Ever since I was old enough to read "Dick and Jane - Go Away Spot" or "The Weekly Reader" or picked up an aqua blue SRA program card........I have loved to read. As a young man I would get dropped off at the local library and standing before the card catalog gaze at the drawers which held the key to my discovery of far away places, exotic birds, fantastic expeditions, or development of drawing skills or music theory.
I have always been fascinated with the Alaskan Wilderness. Maybe it was the Robert W. Service poems my dad recited to me at bedtime. "The Shooting of Dan McGrew", "The Cremation of Sam McGee". He didn't just read them from a book. He memorized them and performed them. My bedroom was a stage. I was the worthy audience. My flesh froze, the wind whipped, the snow crunched, the dogs howled....and the fires blazed.
In the 70s a man named Dick Proenneke helped publish a book about his wilderness isolation called, "One Mans Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey". I read that book so many times the binding feel apart.
Then I met my wife's great aunt in the nursing home. She wasn't your normal nursing home resident. She was 102 years old and had just finished making a quilt for our newlywed bedding. She was also the wife of Dr. John W. Goodsell, the Physician for the Admiral Peary Expedition to the North Pole, 1908-1909. John had written about his trip north on the S.S. Roosevelt and the frozen adventures and tragedies of that trip. Of course, I had to read that.
And so in the winter, as ice freezes and thaws, as I hunt Penns Woods sometimes in the howling wind, the blowing snow and wade through thigh deep snow drifts.......I pretend to be in Alaska. It is most certainly a fantasy as I have never been farther west than Oklahoma nor farther north than Toronto. And I also am drawn to books on the Alaskan way of life in the sparse arctic.
Shopping For Porcupines is the second of a trio of books by Seth Kantner who was born in a sod igloo in the Arctic. His first book, "Ordinary Wolves" fetched high praise from reviewers. A newer volume, "Swallowed By the Great Land" is no less celebrated. Porcupines ......is a gem of simplicity, with stunning photography sprinkled like salt on a hard boiled egg. I am not done reading but I love the literary approach, the honesty, and I suspect I'd like this guy if I met him.
I will someday get to Alaska but until then Seth Kantner has done me a great favor transporting me via the imagination to that chilly land called Alaska. That quilt still keeps me warm by the way.