Sunday, June 14, 2009

Not So Far Off the Grid

At age 51 -- my current age -- Dick Proenneke made a rather atypical decision. He didn't buy himself a fancy red sports car, start dating a young woman or join the Hair Club for Men. Dick decided to retire to the wilds of Alaska. Over the next 30 years, he lived alone in a cabin he built with his own muscle and basic hand tools in a remote section of southwestern Alaska (now within the boundaries of Lake Clark National Park & Reserve).

He lived in an area with no roads, no electricity, no running water, no human neighbors and no Wi-Fi. The nearest town was Port Alsworth, 40 miles away as the crow flies. He resided on the shores of a pristine lake and lived by a motto that the area would be no worse off due to his presence. He was a master recycler and took only from the land what he could give back.

Dick filmed a good deal of his life in this primitive setting and a film, "Alone in the Wilderness" is often shown on PBS. He also kept years of journals that were later used in two books, one of which I'm reading now.

It's quite easy to view his later years in awe. Just the thought of a man hewing his own life in the wilds -- far away from the big city lights -- can cause many of us to wax poetically. In reality, however, Proenneke didn't live as far off the grid as it first appears.

Once per month or so, a friendly area bush pilot flew in supplies. Dick regularly had in his cupboards bacon, eggs, fresh vegetables and fruits, and other assorted foods of modern society. He regularly ordered replacement tools from the Sears catalog. For a few weeks each year he'd visit friends in the Port Alsworth area and even made several trips to the lower 48 to see family. So, while he was farther off the grid than most of us will ever be, the grid made his life possible in his wilderness home.

Be that as it may, we can each learn a lesson from the Dick Proenneke's of the world. If we could each shut down our computers and cell phones for one day per week or adopt some of the sustainable habits that became second-nature to Dick, we would find that we could be much easier on the earth and rediscover our own self-reliance. In essence, even within the confines of this modern world, we could live our lives more in step with nature.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are unmoderated, so you can write whatever you want.