Train Dreams

For several years now I’ve been in the practice of culling images from catalogs I get in the mail (Patagonia, REI, Filson, etc.) and occasional magazines. I pull them out, then I slip them into plastic page protectors that go into three ring binders that I save as inspiration for both artistic and lifestyle aspirations. It’s like an analog pinterest board of sorts that no one gets to see but ME. Anyway today, in an effort to rest my brain from Trump news for a couple hours, I decided to catch up on a stack that had built up over several months. This image, from a Filson catalog, I love. It reminds me of my favorite book by Denis Johnson, Train Dreams. I know most people point at Jesus’ Son or Tree of Smoke as his best, but I’ll take Train Dreams any day.

Friday Reads – The Silent World

From the back copy of The Silent World, by Captain J.Y. Cousteau, copyright 1953:

This best seller unfolds wonders never before seen by man! A new era of undersea exploration began when the young French naval officer J.Y. Cousteau and his partners started to use the now famous underwater breathing apparatus, the aqualung. In this fascinating report Cousteau tells what it is like to be a “manfish” swimming in the deep twilight zone with sharks, mantas, morays, whales and octopuses.

Captain Cousteau tells of exploring sunken ships, including a Roman galley. With him we enter drowned caverns into which the light of day never penetrated. We come mouth to mouth with a shark of as yet unknown species. Visit an octopus city . . . and bring back treasures lost centuries ago!

I found this for $1 at the Book Exchange. The Silent World. Ah, yes, I love this stuff. Cousteau was one of the first “real life” adventurers to spark my imagination. I used to watch his television specials, dreamed of SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) diving (which, to this day, I still haven’t done . . . possibly the very top item on my expansive list of life’s failures), and even bailed over backwards off the inner tubes we’d float around on at Frenchtown Pond when I was a chubby youngster just like Cousteau and his crew used to. Hell, I even liked John Denver’s song about Cousteau’s research ship, Calypso. It goes to show how much pleasure one measly dollar may still provide . . . especially paired with the day’s first slug of coffee.

Homecoming: New Pete Fromm

I often feel a little weird sharing articles I wrote that “go live” online. It feels a little too, “Hey, look at me!” for my tastes. But not this time, damn it. Pete Fromm became one of my favorite writers way back when I first read Indian Creek Chronicles, and he deserves to be read and enjoyed by everybody. His new book, The Names of the Stars, is newly released, and I have a review in this week’s Independent. Here is an excerpt:

The main action in Stars revolves around Fromm’s return to the wilderness —  this time the Bob Marshall — in the spring of 2004 to babysit another batch of fish eggs. Unlike his previous experience, it’s only for a month, and Fromm is no longer a footloose young man. He’s pushing middle-age, is married and has two young sons. When he is first offered the job, he hopes to bring his sons out into the wilds with him, despite the Bob having the highest concentration of grizzly bears anywhere in the lower 48 states. Issues of liability and Forest Service bureaucracy prevent Fromm from taking them and he nearly decides not to go.

Check out the review HERE. I enjoyed the book very much. Definitely one of my favorite reads of the year.

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Fromm reading at S&Co, Sept. 2014
Fromm reading at S&Co, Sept. 2014

Crocodiles and Ice

jonturkIt’s been eleven years since I first encountered Jon Turk, which was also my first Montana Festival of the Book, circa 2005. I’ve mentioned Turk before HERE, and spoke specifically of his most recent big adventure HERE (which got him nominated as a National Geographic “Adventurer of the Year” at the age of 65). In 2005 he was promoting his most recent book at the time, In the Wake of the Jomon: Stone Age Mariners and a Voyage Across the Pacific. He was fascinating and engaging as a speaker, and I loved the book. So I followed up with the one that had preceded Jomon, Cold Oceans: Adventures in Kayak, Rowboat, and Dogsled. Loved that one too. Next up was The Raven’s Gift: A Scientist, a Shaman, and Their Remarkable Journey Through the Siberian Wilderness, which came out in 2006, and the event I attended at the University of Montana in support of that book was particularly profound to me.

In the past year, Jon and I have become friends. His life, and his stories, are fascinating. I’ve been pitching pieces related to him and his new book, Crocodiles and Ice: A Journey into Deep Wild, since early summer. One will be coming out in December. Hopefully it will be merely the first.

Meanwhile, if you are in Missoula, he is giving a presentation at the University tomorrow night, sponsored by Fact & Fiction. It’s well worth attending. Here are the details, from Jon:

Crocodiles and Ice is a scientist/adventurer’s journey into a Consciousness Revolution based on a deep, reciprocal communication with the Earth. The book highlights my award winning polar expedition circumnavigating Ellesmere Island, as well as other, lesser known passages. But, more critically, I tell the story of my lifelong journey from suburban Connecticut into a passion for Deep Wild, an ancient passage, repeated — in one form or another — countless times, and ignored just as often.

I invite my readers to listen to our Stone-Age ancestors, the poets of the ’60s, a wolf that lingers, a Siberian shaman, a Chinese bicycle nomad, a lonely Tlingit warrior laying down to die in a storm, and the landscapes themselves. Because beyond the wondrous and seductive opulence of our oil-soaked, internet-crazed, consumer-oriented society, there lies a glorious and sustainable lifestyle that is based on Deep Wild as a foundation of solace, sanity, compassion, and hope.

It’ll be from 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM at the Underground lecture hall on campus. Hope to see some familiar faces there!

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Better, Bigger

In my interview with David Quammen, he said:

Ken Burns did his film series on America’s National Parks, and he did a very fine job; he calls it ‘America’s Best Idea.’ Even on the back of my book it says ‘America’s Best Idea.’ But I quarrel with that phrase. I don’t think it was ‘America’s Best Idea,’ there were some other very, very good ideas that America had like constitutional democracy; like government of the people, by the people, for the people. What Yellowstone is, is a good idea that has gotten much better and a big idea that has gotten much bigger. But it didn’t start as a great idea.

The following are some shots from Quammen’s event at Fact & Fiction last Friday night. The man is an excellent presenter, even with a technical glitch here and there. The discussion was entirely about Yellowstone, and I found it fascinating. If you ever get a chance to attend one of Quammen’s events, I urge you to do so.