I am an undisciplined soul. I have a lot of free time, and as you have seen, I haven’t been writing much. Instead I’ve been binging on entertainment. I am admittedly a pop culture junkie, and here in the land of plenty I have been feasting on such wild delicacies as How I Met Your Mother and RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Thankfully (though sometimes I curse it), the internet at Georgetown Suites creeps almost to a halt every time I try to load a new episode, so eventually I give up and grab a book. My friend John who is very soon hiking the Appalachian Trail bought a tome on survival which he left in my backpack, putting it there to keep it from the rain.
This was fate. I’ve fallen in love.
How To Stay Alive In the Woods by Bradford Angier has swept me off my feet. This simple survival book has surprisingly invited that tiny kid inside out into the forest to wonder at the world, and at me in it. It serves that cliche, tapping into my inner 8-year-old boy so ready to follow a trail of ants or chase frogs into the creek.
Written in 1954, the language is immediate and full of wonder. I have never heard of the delights of the bayberry nutlet, and what a dream to consider grinding acorns into flour and toasting cakes on a hot stone. Munching dandelion salad and tracking beavers feels altogether adventurous. Reading it, imagining myself considering fashioning fish hooks from twigs or considering a batch of kinnikinic, I can’t help but wonder at a life in the woods. And then when Angier delivers heading after heading like, “What about frogs?” I can’t help but chuckle again and again. What about frogs, indeed.
“Amphibians,” he says, “can be hooked with fishing tackle and small fly. They can be caught with string and a bit of cloth, the former being given a quick tug when the later is taken experimentally into the mouth.” It’s Angier’s language, too, that is making me swoon. His structure appears like his methods, keeping without an ounce of waste while remaining absolutely dignified. We’re talking frog munching here, and he has the gall to give the whole thing a regal rhythm.
I suppose, too, in the confusing state of being rushed from one of Earth’s hemispheres to the next, I rather enjoy the idea of disappearing to a life that is stripped of confusing developments and instead a world made up of simply me and the wild.
“You can hunt for a month, even in ordinarily good country, and see only one moose. Your life can depend on your securing that one moose.” As simple as that. One moose. No medevacs or job interviews or check out lines or Zuckerburgs. Just the moose, and my securing it.
“You may be in an automobile that is stalled by mishap or storm in an unsettled area,” Angier warns, “Perhaps you’ll be a passenger in an aircraft that has to make a forced landing. Perhaps you’ll be shipwrecked.”
Alright, alright, I’m not going to crash my ship into island rocks anytime soon, and I’ll always be sure to tell people where I’m going lest I get pinned in a crevasse. Right now though, thanks to the wonder of books, I am certainly going to keep imagining myself staying alive in the woods.