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A Wilderness Dweller's Canada

by chris czajkowski, about 3 years ago

I am a Wilderness Dweller and have been for 35 years: before that I lived and travelled rurally - I have never resided in a town or city in my life. I am now 70 years old.

Even as a child, solitude has always been very important to me. In 1982 I walked for a day and a half into the British Columbia wilderness and built my first log cabin. Friends told me I should write to Peter Gzowski's Morningside on CBC Radio as he was conducting a series of listeners' letters called: "Why I live where I live." I started: "I live 35 miles from a road and 75 miles from the nearest store. I built my house with logs cut from the forest...." I sent off these letters once a month, when I hiked out for mail, and they became the basis for my first book: Cabin at Singing River. (The letters were read by Sheilagh Rogers on the show; ironically, I could never hear them as I could not receive radio reception in the mountains.) Book #12 is now in the works. All are about my life in the wilderness. I have "retired" from locations that require an overnight hike or float plane to reach, but I am still a wilderness dweller by most peoples' standards - three and a half hours' drive from the nearest bank, supermarket or traffic light; 4 km from a ploughed road - I must plough my own bush track myself. Last night it snowed 12 cm and I started the day by brushing snow off the solar panels and knocking more snow off the arm and dish that I need to receive the Internet by satellite. Otherwise I would not be able to submit this story.

Throughout all these endeavours I have lived alone. During my travels and early years in the bush (which were of course without the Internet) I kept journals. In this, I feel a kinship with explorers of all ilk. Like them, I felt it necessary to write down events. However, I think there is more to journal keeping than just recording when one leads a solitary life. Part of it is the necessity to communicate - to show off, maybe - it beats talking to oneself. Many explorers might have travelled with a crew, but socially they were often of a different class; Captain Fitzroy, for instance, advertised for a companion for his months at sea with whom he could converse intellectually - the companion that he eventually chose was Charles Darwin.

There is an awful lot of dross to wade through in my journals to dredge up something interesting, but there is still a plethora of nuggets of feelings and observations that I had forgotten. Solitude is a vastly different experience when one has the Internet; now I blog and journalling has fallen by the wayside. The blog posts are a record of sorts, but by working them up to go on line, I am publishing material that is already edited for an audience. By no longer scribbling long episodes of daily routine, often by candlelight, many fascinating insights and details will lost forever.

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