Wednesday, August 27, 2008

One Man's Wilderness Post #2

A couple of excerpts from One Man's Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey by Sam Keith from the journals and photographs of Richard Proenneke. Alaska Northwest Books.1999.

Gleaming snowfields showed not a sign of a track. They would be blinding to walk across in the bright sun. And all those beautiful waterfalls, some dropping from the high buttresses like thin streams of molten silver and seeming to vanish in midair. Others along the creek below spilled in wide, bright aprons between banks as green as new leaves.

It is time to leave, so I picked up my walking stick. I had taken a long look into the heart of the high places and felt like a man inspired by a sermon that came to me firsthand, that came out ofthe sky and the many moods of the mountains.

I crossed the big pasture and took several sips of water from the trickles that made music over the stones--like a wine-taster not being able to decide which vintage was best. Down through the canyon with the rock-strewn slopes on either side and finally, just above where the canyon walls ran together, the triangular eye of turquoise that was the lake peered up at me.

A brief stop at the Eagle's Back, a dizzy jut of granite on the mid-slope of Falls Mountain. Climbing out on it, I stood feeling suspended over the entire upper lake that gleamed beneath in robin's egg blue. On the far side was the warm glow of logs that is home--the place I wanted to leave in the morning and the place I wanted to return to at the close of the day.

-- pgs 197-198

I broke out into the willows that grew around the edges of the cottonwoods. There were no fresh moose droppings or tracks. But then I came to a clump of cow parsnips freshly cropped and the grasses mashed around them.

Funny, I thought, I have never known a moose to eat this plant. I looked about. The
leaves in the cottonwoods quivered against the sky. Suddenly the brush to my right rustled and crashed. I spun, expecting to see the bull [moose] getting up out of his bunk--and every hair on my stabbed electricity into my skull.

A huge brown bear was coming head on, bounding through the willow clumbs not fifty feet away! His head looked as broad as a bulldoze blade. I threw up my arms and yelled. That was all I could think to do.

On he came, and I thought, "At last you've done it, nothing can save you now." I was stumbling as I retreated in terror, shouting.

I tripped and fell on my back. Instinctively I started kicking at the great broad head as it burst through the willow leaves. And then as he loomed over me, a strange thing happened. The air whooshed out of him as he switched ends. Off he went up the slope, bunching his huge bulk, climbing hard, and showering stones. Not once did he look back.

I was shouting, encouraging him in his flight. What seconds before had seemed so terrifying was now almost comical. What had saved my skin?

He must have scented me at the last moment. Until then I do believe he had me pegged as another animal and meat on the table. I couldn't stop shaking. The rest of the way down the mountain I lived those seconds over and over again. I was convinced that the ought-six would be standard equipment from this day on.

-- pg 199.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

One Man's Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey

Sam Keith's book from the journals of Dick Proenneke (Pren-ne-kee) is one of the best books I have read. It is simply written in a parsimonious style that is still descriptive of the complexities of the man Proenneke is; and is descriptive of the complexities of a solitary, self-sufficient life in the Alaska wilderness. It is this simplicity of expression without loss of detail that makes Proenneke's journals so elegant.

Reading his journal motivates me to be productive and active but at the same time creates a sense of calm and peace . Proenneke is an extremely industrious man but who goes about his mission with calm purpose, a peaceful spirit, and with efficiency. He is creatively and mechanically intelligent to the highest degree, yet he finds his purpose in the simplest of pleasures of his surroundings: God painted views of lakes and mountains; flowing water; snow covered environs; and the daily lives and eccentricities of the Alaskan wildlife.

He revels in just being.

From his words, Proenneke is not a religious man, but he clearly demonstrates reverence in his love for life in the wild and the uncomplicated morality he lives out. This is succinctly stated in my favorite quote from the book.

Somehow I never seem to tire of just standing and looking down the lake or up at the mountains in the evening even if it is cold. If this is the way folks feel inside a church, I can understand why they go.

Man builds cathedrals that take lifetimes to complete to find a way to honor and worship God. Yet a simple man has captured the essence of true worship that a religious man should have.

This is such a great book for such an easy read. Efficient but grand just like Dick Proenneke.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Art (or rather the knack) of Flying

The knack [of flying] lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. Pick a nice day.

The first part is easy.

All it requires is simply the ability to throw yourself forward with all your weight, and the willingness not to mind that it's going to hurt. That is, it's going to hurt if you fail to miss the ground. Most people fail to miss the ground, and if they are really tyring properly, the likelihood is that they will fail to miss it fairly hard.

Clearly, it is this second part, the missing, which presents the difficulties. One problem is that you have to miss the ground accidentally. It's no good deliberately intending to miss the ground because you won't. You have to have your attention suddenly distracted by something else when you're halfway there, so that you are no longer thinking about falling, or about the ground, or about how much it's going to hurt if you fail to miss it.

It is notoriously difficult to prize your attention away from these three things during the split second you have at your disposal. Hence most people's failure, and their eventual disillusionment with this exhilarating and spectacular sport.

If, however, you are lucky enough to have your attention momentarily distracted at the crucial moment by, say, a gorgeous pair of legs (tentacles, pseudopodia, according to phylum and/or person inclination) or a bomb going off in your vicinity, or by suddenly spotting an extremely rare species of beetle crawling along a nearby twig, then in your astonishment you will miss the ground completely and remain bobbing just a few inches above it in what might seem to be a slightly foolish manner.

This is the moment for superb and delicate concentration.

Bob and float, float and bob. Ignore all considerations of your own weight and simply let yourself waft higher.

Do not listen to what anybody says to you at this point because they are unlikely to say anything helpful. They are most likely to say something along the lines of "Good god, you can't possibly be flying!"

It is vitally important not to believe them or they will suddenly be right. Waft higher and higher. Try a few swoops, gentle ones at first, then drift above the treetops breathing regularly.


When you have done this a few times you will find the moment of distraction rapidly becomes easier and easier to achieve. You will then learn all sorts of things about how to control your flight, your speed, your maneuverability, and the trick usually lies in not thinking too hard about whatever you want to do, but just allowing it to happen as if it were going to anyway.

You will also learn about how to land properly, which is something you will almost certainly screw up, and screw up badly, on your first attempt.

There are private flying clubs you can join which help you achieve the all-important moment of distraction. They hire people with surprising bodies or opinions to leap out from behind bushes and exhibit and/or explain them at the critical moments. Few genuine hitchhikers will be able to afford to join these clubs, but some may be able to get temporary employment at them.

-- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; entry RECREATIONAL IMPOSSIBILITIES.

Excerpt from Life, The Universe, and Everything by Douglas Adams. Compilation Edition The More Than Complete Hitchhiker's Guide, Wings Books, Random House, 1994.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Early Wakeup Call

JMG posted yesterday about her early wakeup call. Thought I would post mine from this morning since I have nothing inspirational at the moment (as if I ever do).

This morning, somewhere between 3:30 - 4:00 AM, I was awoken by a police car going down the street with siren. A rare occurance on our street. About 2-3 minutes later our dog bursts into our bedroom, a little anxious but not barking or growling.

I get up to check things out having just heard the siren. I see a police car, could be the same one I heard, coming back slowly the opposite way as the first with lights on but sans siren. Within minutes, a couple more cruisers show up and park in front of the field across the street. Several more continue to scout around the neighborhood slowly.

I go outside, walk across the yard, and speak to one of the officers. There has been a domestic dispute on the next street over and they are looking for a fleeing male. He tells me to stay inside for a while and keep my dog up because they will have a K-9 unit arriving soon.

My wife and I watch the scene for a while from inside seeing nothing, not even the K-9 unit. A firetruck does arrive turning up the street of the incident; I assume to tend to some injuries. The injuries must of been minor as there as no siren and the firetruck left a short while later and we never saw an ambulance.

My wife scans the news on the local channels but finds nothing about this incident. I am surprised how early the local news shows begin.

Around 4:45 AM, the police all leave, so I assume they caught the person they were looking for. I reset my alarm for 6:00 AM instead of my normal 5:00 AM rising and go back to sleep.

I have not seen anything about this on the local news websites.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Heaven, Hell, and Teachers

A conversation with a blog friend JMG triggered my memory of this joke that is perfect for the start of school.

A retired teacher passes away and arrives at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter welcomes her and begins the grand tour of Heaven. As he is showing her around St. Peter is pointing out the various clouds.

"Over here we have the accountants. To the left engineers. Next door to them we have IT folks and software developers. Over there, business managers. A couple of clouds down, we have ministers, priests, and evangelists." Whispering, St. Peter says, "the clergy are always surprised at how small their cloud is."

After seeing a good number of different occupational clouds and touring the dinning, recreation, and other communal clouds, the teacher is looking very perplexed with a touch of worry on her face. St. Peter asks, "You look like something is troubling you. Is anything wrong?"

"Well, you never showed me the teacher's cloud. Where am I going to be?", the teacher asked.

"Saving the best for last," answered St. Peter. "Right over here we have the educator's cloud." St. Peter escorts her into a lavish, gold-adorned, but empty cloud. "Here you go."

"This is beautiful!", she exclaims, but quickly looks perplexed again. "Where is everyone? Surely I am not the only teacher that made it to heaven," she questioned.

"Heavens no! I am terrbily sorry for the fright. I forgot to tell you didn't I?"

"Tell me what?"

"They're all down in hell this week doing in-service"

Friday, August 01, 2008

I can't stress it enough, I hate ...

I ran across this at another blog and it is one of the funniest videos I have watched, especially being a hardcore Vanderbilt fan, alum, etc. To my friends who like UT, don't be offended. You probably will laugh too.

Just too funny.