Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wilderness Survival


I took this book out of the library thinking it was going to be a bland 'how to' book on basic survival skills. To my surprise, and delight, it was much more. It is part journal and part 'how to' blended together to put the skills into context. This made for an enjoyable read with all of the practical knowledge to boot. But wait, there was more. The personal accounts of Mark brought in a spiritual philosophical dimension on how natural living effects the soul, the idea that nature is not an adversary, even the concept of time. Reading this book not only filled my soul with more respect and appreciation for the natural world but a desire to reevaluate my own thoughts and slow down life a bit...and of course, try out some cool survival skills!
Most of the book is structured as a journal (ie Day 1). Mark keeps us updated on what skills he used, what they made, or maybe what they caught for dinner. I'm happy to report that there are not many repetitive or mundane journal entries. Each day seems to bring on new challenges or observations of nature. There were a few too many pages on mice tracking or vole sightings for my liking, but that's just me. The journal did progress from a practical account of day to day 'chores' to a much great much broader view of the natural world and humans place in it. By the end of the adventure/experiment the entries had turned into full out rants, blasting society's evils and praising the unforgiving world of nature. I got the impression Mark was not going to be headed home, but instead staying in his leaf/stick debris hut and coming that 'hermit' of the woods that we've all heard about in urban myths.
The prologue and epilogue pull everything together. They are must reads in this book. Mark admits that he has changed a lot since he went on this survival quest. He alluded to a feeling that he was slightly ashamed or embarrassed about some of his rantings. I do commend his apology for breaking a few laws (trespassing, poaching, etc) and agree that to survive he had to do a few illegal things.
Overall, I thought this was a superb blending of 'how to' with an in-context story making for a wonderful read.


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