On the wild edge In search of a natural life

David Petersen, 1946-

Book - 2005

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Subjects
Published
New York : Henry Holt 2005.
Edition
1st ed
Language
English
Physical Description
xx, 250 p.
ISBN
0805047743
Main Author
David Petersen, 1946- (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Although he might bristle at such a comparison, like Thoreau, Petersen is a man who chooses to "live deliberately." For him, this means a nearly self-sustaining existence high in the Colorado Rockies. He built his own home, hunts for his own food, walks gently through the forest, leaves little trace of himself upon the land. Taking the reader through one year of his life, Petersen squeezes the essence out of each season in a dialogue that embraces both the metaphorical and practical aspects of living in the midst of nature's rapidly diminishing bounty. One comes to learn as much about the life cycles of the elk and bear that were the mountains' earliest and, he hopes, eternal residents as about Petersen himself. Nestled within his compelling and frequently humorous recollections of near-death exploits and mundane daily rituals, Petersen eloquently communicates his deeply held environmental ethos. Honest, outspoken, and unabashedly conscientious, Petersen is a passionate advocate for the responsible stewardship of the land and its inhabitants. ((Reviewed February 15, 2005)) Copyright 2005 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

A former marine and motorcycle enthusiast, Petersen (Writing Naturally) knew what it was to live on the edge even before he left the comforts of middle-class urban living for the Colorado wilderness several years ago. He lives and writes in the cabin he built on the edge of a mountain inhabited by bear, wapiti, and wild turkey. In this work, he discusses the life that he and his wife chose-living simply off the land by their own wits, unencumbered by debt and material possessions. He rails against the emptiness of consumer society; praises the simple pleasures of nature, family, and friends; and laments a world of unchecked, mindless development. Readers are educated about the fascinating aspects of the flora and fauna he observes on his daily hikes and topics as diverse as ethical hunting, animal intelligence, and animism. Opinionated and iconoclastic, Petersen writes with humor and a well-honed craft that will delight fans of Edward Abbey. Highly recommended for public libraries and academic libraries with nature collections.-Maureen J. Delaney-Lehman, Lake Superior State Univ. Lib., Sault Ste. Marie, MI Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

By eschewing such "distractions" as jobs, money and children, Petersen (Among the Elk; The Nearby Faraway; etc.) and his wife embraced a simple life on the edge of the wilderness in the Colorado Rockies, where the enduring rhythms of nature shape each day. In this extended meditation on that life, Petersen's prose can be overwrought ("Still hoping for a glimpse of the hawk,... I... lifted my face skyward in desperate faith, likesome crippled, crawling pilgrim") and cranky ("What was once a middle-class paradise... has been reduced to just another rich person's playground of choppity-chop subdivisions and fenced-in ranchettes littered with a nauseating profundity of tacky trailer houses at one extreme, ostentatious and obscenely wasteful trophy homes at the other"). But he also writes movingly of the things he loves: his wife and dogs, the mountains, the grizzlies he camps among every summer and the elk he hunts for food ("the humane killing of a fairly and honorably outwitted prey is precisely the opposite of slaughter.... Does the wolf not love the caribou? And does she not, even so, undertake her daily hunts with enthusiasm and joy?"). While this book will not bump classics like Walden, A Sand County Almanac or Silent Spring off the environmental bookshelf, its mix of strong opinions and vibrant personality give it unique appeal. Agent, Carl Brandt. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A naturalist and editor for Mother Earth News recounts his family's twenty-five-year residence in a hand-built mountain cabin in southwestern Colorado, describing the region's seasonal renewals, his witness to its vast wildlife, and his experiences of becoming attuned to the environment. 35,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

The author describes the natural history of his home in the Colorado Rockies through all four seasons, offering a glimpse at his daily rituals and the flora and fauna of the wilderness.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Twenty-five years ago David Petersen and his wife, Caroline, pulled up stakes, trading Laguna Beach, California, for a snug hand-built cabin in the wilderness. Today he knows that mountain land as intimately as anyone has ever known his family, his lover, or his own true self. He has become so attuned to his environment, as this memoir reveals, that when a dead twig snaps, he knows what stepped on it, how much it weighed, and what its intentions were.Petersen conflates a quarter century into the adventures of four high-country seasons, tracking the rigors of survival from the snowmelt that announces the arrival of spring to the decline and death of autumn and winter that will establish the fertile ground needed for next year's rebirth. The reciprocity of nature is apparent: the same impulse that governs the flight of elk or bear also governs the predator's (including our species') impulse of pursuit.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

A naturalist captures the beauty and capriciousness of nature as he reflects on twenty-five years of life on a mountainside in southwestern ColoradoTwenty-five years ago David Petersen and his wife, Caroline, pulled up stakes, trading Laguna Beach, California, for a snug hand-built cabin in the wilderness. Today he knows that mountain land as intimately as anyone has ever known his family, his lover, or his own true self. He has become so attuned to his environment, as this memoir demonstrates, that when a dead twig snaps, he knows what stepped on it, how much it weighs, and what its intentions are.The author conflates a quarter century into the adventures of four high-country seasons, tracking the rigors of survival from the snowmelt that announces the arrival of spring to the decline and death of autumn and winter that will establish the fertile ground needed for next spring's rebirth. Throughout each instance of personal history and story, Petersen illustrates the complete reciprocity of nature where the same impulse that governs the flight of elk or bear also governs the predator's impulse of pursuit.In the past we listened to Henry David Thoreau and Aldo Leopold; today it is Petersen's turn. A committed believer in Thoreau's dictum "in wildness is the preservation of the earth," Petersen's observations are lyrical, scientific, and from the heart. In this chaotic age, his clear, direct prose is rich with mystery and soul, his words a plea for the survival of the remnant wilderness that surrounds us.