Saturday, August 9, 2014

Out There

I've been as busy as can be, but I checked the blog this morning to realize I hadn't posted in four days.  Thinking, "Wow, I need to get back to work," here's a review of my last book.

Out There: In the Wild in a Wired Age by Ted Kerasote. Pub. by Voyageur Press, Stillwater, MN, 2004, 160pp.

Out There is a small book. It can be cupped in one hand, and has only 160 pages. Yet, I found it to be one of the better books I’ve read in awhile that really make the reader a participant in the expedition. The sights, sounds, experiences, even the smells are described so clearly that they become recognizable. Each day, each camp duty, bend in the river, wildlife encounter, new view of scenery and rapid are made real and personal. Only remaining dry in one’s recliner separates the reader from a seat in the canoe.

The thread throughout the book, as the subtitle hints, is how to be deep in the wilderness, where you seek quiet, peaceful reflection, communion with nature and oneself, while unavoidably being surrounded by technology. When does technology cease being an aid and begin to invade or intrude? Does the refreshing experience of the wilderness become more like a vacation where the office calls three times every day, or you’re tied to the laptop grinding out another report or brief? The conflict between the two extremes continued daily, while Ted always tried to find an agreeable balance. When he finally touched his partner’s sat phone, for example, it wasn’t a yielding to technology as much as a yielding to the expectations of family, who, knowing they had the phone with them, would expect a call from the Arctic, and be hurt if they didn’t get one. His one feeling of vindication came when Len, his techno-geek canoe partner, finds that his Palm Pilot has crashed, taking all six e-books Len had loaded into it along with its cold, dead, silicon chip. He has to ask Ted to dip into his dry-bag for a real paper and ink book that he can borrow.

The trip is down the Horton River for 400 miles from Nunavut toward the Beaufort Sea. Being far into the Northwest Territories, it remains one of the most remote spots on earth, little changed since the glaciers retreated 7,000 years ago. Yet, it’s on the map, so they had no sooner started than they heard a seaplane coming in, heading straight at them, and pulling to shore at their feet with a guide and his fishermen. Still, they met only one other canoe with a couple making their way very, very slowly down river. In all, in spite of the books diminutive size, it is a wonderful story that you will enjoy.


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