This first of four books by noted author and wildlife ecologist Anne LaBastille is an autobiographical account of life in a “Thoreau-style cabin in the woods”. It is steeped in independence and solitude and in the peace and beauty of the Adirondack Mountains.
The book begins with LaBastille building her own log cabin on Black Bear Lake in Adirondack Park (circa 1965). Descriptions of cabin construction and of the practicalities of a rustic life—gathering dead birch for firewood, sourcing an indoor water supply, and securing oneself against frostbite and trespassers—are educational and engaging and underline the author’s self-reliance and resilience.
In addition to anecdotes about her work as an ecology consultant, writer, and photographer, LaBastille provides interesting facts on the history and geography of the Adirondack region—its geology, river systems, and lakes, and the creation of the “forever wild” Adirondack Forest Preserve.
The strength of the book lies undoubtedly in LaBastille’s ability to transport readers to the Adirondack wilderness through vivid, magical descriptions: the fluid swaying of towering white pines, the dazzle of sunlight on frozen lakes, the chorus of Canada geese flying south for the winter. The narrative is peppered with such imagery, reflecting LaBastille’s deep affection for nature, which forms the foundation for her remarkable life in the wild.
ROMA SUBRAMANIAN is a science and technology journalism graduate student at Texas A&M University.
During the Cultural Revolution in China, the government sends Chen Zhen, a student from Beijing, to live as a shepherd in the Olonbulag plain in Inner Mongolia.
At first, Chen finds life away from civilization hard to bear—the long days of exhausting work, the loneliness, the heat and mosquitoes in the summer, and the cold and starvation in the winter.
But even worse than all that is his fear of the Mongolian wolf, the animal considered by the locals to be a bloodthirsty enemy but also a divine protector of the natural balance on the grassland. Chen soon develops a fascination for the locals’ way of life and their struggle to live in harmony with nature, regardless of the hardships. However, to become a real Mongolian, he has to overcome his fear of the wolf. That is why he steals a wolf cub and tries to domesticate it despite the strong disapproval of the local elders.
In the meantime, progress arrives on the plain with vehicles, machines, and guns and makes everyone aware there are more frightening things than wolves.
This beautiful story about struggle and friendship between man and nature makes us wonder how much of the natural balance we ourselves have sacrificed for the sake of our comfort and luxury and whether that comfort and luxury have brought us real purpose in life.
ANTONIJA PAIĆ is a manuscript editor at the Croatian Medical Journal in Zagreb, Croatia.