One Man's Alaska

The call of the wild

December 11, 2008

I woke up this morning with a bad case of The Call of the Wild, which, yes, is just like the book of the same name. It's that feeling of wanting to be "out there", in the snow, deep in a forest, or climbing a mountain. Just you and nature, mano a mano, one of those times when you have to "risk it all just to feel alive".

Once again, Heather Lende describes the feeling very well in her book If You Lived Here I'd Know Your Name:

On a good day, like today, Haines is often compared to heaven. But on a bad day, these mountains and the water below them are deadly.

I know that, but I still want to be up here. I keep climbing, not only because I can't back down without falling, but because I feel so good all of a sudden. I faced my fears and won. For now anyway. I want to sing -- but I don't dare because it takes all my concentration just to hold on to the hill.

Exhilarating, yes, that's the word I'm looking for. Others call it "the rush". It's the reason I missed so many school days back in high school, and a few times a year, it's still a call I feel very strongly.

Holling Vincoeur captures this feeling very well in the famous Northern Exposure episode about the "breaking of the ice", where he spends the whole show asking if someone will fight him, because he needs to feel teeth breaking when he smashes his fist into someone's mouth.

Oh, well. I better get to work.

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