Naturally Speaking: Escaping into the outdoors on cold, wintry nights
I mentioned last week that our ongoing cold spell had at least a few positives in spite of the limits it’s placed on some outdoor activities. A snug evening at home with no meetings to go to is something I still enjoy, and, even more so, when the fireplace is radiating warmth into the room. It’s a wonderful time for settling in with a good book. I have a library full of them. A few have been around for a while just waiting to be read. I read some others many years ago. Several of those old books have kept me company in recent months and proven to be as good the second time around as they were the first.
Some of my favorite selections include books about my beloved North Country — the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and adjoining Canadian Quetico Provincial Park. Sigurd Olson is my favorite writer on that area. His stories take me back to places I’ve been and to places I wish I could go. His books allow me to be lost for several hours at a time among the spruce, pines, aspen, lakes, rocky cliffs and the wonderful wild rivers that flow through them.
Sig could put into words things that I have only felt. Some, but not all, of his titles include: “Runes of the North,” “The Lonely Land,” “Listening Point,” “The Singing Wilderness,” “Open Horizons” and “Of Place and Time.” Many have written of that wonderful area, but a couple other authors I have enjoyed include Florence Page Jaques and Justine Kerfoot. Jaques’ “Canoe Country” and “Snowshoe Country” are shorter, but wonderful stories of her experiences.
Florence Jaques’ husband, Francis Lee Jaques, added many of the wonderful pen-and-ink illustrations in her books and Sig Olson’s. Kerfoot’s “Gunflint” shares her experiences in opening and operating one of the area’s oldest wilderness lodges on Gunflint Lake northwest of Grand Marias, Minn. A real page turner by Cary Griffith, “Gunflint Burning,” tells the recent and amazing story of the massive 2007 fire that raged through the Gunflint Trail area.
Ecology bedrock reading must include the writings of native Iowan Aldo Leopold. His “A Sand County Almanac” is a must for anyone interested in the foundation of our North American Land Ethic. “Round River” and “A Fierce Green Fire” tell the story of his own growth in understanding the incredible wild world around us and how we relate to it.
John Madson grew up hunting and fishing along the Skunk River near Ames and went on to become one of the greatest outdoor story tellers of the 20th century. Find a copy of “Out Home” or “Where The Sky Began” and be prepared for smiles and wonder as John introduces you to some of the colorful characters he knew and the rich wild heritage and history of our homeland. I’m lucky to be able to say that John was as much fun to talk to as he is to read.
If you’d prefer more glorious photographs along with wonderfully sensitive writing, find a copy of Carl Kurtz’s “Iowa’s Wild Places” or Larry Stone’s “Listen to the Land.” They share the often-hidden Iowa that’s well worth looking for. I’ll probably never get to all the places they photographed and wrote about. I’ve been to some of them, and I’m glad the rest are still out there waiting to be found.
One column could never hold all the titles worth spending some time with. A good book can take you far away in time and place. The nights may be long, cold and dark, but try turning off the TV, getting comfortable and finding the joy of a good book. You may go to sleep as you read into the evening, but that’s not all bad. The book will still be there waiting for your next visit after you finally wander off to bed.