view from the hill

A look at the elements and events that come into view from where I'm standing...
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... the stuff that matters in this life. Some flicker and are gone in a matter of hours
only to live in memory, others become life long travelling companions, never far from reach.

Monday, August 22, 2005

The Saddlebag

So, I've completed another map in the desert. I'm more familiar with the territory, I've glimpsed into the lives of fellow travellers, but I still feel lost.

sbagThe Saddlebag by Rahiyyih Nakhjavani, is a small jewel of a book. Set in 19th century Arabia on the pilgrim road between Mecca and Medina, it tells a tale of nine travellers and how a mysterious saddlebag has profound effects on each of their lives. Nakhjavani 's language is achingly beautiful, fable-like and archetypal. In each of the nine chapters we meet the Thief, the Bride, the Chieftain, Moneychanger, Slave, Pilgrim, Priest, Dervish and the Corpse, and with each life that's unfolded, a larger picture begins to emerge. But it's all so mysterious. It's a mirage painted on shifting sands.

The enigmatic saddlebag uproots each of their lives, transforming their perceptions of what they hold to be true. Though they are all seekers, they are sure of their own paths. Set in the land of Islam under the Ottoman Empire, the characters carry with them the faiths of Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, animism, and atheism. And the central event of a bandit raid during a violent sandstorm is viewed through the differing perspectives of these nine believers and non-believers.

But it's the contents of the saddlebag that cracks open each life, right at the moment of death in some cases. The Chieftain changes his violent ways and transforms his life. The Priest, who was so filled with certainty, is left in doubt. There's something in there about the perfume of writing, the power of the written word - the doctrine of love from the Mother Book of life.

Though I'm at a bit of a loss as to what it all means. It's all veiled in mystery. I feel I should've read its poetry slower and with less distractions. It's a book I could see returning to again and again. When I finished, I turned back to page one and did start again, but it's since remained closed. I need some time to digest while it sinks in. I could see this book accompanying me on camping trips to the Sierras.

Maybe the saddlebag introduces you to your opposite, reunites you with your second half, the whole, you-complete-me thing, and all that. It reveals to us the truth that we most need to hear. Maybe.

Maybe I need better maps. Maybe I need to reach into the saddlebag and see what profound change it brings.


Check it out here at Amazon.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Tintern Abbey

There's something about the ruins of a Cistercian abbey that's just so damn cool. It's always a surprise to round a corner in the Wye River valley (or wherever these things lurk) and find a grand ruin nestled up against the hill. It's out of place, the skeleton of a cathedral with it's stained glass missing, the roof gone, and it's columns exposed to the elements. It's like stumbling upon a grazing dinosaur.

turnerWordsworth knew this allure. So did Turner. They captured the appeal and mystery of a ruin as the shabby-chic of the 1790s. These colossal heaps of vaulted stone became living poems. They whisper of a secluded past, and of violent ends when kings invented divorce and changed the religions of countries. They're the scar of historical whiplash, and the residue of a forced extinction. The destruction of the Cistercian abbeys left them to wander in the wilderness, while their C-of-E brethren thrived in the city centres.

Cathedrals exist in every town in England. They literally reach for the heavens with their spires, and are surrounded by a skirt of high-street shops and houses. They're majestic places that house the bones of kings and the flags of wars. These cathedrals are structured and solid tomes. They're air-tight and polished, assured in their righteousness. A well-ordered beast that demands respect in its silent authority. Religion carved in stone.

But a ruined abbey, that's an entirely different animal.

tintern2Abbeys have seen weather, their bones exposed to doubt. They're left out to pasture, a bit lonely and forgotten, a blind Gloucester wandering the heath.

But their lack of certainty also opens them to the Book of Life. There's room for questions. Scents of otherness flow freely around their columns. Swifts dart in and out high overhead, and clouds glide silently, framed by their stone webbing. It's a sketch of a mystery. An elusive poem of the past. They invite curiosity and compassion.

A cathedral has majesty and undeniable power, but give me an abbey exposed to the elements any day of the week. To feel the grass between your toes while held gently in a loose enclosure of stone - it's religion with the roof off. And the view is much better.

tintern1

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Silver City

silvercitySaw John Sayles' latest, Silver City this weekend. It's a skewering of George W and the cronies and dirty dealings that shoved him into public office. Chris Cooper plays a dim-wit gubernatorial candidate who's a complete tool of big business and his father's interests. Richard Dreyfuss is in the Carl Rove roll, winning at any cost. The movie covers everything from environmental degradation, to illegal immigration, dirty politics, and the flaccid media. It's good stuff, all woven together to paint a realistic picture of the current state of the good ol' US of A.

Sayles wanted to get this out in a hurry before the last US election. It's only just now reaching England almost a year later, so it's a bit odd seeing this story after the damage has been done.

John Sayles is no Michael Moore. He's so independent, and so far under the radar that his films are more like private paintings than anything designed to steer public opinion. He's been making truly independent movies for years, writing, directing and editing all his films. He's not the greatest filmmaker out there, but I have a soft spot for Sayles. His actors may sound a little wooden at times, his production values are never all that high. But his talents lie in weaving together ensemble casts to tell complex stories. There's no one else doing what he's doing.

I allow him his faults because I admire what he aspires to, and what he represents for independent cinema.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Proms 42

arches
Back at the Proms hanging out with our good friend Pyotr Ilyich. Yep, I'm still on my Russian kick, and after the Proms show a couple weeks ago I was left wanting more. So, here it was, an entire evening of Tchaikovsky.

They started off with bits from the Nutcracker, which was a tad strange, seeing as it's August. For me this music calls up images of rich velvet dresses, men dancing in big fur hats, and the smell of peppermint candies and pine trees in the snow. It makes me want to go home, light a fire and sip some vodka. Still, it's a great score, so we'll take it any time of the year.

orchBut the main part of the night was Tchaikovsky's one-act opera Iolanta. It's based on a fairytale about a blind princess, who's been so sheltered she doesn't know she's blind. All her attendants have been forbidden to mention sight or light or vision. Of course, she gains her sight at the end when she meets the love of her life. Tiff thought the message was a bit lame, that if you just wish hard enough, you'll be able to see. But I don't think you can take these things literally. It's a fairytale. It's all metaphor and myth beamed straight out of the collective unconscious. It's about being blinded by misleading thought, and how it's impossible to conceal the notion of light. I thought it was brilliant.

singOriginally Iolanta was designed to be preformed on the same night as the Nutcracker, so here they were, together again. I'd never seen a Russian opera before so that was a treat. Russian is a such a majestic language. There's strength there without all the spitting out consonants like the Germans do. They had 10 main parts all standing at the front of the stage, as well as a choir in back of the orchestra. Our seats were way up high on the side, so we didn't get the best sound, but still it was great stuff.

Pass the caviar, and let's see what else is coming up in the schedule.

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Sunday, August 14, 2005

Maps or Family Trees? notes on bookstore browsing

I realized the other day as I was wandering from one author to another in my circuit of the usual suspects, that I prefer books with maps to those with family trees. I guess there's something about journeys through space as opposed to journeys through time that's more tangible to me.

adventuresIn my browsing I've been leaning towards Latin America for a while now, and before this latest stint in London, I was sure our next big trip would be Central or South America. I've had The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll, by Alvaro Mutis by my bedside for a few years, occasionally checking in with the poor Gaviero in his travels. And I've found myself leafing through Fuentes, Llosa and Allende each time I'm in a bookshop. These voices are waiting for me to find them, and I know someday I'll go where they lead. But it was when I picked up – for the thousandth time – One Hundred Years of Solitude, that I realized the thing about maps and trees. So, I put the book down again – for the thousand and first time.

bagI'm still in a Middle Eastern frame of mind lately after finishing the Alexander Trilogy, and Shantaram. I've re-found the Saddlebag, by Rahiyyih Nakhjavani, and I've read some of the Clash of Fundamentalisms by Tariq Ali.

So the trees of the jungle will have to wait a while longer while I find my way out of the maps in the desert.


scheherI left the bookstore with Scheherazade, by Anthony O'Neill - a book with a map of ancient Baghdad inside the front cover.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Alexander Trilogy

My mother once confessed to me that she named me after Alexander the Great. My brother she named after Richard the Lion Heart. She must have expected great things from us. Mom said it was better to name us after historical figures than after family relations who we might someday meet and not like. There's just too many complications with the living apparently. So, in trying to avoid any undo complications, or the mantle of expectations, I was named after the greatest military general of all time. The boy King who conquered two-thirds of the known world by the time he was 30. No pressure there.

alex1But despite the weight that this name caries with it, I've never known all that much about Alexander the Great. I've got a couple books back in LA that I've dipped into, but for whatever reason, his life has always seemed foreign and intimidating. So, when I found Alexander: Child of a Dream by Valerio Massimo Manfredi, it was like shining light into the past. This is a novel that really takes you in to Alexander's life, we see his friends, his fears and his ambitions. Better yet, it's the first book in a trilogy. I could finally get to know my namesake in a way that's freed from dusty old history books.

The most I'd known about this guy before I read these books was spotty to say the least. But when I dove into these books, all the legends came to life. We get to know his childhood friends who later become his trusted generals. We see him taming the wild horse Becephalus, who was afraid of his own shadow. We're with him when he unites the tribes of Macedonia and Greece, and sets out to conquer the Near East.

alex2In book two, Alexander: The Sands of Ammon, he becomes more driven by the belief in his own divinity, and he just about convinces the rest of his army that he's a descendent of the gods. There's political intrigue and attempted assassinations, glory and near mutinies. We're there as the army enters Babylon when it was the greatest city in the world. We see the military genius that sacked Tyre cross the River Oxus, found Alexandria in Egypt, and be named pharaoh.

And author Manfredi has done some serious homework. He's a historian, journalist, and Professor of Classical Archaeology at the University of Milan. He knows his stuff. He's been to many of the ancient battle sites and the cities that Alexander founded on his expeditions. The novels are infused with detail of what it must have been like to lead an army from the front through unknown lands. I was constantly amazed at the scale of what it takes to feed and move an army of thousands that was more like a travelling city - with doctors, cooks, entertainers, animals, wives and slaves. It was a huge entourage that snaked its way across the Near East when no one had dreamed of doing such a thing before.

I read the first book in the trilogy when we were in New York, the second one in LA, and now part three has followed me here to London, where I've finally finished. I feel like I've lived through the mystery surrounding the murder of Alexander's father, King Phillip. I've also felt the constant threat to Alexander's legitimacy to the throne because his mother was only half-Macedonian.

Earlier this year, I caught some of Michael Wood's In the Footsteps of Alexander, on TV. Wood is a bit of an Indiana Jones wanna-be, dressed in his leather jacket, riding in a jeep across the desert sands to all the places Alexander's army travelled. But he does tell the ancient story well. It's one thing to read a great book about Alexander, but to see the actual deserts, mountains and rivers that he crossed is another thing entirely. It's amazing that 2,300 years after Alexander's death, everywhere this TV crew went, they found people with stories to tell, the legends passed down from generation to generation about what Alexander was like when he came through their village. There's a light in their eyes because somewhere in their family's past they have a connection to this mythical man.

It's also amazing to see wars still being fought in the same regions, soldiers still crossing the Tigris or marching through the mountains of Afghanistan. Some things never change.

alex3The last book in the trilogy, Alexander: The Ends of the Earth, is where things start to unravel for the boy King. He wants to push on into India, but his men are dropping like flies. It also doesn't sit well with the soldiers that their leader is adopting the dress and customs of Persia. Alexander may have been a bit ahead of his time. When he conquered lands, he would return the local king to power, to rule in the army's wake. He arranged the marriage of 10,000 of his soldiers to Persian wives in order to solidify peace between two ancient empires. He really was after a new kind of world. But his faithful Macedonian warriors don't appreciate the honoured place that the newly-conquered soldiers occupy.

Still, he manages to lead his men down the Indus and across the burning deserts of the Persian Gulf towards home.

But Alexander dies without an heir, even while he was planning new expeditions to explore Arabia. Power struggles break out between his surviving generals. No one possessed the charisma to lead that Alexander once had, and within a generation all their conquests were in tatters.

He really was one of a kind, and I feel I know the man better because of these novels. Sometimes he tried to unite cultures, other times he left cities in ashes. His drive, often blind, left plenty of enemies in his wake, but he always looked to the horizon. There were always more lands to explore.

Maybe it's best he didn't have a son. Maybe it had to end this way. A name is a powerful thing, and there's no escaping the mantle of expectation, whether from the living or the dead … Alexander is a tough name to live up to. But in my own case, maybe I should cut myself some slack. After all, I'm not the son of a king, and my teacher at school wasn't Aristotle. My mom was just trying to do a nice thing. Plus, I've already lived longer than my namesake. But you never know, I might still end up with my face on a coin.

Check them out here at Amazon.

Friday, August 12, 2005

The Snows of Kilimanjaro

Just read this short story by Hemingway in the bookstore this evening. A friend had mentioned it in a blog with a not-so-flowering review. All I can say is… are you reading the same book? I was in tears before the end. This is a tragic story of a complex man on his death bed, looking back on a life lived.

kilimanjaroHarry is a writer on safari in Africa, suffering an advanced case of gangrene brought on by a careless scratch. His wife and a servant are by his side, but their vehicle is broken down, and they have no way to get to a hospital. It's a fictional self portrait as Harry looks back on a life in Paris, skiing in the Alps, and dusty wars in Spain, the relationships he's had, and the truth and lies he's lived. Hemingway is brutal in his self-assessment. There's countless small episodes witnessed that he has tucked away in his memories. This writer has been hanging on to gems, waiting until he feels he's honed his talent enough to put them into words. As the hours pass with no sign of a rescue plane, he realizes that all these stories will be lost with him.

Now he would never write the things that he had saved to write until he knew enough to write them well. Well, he would not have to fail at trying to write them either. Maybe you could never write them, and that was why you put them off and delayed the starting. Well he would never know, now.

Hemingway is a master of polishing a single sentence down to its bare essentials. There were times when the words would leap off the page and slam me in the heart. I wasn't ready for the power of some of these thoughts. There's honest regret, a truthful self disgust and stubborn selfishness in this man, and he knows how to express it.

He describes the cold feeling of death lurking just beyond the light of the camp. It approaches and stands at the foot of his cot, then climbs up onto his chest and presses the breath out of him. I was holding my own breath while reading this. All the while his devoted wife is by his side, caring for him even while he spills abuse at her, unpacking his life before he heads off onto his final journey. It's devastating. I really cared about this guy. I wanted the plane to get there and carry him to safety.

It's great stuff, and I can't wait get in to some of the other short stories I have on my shelf. I want to meet this voice again on the page. There's a sparse strength there, a quiet confidence, but also an unblinking assessment of vulnerability. There's a life lived in every sentence.

Check it out here at Amazon.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Island

I can't believe that I like a Michael Bay movie more than Tiff did. I actually enjoyed this overblown crash. It's big and it's loud and it's shot like a two hour commercial, but at least there's no Aerosmith soundtrack.

islandIt's about cloning for spare parts, our culture's desperate cling to youth, and whether or not these beings have souls. But, this being Michael Bay, that's all secondary to the car chases. Of course, the movie becomes spot the reference (or homage, or rip off) pretty quick. There's shots and concepts lifted from THX, Logan's Run, Heat, The Matrix, and of course, the most visually quoted movie of all time, Blade Runner. When Steve Buscemi is telling Scarlett Johansson about dreams, it's almost word for word from Ridley's movie. I know it's hard to be original when it comes to this kind of thing, but there are ideas here, there's some interesting issues buried under all the rubble and collateral damage.

It is cool to look at, and the visuals are pretty great. But, as always with the guy who brought us The Rock, and Pearl Harbor, the action goes way over the top. He just doesn't know where to stop. He needs a better editor.

It's when they arrived in LA and there were flying trains that the film lost all credibility for me. Public transportation in Los Angeles? Come on!

Still, I had fun. It's Bay's best movie yet. That's not saying a whole lot, but he's got a decent story with him, and despite his nature, he doesn't screw it up too much.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Way of a Ship: a Square-Rigger in the Last Days of Sail

I'm on a roll. I'm finishing books like there's no tomorrow. You may think I have way too much time on my hands, but the truth is that this one has been waiting to be finished for months now, becalmed in the Horse Latitudes of my reading habits, my bookmark poised within sight of the end of the voyage.

Author Derek Lundy begins with a photo of his great great uncle Benjamin, who in 1885 made the voyage form Ireland to the West Coast of America, around Cape Horn. Inspired by the image of his relative staring back at him from the past, Lundy sets out to find out more about him, more about his huge leap into the unknown and the harrowing journey that brought him to a new continent.

It was quite a journey, when you think about it. Immigrants to North America, including members of my own family, did it all the time – it was the quintessential immigrant experience – and that made it seem commonplace. But what an alchemy! The voyage away from the confines of European class, accent, religion, imperial diktat and the claustrophobic "close-togetherness" of everything to the space and light of the New World, its even-handed presentation of the possibility of success and failure. It was like the first true deep breath of a person's life.

woasLundy recreates the voyage by ship across the Atlantic, around the Horn, and into the Pacific, by piecing together a story based on ship's logs, the wisdom of Joseph Conrad and Herman Melville, and his own incredible knowledge of the sea and sailing. Along the way he describes the "Cape Horn breed," the men who worked the beautiful, widow-making deep-sea sailing ships in their dying days. This was in the late 1800s, coal-driven steam ships were making their appearance, driving out the romanticism of an earlier age and replacing it with a soulless commerce. Lundy weaves a beautiful nostalgia for an age that pitted men against a vast sea, relying on their reading of the elements and their hard-won skills in order to survive.

For a long time I've seen parallels between tall ship voyages, and life on a film set. Whenever I start on a new show, and especially when on location, I imagine our small crew, in charge of expensive cargo, sent out to venture across scantly charted waters. The director is our captain, the script writer our navigator. When I fill out my start papers, it's like signing the articles of agreement (though the food is much better on a film set).

The captain might have been lord of the ship at sea, but in a home port, he was painfully subject to the worries and whims of the owners of his command… No wonder captains mostly looked forward to getting clear of land; they went to sea like monarchs entering at last, and after endless trails, into their rightful dominion.

If that's not the relationship between a film director and the studio executives, I don't know what is.

So, I started this book as a guide to the structure of a film crew. I made notes in the margins as I read about the similarities between who's who on a ship and how that relates to a crew of filmmakers. The first mate is obviously the first AD, constantly at the crew, whipping them in to shape. There's grips and gaffers who scuttle up the rat lines and keep the day to day workings of this moveable machine running smoothly.

Shipboard life was marked, for example, by a mixture of strict hierarchy – the division between officers and men – and democracy – the brotherhood of seamen before the mast.

Everyone has their job, their own set of tasks, there are gang bosses, department heads, individual labourers, everyone knows their place. All the while the owners and studio executives, the investors of our venture remain in safe harbour ready to pass judgment on any mishap. I see the cargo, the treasure within the holds, as a combination of the acting talent, and the story being told. The entire voyage is designed to safely deliver this cargo intact when the passage comes to a close. Some movies sail in to harbour with flying colours, others have lost their cargo somewhere along the way, and sink at the box office. If all goes well, the reward is the opportunity to do it all again.

But, my personal reading-between-the-lines aside, Lundy's book is firmly rooted in 1885, and magnificently recreates the life of these sailors on their journey. We get to know each member of the crew, their personalities and fears. When Benjamin first climbs into the rigging, All around him was the web of the standing and running rigging, the shrouds – iron wire supporting the masts – and the lines, hundreds upon hundreds of them, that raised, furled, trimmed, checked, eased and tweaked the vessel's yards and sails. It was like being inside a loose-woven cocoon.

When it comes times to enter the Southern Ocean, the battle around the Horn begins and doesn't let up. Storm after storm hammers their ship relentlessly. Men are lost. You really get a terrifyingly clear picture of what it must've been like. The horrible food, the expendable nature of the men, the endless days in the freezing wind and rain with little or no sleep, and the final emergence into the Pacific, having survived such an ordeal.

All of this transcends a story about sailing a ship, and becomes something more encompassing. Lundy writes that the Horn became the archetype of the ancient struggle between man and the sea. The voyage becomes metaphor, and it's more than a mere set of skills that Benjamin gains along the way. If he could keep his head clear and his guts strong in the face of a Cape Stiff snorter, no one and nothing could bamboozle or intimidate him again. In rounding the Horn, he had got round himself as well.

Derek Lundy set out to give voice and history to the relation he saw in a fading photograph, while also taking us back to another time when men sailed the oceans. He has done this and much more. The Way of a Ship becomes an epic story of reinvention of self, and a new life won. There is a Cape Horn for every man, says Melville, and this book begs the questions of what our own personal Cape Horn may be, and if we've got round ourselves in this life yet.

Check it out here at Amazon.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Alaskan Dog-Racing

winterdanceThe cover of this book looked up at me with those wolf eyes as if pleading to come home with me. Or was it threatening? It's hard to tell sometimes what's in a dog's eyes. But this book definitely tugged on the love I found this last winter when Tiff and I went dog sledding in northern Sweden. It's a magical sensation being pulled along by half-wild animals through an arctic forest. I discovered an unexpected love for these animals then, and Gary Paulsen, author of Winterdance, describes a similar epiphany.

Paulsen recounts how his love for dogs and running teams grew over time. He fell into dog sledding while he and his wife were living in northern Minnesota. He would string traps deep in the woods, and in the winter a sled and a team of dogs was the best way to travel. It was on those long days out that he began to see his team not as mere transportation, but as fellow beings on this Earth with personalities and moods. There's a wonderful shift he describes when he stops thinking in terms of "my dogs", and starts thinking in terms of "we". He starts thinking more like a dog, becoming one of them.

As his love grows he sets his eyes on Alaska and the famed Iditarod race held each March. The Iditarod is an epic race that starts in downtown Anchorage and zigzags north east for the next 1,180 miles to Nome. In between there's a sleep-deprived hallucinogenic slog through 95 miles of brush and fallen trees known as the Burn, a three day battle up the frozen Yukon river in -60º weather, and a trek across the wind swept sea ice of Norton Sound where entire teams have been know to break through and sink like a stone, never to be seen again. It's dazzling, brutal, hair-raising, and hilarious, and I raced through this book like I was trying to finish before my stamina ran out.

There's some laugh-out-loud passages early on when Paulsen is training with his new dogs in the forests of Minnesota. He can't wait for the first snow of the season, so he rigs up various wheeled contraptions that the dogs succeed in completely trashing within minutes of leaving the yard. Paulson is battered and bruised, bitten, thrashed and humiliated. He finally realizes the dogs are strong enough to pull him in a beat up old Ford with the engine missing (but with workable brakes).

"… It wasn't just that they wanted to run – there simply wasn't anything else for them. Everything they were, all the ages since their time began, the instincts of countless eons of wolves coursing after herds of bison and caribou were still there, caught in genetic strands, and they came to the fore and the dogs went berserk with it." He sets off on the fire roads through the woods in his new jalopy for more dog bonding and hard-won life lessons.

Then when the time comes, he's off to The North.

I just had no idea at the sheer scale of the Iditarod. You realize early on that it's not a race of man (and woman) against the elements, it's definitely a dog's race. There are mandatory drug test for the dogs before the race begins. Vets and health checks at each of the 18 check points along the way. The mushers are required to carry a varied diet and extra food for each animal. They need spare booties, foot ointment, new harnesses, and regular required rest and water breaks. All for the dogs. There are no such regulations regarding the humans. The dogs are cared for way better than the mushers ever are. The people are just along for the ride.

The Iditarod is a vast race through a vast landscape. Paulsen describes sleep deprivation, near death experiences, and incredible beauty. He somehow manages to stay more or less on the right path, occasionally encountering other teams, but for the most part it's a solitary adventure. Many of his fellow racers describe mystical experiences out there in the wild.

At one check point…

"Here, just sign…" She held the clipboard out again, guided my hand with the pen, and I signed.
"Thank you," I said.
"Do you like the race so far?"
I looked at her, trying to find sarcasm, but she was serious; she really wanted to know. And I thought of how to answer her. I had gotten lost, been run over by a moose, watched a dog get killed, seen a man cry, dragged over a third of the teams off on the wrong trail, and been absolutely hammered by beauty while all this was happening. (It was, I would find out later, essentially a normal Iditarod day – perhaps a bit calmer than most.) I opened my mouth.
"I…"
Nothing came. She patted my arm and nodded. "I understand. It's so early in the race. There'll be more later to talk about…"
And she left me before I could tell her that I thought my whole life had changed, that my basic understanding of values had changed, that I wasn't sure if I would ever recover, that I had seen god and he was a dog-man and that nothing, ever, would be the same for me again, and it was only the first true checkpoint of the race.
I had come just one hundred miles.

Paulsen's grip of his former life slips away the further into Alaska he gets with his team. Any sort of "normal" life becomes alien to him. I felt a miniscule piece of this on our two days sledding in Sweden, and I can't wait to get out there again and feel the pull. I'm not ready to sell the farm just yet, so in the meantime, Winterdance is a wonderful foray back into the contagious addiction of running with wolves.

Check it out here at Amazon.