain goat. It was hard to believe he was in his sixties. I'd have loved a chance to meet him, talk to him over coffee or take a long hike with him in the mountains--he died in 2003, so that's never going to happen. Lucky for me, a film crew followed his life, taping the cabin's construction, the wildlife Mr. Proenneke encountered, the changing seasons. In glorious Technicolor, without soundtrack, stuntmen, fancy editing or script, this documentary was peaceful and inspiring.
As I battle a tendency to recluse myself, I envied this man's life. Nothing dominated his schedule except the chores essential to his survival. His calendar recorded temperatures and observations of the land and creatures around him--no meetings, appointments or other distractions. Like Thoreau, I long for a quieter place "to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." Mr. Proenneke lived that life and it was my pleasure to watch part of it.
To a greater degree than most of us ever do, Dick Proenneke checked out. The rest of us do the same thing in smaller ways, we bike a few miles along a country road, camp a few nights in a tent or RV in a state park, hike in a woods--but we return to the chaos of modern life. Alone in the Wilderness inspires me to pursue a quiet life more intentionally--a life unplugged with room for a surprise encounter with a wolverine or lengthy contemplation of spring wildflowers. (Okay, probably not going to see a wolverine in Wisconsin, but maybe a badger or woodchuck.) Check it out, Alone in the Wilderness, a one-man show that will surely amaze and astound you.