Friday, July 20, 2012

On the Library Table: Two Winters in a Tipi: My Search for the Soul of the Forest,
by Mark Warren

On a summer night many years ago, Mark Warren and his canine companion Elly were sleeping outside when lightening struck their farmhouse miles away, burning it to the ground and reducing everything in it to ash including the draft of his first novel and reams of original musical compositions.  For a brief time he was overcome by his loss, and then an exhilarating sense of liberation and freedom took over.

Friends provided Mark with a tent as temporary lodgings, but the structure deteriorated within a short time, and he decided to erect a traditional tipi and live in it until he had the finances in place to realize his dream of starting a wilderness school, Medicine Bow, in the mountains of North Georgia.  More permanent living arrangements could come later.

So began an adventure in outdoor living that lasted two years and brought the thoughtful tipi dweller into a rooted, ecstatic, bone deep and intimate relationship with the hills and rivers and trees of his chosen place. 

If you have ever wanted to build a tipi, you will probably learn almost everything you need to know in this book, but it is much more than a treatise on the theory and practice of building traditional Plains Indian dwellings.  As a field naturalist, a lifelong wilderness lover and a student of primitive earth lore, Mark was wonderfully equipped to undertake the journey he had chosen, and he was completely open to the adventures ahead of him.  Living in a tipi, he found himself merging seamlessly with the world beyond his doorway, and he reveled in the wonders that he encountered everywhere.  His love of wild places and his passionate commitment to them sings through every word in his book - there could be no more ardent advocate for our magnificent planet and its untrammeled places.

If you only get through a few books this year, for heaven's sake, make this one of them. Read it because it holds the words of someone who knows and loves this planet and its wild places with every fiber of his being.  Read it because it is lyrical and poetic and a wonder from the first page to the last.  Read it simply because it is a glorious read.  I shall be reading it again myself, because I have only just begun to scratch the surface of its earthy wisdom and its eloquent message - that we can indeed return to the land, and it is waiting for us to do so.


Guy said...

Hi Cate

I lived in a tipi for three months as part of an archaeology field school ( in summer )when I first came to Alberta. It was an interesting experience and I will try to pick this book up to see what he has to say. You certainly are much more a part of the environment than even staying in a tent.


Carolyn H said...

Thanks for the book tip! I lived in a tent for 7.5 months while backpacking many years ago. I never quite recovered and even today live in a cabin in the woods. I never quite returned to the "civilized" life.

Mystic Meandering said...

I have goosebumps just reading your post *about* the book :) Although I am not good at "roughing" it - I flunked camping in Girl Scouts :) - just kidding. :) I am lured by his subtitle: My Search for the Soul of the Forest... Must be the Mystic in me, finding the "soul" of anything intrigues me...