Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Back To The Land Appeal

I love reading books about people who chuck it all and take off to live off the land.  The latest book I finished is Call of the American Wild by Guy Grieve.  Hailing from Scotland, Grieve is unhappy with the 9 to 5 work life, the three hour commute, the piling up debt, rarely seeing his children and wife.  His dissatisfaction leads to him leaving it all and moving to the Alaskan interior for a year.  He moves out into the bush, builds a cabin, and lives there through the winter living a subsistence life.  Meanwhile, his wife and kids stay behind and move from Edinburgh to Mull, an island off Scotland, and live with her parents for the year.

Upon reentry into his life, his family sells their city house and remains in Mull.  Instead of returning to a desk job, he becomes a writer and a dive-fisherman.

Despite a few moments of bad language, the book was captivating.  I was reading about him slogging through eight feet of snow, and after putting down the book I looked out my window and couldn't understand why there wasn't any snow in my yard.  I read about his encounters with moose, bears, and other wildlife, so when I looked out my back window yesterday and saw something in the yard, my first thought was moose!  But of course, moose don't live in my corner of Michigan, so it turned out to be a doe drinking from a pool of water made from the black plastic covering my new garden.  Then a buck came walking out of the woods and stood their majestically in the yard until David decided he wanted to scare them away and ran out the back door.

I was thinking about the book, wondering what it is about such stories that draw me.  I don't want to chuck my life and move to the Alaskan Yukon.  I don't want to chop down 54 trees, peel off the bark, and then build a 16 foot cabin and live there with my family.  But there is something about these stories--something magical about setting aside all that is known and moving to what is unknown.  Moving from the hustle and bustle of the city to a remote place in the woods.

This quote in the last few pages of the book nailed it home for me.  What specifically about these "back to the land" books appeals to me?

"Even in this day and age, with our sophisticated technology and developed culture, it must still be important, just occasionally, to find a wild place, where the land and the animals that move through it speak loudest, and the sun and the moon dictate the rhythm of our lives.  Only through this can we remember our proper place in the order of things." ~ Guy Grieve Call of the American Wild

Sitting on the beach listening to the waves wash in while watching a gorgeous sunset.  Standing on top of a sand dune in the middle of the woods and looking out on an incredible view of Lake Michigan.  Hiking through the woods and hearing the birds and other animals surrounding you.  Catching that glimpse of a deer in your backyard knowing that you have been blessed to see such a beautiful creature.  Seeing an eagle swoop down and land in the bay outside your door, and then spending the next hour watching her as she does a fancy dance on the sandbar, back and forth, lifting up her feathers as if she's giving a curtsy to a queen.

These simple things--these brushes with nature--this is what draws me to books about moving back to the land.  Reading about someone's opportunity at finding a "wild place, where the land and animals that move through it speak the loudest" instead of the chaos of people and technology and all of the things that compete for our attention on a daily basis, in a place where "the sun and the moon dictate the rhythm of their lives" rather than a clock.

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