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Kim’s Quotes

 The following are quotes from Kim’s books, many sent to him by admiring readers.

  “Words are magic; they come in boxes called books.”

Wild Nature

“Rivers don’t run straight; neither should roads.” VISIONS OF A WILD AMERICA, p.56

“Mountains, like revolutions and freshly baked bread and the best music, rise from the bottom up.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.148

“The greatest show on earth isn’t the circus, it’s wild nature, where every participant, large and small, deserves our deepest regard.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.134

“In the city we listen to respond; in the wilderness we listen to understand.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.249

“The land is made of stories. They color and texture everything.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.173

“Nature doesn’t lie. It might not tell you what you want to hear. It might be a brutal truth. But it is the truth.” JIMMY BLUEFEATHER, p.10

“And what is the purpose of the mighty mountain? To collect the tender snowflake. And the purpose of the snowflake? To build a glacier. And the purpose of the glacier? To carve the mountain and melt into a river that rounds the stone that sharpens the mind of the hand that holds it.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.148

“The night was moonless when the rain stopped and the stars had their way and we slept on shore with the sea-tossed shells and the tangled kelp and nothing seemed urgent because nothing was. Whales swam into our dreams then. I heard a spouting in the distance, a deep breathing through the fog.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.34

“This is why we need wildness: to give us stories and mystery and grace, a laugh in the night, a canvas upon which to paint our imagination. Stories keep us alive and more – they keep us heart strong and young.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p182

“The land has timbre, rhythm, harmony, and tone. And best of all, wisdom.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.249

“I know now, among friends in Denali, embraced by wild country, that love and companionship bring me my greatest joy, while open space and music make anything seem possible.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.150

“As every national park is a land of stories, every visit to a national park is a search for our place in that story, for the divine in each of us; it’s a search for something that might explain who we are and ought to be.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.186

“Travel through this country and move through more than geography, you move through time. Trace your finger over glacial striations in metamorphic rock. Stare into the fractured blue walls of the Ice Age, and you’ll find they’re not walls at all. They’re windows. I swear, sometimes I find myself wondering if glaciers, like crows, will once again fold an indigo wing over the land and steal the light.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.xiii

“I love this ice-cut coast. I love it for its storm-tossed, salt-bitten manners, and its resilience, how it puts on a dress of hemlock and spruce after glaciers have scoured it down to bedrock. I love it for how it sleeps in winter and pulses in summer and invites me to do the same. I love it for the chill of infinity it blows through me; how the rain fills my cup and I drink the sky. I love it the way a kid on a bicycle lets go of those handlebars and throws back his head, riding on faith.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.xiv

“Wilderness is on the map, but wildness resides in that most wondrous and mysterious chamber, the human heart. You can’t measure it any more than you can measure the music in a mountain stream, or the thunder of running caribou.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.212

“Nature wasn’t for us to rise above. It was to sink into; to sleep upon and go bootless, and in silent protest to walk the finest rugs and fanciest tile and leave our naked, muddy footprints as the signatures of new beginnings.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.79

“In wilderness you learned what was authentic and what was not. To ‘boot up’ meant to put on your books, not turn on your computer. A mouse was still a mouse. Software was warm socks. Hardware was your kayak. You slept on the ground until you were uncomfortable in a bed. You breathed fresh air until you suffocated indoors. You laughed from your toes and flew in your dreams. You found that you could sing the high notes; that true wealth was not a matter of adding to your possessions but of subtracting from the sum of your desires. You understood what was enough and what was too much and why the prophets went into the desert alone. You accepted impermanence, or at least you thought about it. You navigated without numbers. You regarded the powerful and large, but also the small and unheralded. You thought about relationships more than names; stories more than statistics.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.30

“I like poetry and stillness. I like pulling up survey stakes. I rejoice in living in Alaska not for what it can become but for what it is and has been for a very long time, a place where only glaciers do the excavating.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.159

“We could spend the rest of our lives studying nature, forever amazed.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.26

Wild Animals

“Bear or no bear, it’s not the bear itself but the possibility of seeing one that makes us see everything else in greater detail.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.145

“We could lose the bear, but only at the cost of losing the better parts of ourselves that make us wild, keen, strong.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.157

“It is a weak man, I believe, who shoots a bear and doesn’t eat it. A killer, not a hunter. It is a gentle man, a poet, who regards the bear around and within, the bear out the window and in the mirror, the bear that lives just over the rise and under the skin.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.157

“What always struck Keb in a photo of a fat man and a fish was the beauty and intelligence of the fish.” JIMMY BLUEFEATHER, p.183

“Protect the wild bear and the wilderness where it lives, and ask your children to do the same. Because if we lose the wilderness and the bear, a spirit will die, and a part of us will die with it.” IN DENALI, p.24

“Think of it. We speak of that which is bearable and unbearable. In acts of restraint and abstinence we speak of forbearance. We engage in horseplay and monkeyaround, but from bears we borrow our most precious acts. We bear witness, bear our young, and bear glad tidings. We see in bears a little too much of ourselves and take that familiarity as a threat on one hand, a consolation on the other. In moments of grace we regard bears not as followers but as shamans of the animal world, creatures from a spiritual dimension far richer and more ancient than our own. Every native culture in North America has myths and legends about the bear, many of them tributes to wisdom and strength.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.121

“Without wild animals moving to their own rhythms, Denali National Park would be a poor imitation of itself. It takes only one bear to fill a valley, one howl to texture the night, one track to color the imagination.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.186

“I don’t want a wolf to be my trophy or pet. I don’t want him as a friend. I want him to be my patient teacher, my magical, mysterious cousin on the tree of life, his branch not far from mine, nourished by the same sun and sky, made strong by the same wind and rain.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.234

Living and Dying

“Why is it that death for each of us comes either too early or too late?” JIMMY BLUEFEATHER, p.177

“Yes, I think about life and death and all that; I think about impermanence, but not for long.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.xvii

“The rich might have nicer coffins than the poor, but in the end they’re not aware of it and are no more comfortable.” JOHN MUIR AND THE ICE THAT STARTED A FIRE, p.192

“Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die.” JIMMY BLUEFEATHER, p.22

“More and more though, men died in the wreckage of their own lives, shadowed by false prophets, lost in the thumping, grinding world those same men created for reasons that didn’t seem so reasonable anymore.” JIMMY BLUEFEATHER, p.35

“If a messiah can be born in a manger, can’t an old man die in the forest, on a bed of moss? Or better, in a boat. In a canoe?” JIMMY BLUEFEATHER, p.36

“Babies are beautiful. Small children are magical. I wanted a child once. Part of me still does and always will.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.165

“Sometimes the only thing we see is the thing we’re most afraid of.” JIMMY BLUEFEATHER, p.30

“My high school reunions are beginning to look more like archaeological digs than social events.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.159

“It’s funny how dying is regarded in bad taste, despite the fact that ten out of ten people do it.” JIMMY BLUEFEATHER, p.160

“If only I could leave myself behind, the chatter in my head. Ration my rationality. Indulge in old-fashioned intuition.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.33

“Forget success. Be a healer, peacekeeper, storyteller. Eat homegrown carrots and potatoes. Sleep in a small cabin; let the mountains be your mansion.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.224

“Who needs magic when life itself is magical? Whales, burritos, bears, birds, butterflies, and newborn babies, this wet, spinning blue-green earth, a grand design of land and love and sea and sky, not a bad place to be.” JIMMY BLUEFEATHER, p.204

Love and Money

“Money, like the sun, offers great warmth and light. It also burns and blinds.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.xviii

“There will always be a good economic argument to overcrowd an experience until we redefine what a good economy is.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.xviii

“The environment is the economy.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.248

“There are many Alaskans who believe every job is an appropriate job, and hard work its own virtue, and nature the empty canvas on which they will write their superior legacy. There is nothing new in the way they think. Their forebears paved Manhattan and fenced Texas. Their frontier rhetoric is not a window, it’s a mirror. It confers upon them a sad absence of connectedness, and a tired appraisal of progress. On the finest day of spring they huddle indoors to plot another road, another pipeline, another clearcut and oil patch, while somewhere in Alaska chickadees sing, wolves howl, and a lone grizzly emerges onto the snowy tundra of a familiar place, roadless and pure for one more year, the only world she has ever known.” ALASKA LIGHT, p.77

“Money subverts democracy until the big guy builds his glass palace and the little guy throws a rock.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.150

“I almost forgot that people on Wall Street fill their lives with minutes. They buy and sell, and speak in sports metaphors – “hardball” and “full-court press” – and live behind bolted doors, and pay their therapists ten grand a year, and wonder why their kids are so preoccupied by money.” ALASKA LIGHT, p.26

“We like someone because; we love someone although.” JIMMY BLUEFEATHER, p.54

“If a greedy man could put all his money where his mouth is, stuff it all in there, then he couldn’t talk anymore and that would be a good thing.” JIMMY BLUEFEATHER, p.77

“I can’t take my money with me; it’s not true wealth anyway. My last fortune cookie told me so. True wealth is family, friends and place. True wealth, if you’ve ever paddled a kayak for six days in the rain, is watersong, bear tracks and dry socks.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.159-60

“It isn’t what we own that makes us rich, it’s what we give away.” JOHN MUIR AND THE ICE THAT STARTED A FIRE, p.174

“And who wrote the definitions of progress? Men in power. And what paved the way to power? Money.” JOHN MUIR AND THE ICE THAT STARTED A FIRE, p.173

“Only a fool idealizes poverty. But to think we can grow our economy forever, always on the back of nature. Madness.” JIMMY BLUEFEATHER, p.165

“It’s not unusual for a national park to have at its entrance a hungry commercial area. Every whale has its louse.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.25

“I’m still waiting for the monk at customer service who says, ‘Tell me if you need anything and I’ll tell you how to live without it.’” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.244

“Any student of natural history could see that nature was beautiful and brutal. Witness how the swallow skims the river and catches bugs on the wing, how the cougar takes down the deer, how the eagle snaps the duck. It’s a lethal, bloody affair. But none of these animals creates a machine to magnify their killing. None invent an economy that can never be satiated. None create corporations that at all coasts – the loss of dignity or even human life – must keep growing.” JOHN MUIR AND THE ICE THAT STARTED A FIRE, p.xiv

Politics and Paradox

“In a rush to create a stable environment, we put ourselves in stables.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.24

“We sat in the silence, centuries of silence. Whatever itinerary Richard and I had to begin with was forgotten. The urgency that once choreographed us was gone. Having lived by minutes most of our lives, we now lived by tides, traveling the laminar bare back of the sea before everybody else arrived, before the cruise ships, tour boats, and other kayakers whose hunger would be like ours. Escapees and emissaries of humankind, we were perpetrators and victims of our own paradox.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.34

“A man can get more easily drunk on freedom than he can get sober on restraint.” ALASKA LIGHT, p.13

“Remember, when you pull that security blanket up to your chin, don’t pull it over your eyes.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.76

“At what point in our pursuit of progress and addiction to growth do we lose more than we gain?” VISIONS OF A WILD AMERICA, p.63

“Most people in power see their world as they want it to be. They embrace whatever justifies their convictions, and ignore or condemn the rest. It’s been that way for a long time.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.196

“Make access easy and a place dies… Access becomes excess.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.224

“You hear a lot these days about risk analysis, cost-benefit analysis, the bottom line. In a world of regulatory affairs and environmental law, everything becomes a commodity, even human life. How then do we price the priceless?” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.227

“Security can be anesthetizing. Some people pursue it their entire lives and seem dead on their feet…. Obsessed with comfort, we even pad our coffins.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.227

“So much vitriol and polarity on television. So much rant radio. I had to turn it off. I wanted to be informed, not inflamed.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.237

“Does that which nurtures us in turn deserve our nurturing?” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.239

“Sacred cows make the best hamburger.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.164

“In order to arrive at where they are, the powerful have already done what you’re afraid they’re going to do. That which should expel them is what put them there.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.166

“Environmentalists are expected to avoid the rant and chant, the polemic and complaint. Let us stand before our burning home and whisper ‘fire.’ Let us hold hands and sing while nature unravels and oceans rise and disparity increases and democracy dies. All while the rich go about business as usual. This, too, is a recipe for collapse.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.225-26

Spirituality, Wonder, and Other Matters

“Every time it snows I receive a letter from God.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.151

“Who needs stained glass when you have a clearing storm? Who needs flying buttresses when you have sandhill cranes?” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.xii

“If we want to inhabit wonder, we’d better learn as many languages as we can. We’d better meditate on light and leaves and birds and salmon and rain. And whales of course, always whales.” JIMMY BLUEFEATHER, p.249

“The world is not ours to be mastered, only cared for. All in all, it’s a pretty good deal. This gift of guardianship.” JIMMY BLUEFEATHER, p. 249

“In the absence of the sacred, species become toys.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.154

“There are two tragedies in life: Not getting what you want, and getting it.” JIMMY BLUEFEATHER, p.22

“So much risk and imagination, it set him free. That’s it, isn’t it? We are most free when we are most at risk.” JIMMY BLUEFEATHER, p.80

“The beauty of chaos is that beyond a certain point we cannot predict things for the pure and lovely reason that they cannot be predicted. Chaos gives us mystery, and mystery gives us wonder – those little epiphanies when people find what they didn’t even know they were looking for. Don’t tell me where the next good camping spot is and I won’t sing for you the song of the hermit thrush.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.24

“True, I had yet to determine the meaning of determinism.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.24

“Religion has its place, of course. Though sadly, two thousand years of organized religion has largely failed to protect the wild Earth that nurtured us then and nurtures us still.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.186

“We are not human beings on a spiritual journey, we are spiritual beings on a human journey, born into our lives for one reason only: to seek the road that makes death a fulfillment.” JIMMY BLUEFEATHER, p.38

“And what do we gain if we reach Heaven and leave behind a spoiled Earth?” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.247

“Let us remember that hunter-gatherer cultures around the world have lived for thousands of years without changing their homes, certainly without plundering them. Let us remember that these people didn’t merely survive, they lived. They struggled but also prospered. They excelled at being most human: strong, smart, and acutely aware of everything around them. They lived robust, sensual lives and knew every bright star in the sky, every birdsong, every flower and animal track, every pattern of rain and wind on land and sea.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.197

“We are all descended from a long line of people who slept on the ground and dreamed good dreams, who made love under the sky and filled their lungs with each new day.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.197

“It’s better to touch a heart than to teach a fact.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.226

“If the land can heal and begin anew, can we too?” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.232

“To have something sacred requires sacrifice.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.168

“I like the notions of sacredness and restraint, and feel at times that compromise is the act of taking the object of our desire and cutting it in half again and again until it is no longer desirable.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.159

“Conservation is the brake on the wheel. Preservation is the sudden stop.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p. 167

“Experiment is not enough. Good science always requires experience, a deep knowingand sense of wonder that comes from being out there, barefoot in the meadow, alone on the ice, naked in the storm.” JOHN MUIR AND THE ICE THAT STARTED A FIRE, p.xv

“Some men get down on their knees out of faith. Others for flowers. Me? I find salvation in a saxifrage.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.24

“In church we learn what to think. It school we learn how to think. One is indoctrination, the other education. One requires obedience, the other experimentation; one faith, the other skepticism. In church we find an impressionable Sarah Palin; in science a wise Rachel Carson.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.118

Finding a Place, Making a Home

“I came here for the place, but stayed for the people. I stayed for the friendships, the warmth we find in the cold, the closeness we feel in the distance. I stayed because my friends stayed, and together we formed a community, a blanket, a family held together by stories about love and loss, risk and hope.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.xiv

“Wasn’t it enough to hear a wolf howl, to build a morning fire in the kitchen cookstove, to taste the first nagoonberry pie of summer, to carve a spoon from alder? Wasn’t it enough to feel the tide run beneath your boat, a boat you built with hand tools and great heart? JIMMY BLUEFEATHER, p.29

“Trees are living things and if done right, canoes are too.” JIMMY BLUEFEATHER, p.63

“In a time when we never have enough time, and our gadgets hoodwink us into thinking we are many places at once, it’s nice to fully inhabit once place at one moment, right here and now, off-grid and off-line, hyper-connected to the present. That’s why it’s call a ‘present.’ That’s why we have national parks and open spaces.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.134

“A beautiful madness, California. Could they still slow dance after eating all that fast food?” JIMMY BLUEFEATHER, p.11

“Denali National Park is a Walden Pond; a place to practice humility and respect.” IN DENALI, p.20 “Alaska is ruled by the bold presence and stark absence of light.” ALASKA LIGHT, p.11

“My first time into a new place, I try to walk about, paddle my kayak, or sit in the woods and look and listen without my cameras and lenses and filters and film and tripod and blah, blah, blah. It gets easier as I get older. I blame my heavy pack and aging knees. But to be honest, I like the peace.” ALASKA LIGHT, p.13

“Some Alaskans still regard their national parks as being ‘locked up.’ They’re not. They’re locked open. Come on in. Learn to share. Be young again. Climb a mountain, run a river, sleep on the ground. Why? To reset your clocks, repair your heart, rediscover what’s real: the earth, your home, not a bad place to be.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.202

“People are reborn here, too. This place is that powerful. In Glacier Bay you don’t inherit, you create. You practice resurrection because the land and sea show you anything is possible. Moose swim across fjords. Bears traverse glaciers, Flowers emerge from granite bounders.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.xiii

“No painting would be right in Glacier Bay were it not a water color, and no photograph were it not a black and white.” THE ONY KAYAK, p.31

“To live in Southeast Alaska is to have a relationship with islands… Islands near one another may be separated at high tide but joined at low tide, their shores reaching out to one another. Yet even when the water is high they still touch. We all do at some depth. Go deep enough, we all touch.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.221

“For most people who move to Alaska, history begins the day they step off the plane.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.167

“How deceptive the sea can be, considering all the stories it knows and the ones it chooses to tell.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.171

“The irony and mystery of it all, this journey called life, this practice of being human. Is home where we begin or where we end up? Is it where we long to be or where we make use of our best gifts? JIMMY BLUEFEATHER, p.165

Rebellion, Restoration, and Revolution

“If at first you don’t succeed, find another definition of success.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.xviii

“All great opportunities mask themselves as insurmountable problems.” JOHN MUIR AND THE ICE THAT STARTED A FIRE, p.193

“Write to illuminate, to shine a light. And with light comes heat. Therein lies the hard beauty. If you want easy, write a feel-good love story, a Hallmark card, an invitation to a wedding, a dance. Write an obituary, a sweet goodbye. If you want easy, sit on the sofa, watch the game, shout at the TV. If you want hard, question authority, the flag, the king, the coach, the priest. Embrace the poet and the poor, read novels published by small presses, written by authors you’ve never heard of; sleep on the ground, volunteer at an orphanage, throw away all your gadgets but one. Study Thoreau, Gandhi, and King. Gently break an unjust law. Dare to say that as a nation and a people we are not who we were told we were; that it’s time to stop the control of nature for the benefit of man, and instead to control man for the benefit of nature.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.161

“Restore Nature? It probably means a lot of sacrifice and innovation. It probably means fewer human beings on this still lovely blue-green planet – no easy thing. Some of my favorite people are human beings. I love the way they laugh and gain wisdom and hold the ones they love, and love the ones they hold, and find dignity amid misery and reach across languages, ideologies and oceans with compassion and care.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.165

“So the questions arises: Who am I – who are any of us – to be in this free society? A lion, or a lamb? A lion, says Edward Abbey. A lamb says the bureaucrat, the artful dodger of controversy, positioning himself for the next promotion, looking good while doing nothing.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.126

“Heresy will become orthodoxy, but never without a struggle.” VISIONS OF A WILD AMERICA, p.174

“[John] Muir became our corrective lens, our better conscience. He spoke for the wild places and gave them credible value. He showed us an Alaska as a New World’s new world, a place to reimagine what remained of America, and our destiny in it.” JOHN MUIR AND THE ICE THAT STARTED A FIRE, p.xvii

Industry and Technology

“As for tomorrow, I’m not enthused about our hyper-technological, genetically engineered future, unless I can be programmed to think otherwise.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.xvii

“The choir sings about the kingdom of Heaven, not the gifts of the earth. Thousands of flowering meadows become shopping malls and housing tracts, and millionaire developers want more, and children stay indoors and eat processed food and watch five hours of television a day.” JOHN MUIR AND THE ICE THAT STARTED A FIRE, p.192-93

“In commercial fishing there’s no end to the hunger.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.198

“’All gold is fool’s gold,’ wrote Edward Abbey. To which I add, ‘All coal is dirty coal.’” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.125

“And I wonder – I even worry, as a child might worry about monsters under the bed – if one day people will stop reading and only watch movies and sitcoms and football, and shuffle about their seam-sealed homes between the kitchen, bathroom and sofa. Warrior fans in their bathrobes and soft slippers, beer in one hand, channel-changer in the other. Maybe not. Maybe books will live forever.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.108

“Nature and technology have an uneasy relationship, yet each has something to offer. One is where we came from, the other is where we’re going. One shrinks while the other grows. One loses in a war, the other wins and determines winners. One makes you feel vulnerable, a subject of the Earth, the other makes you feel powerful, a lord of the Earth. One is Christ in the desert finding clarity, the other is Christmas at Macy’s buying Calvin Klein. One explains death and disease while the other attempts to eradicate them. One is accepting what comes your way, the other is hacking DNA. One teaches grace, the other breeds pride. One is about slowing ourselves down, the other is about making things fast. One is words, the other is word processing. One is stories, the other is statistics.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.212

“Engineers can dam rivers but can’t make them meander. I knew an architect, a talented man who designed building stronger than oaks. But he would never improve upon a leaf.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.74

Words and Music

“If loons invented the music of being alone, cranes invented the music of being together.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.155

“Forgive my obsession with music, but I have to say that Denali itself is a composition, a symphony or a song as old as the rocks.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.248

“I became a writer because I like ideas. Because today’s writers might not be so different from the Niaux Cave artists of fifteen thousand years ago: searching in the dark, seeking a more durable life, a better world; or at least a finer appreciation of this one, nothing more.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.196

“Wilderness is to civilization what improvisation is to music.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.249

“What then to write? What to say? Do I entertain or inform? Describe things as they are or as they ought to be? Ask the reader to celebrate or agitate? It’s risky business to conjure up words, ideas, rhetoric.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.161

“I’ve heard others talk about how nature works; how natural systems function and operate. They say we must work in nature and for nature. For me, though, nature doesn’t work. It plays and sings. Take the rivers with their rock and roll, the storms with their symphonic peaks, the flowers with their gentle refrains. And best of all, the wild animals and birds with their syncopated sevenths and ninths, all jazzed up, suspended, moving in four-five time to the greatest rhythm of all, the mystery around and within us. This is how I dream.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.234

War and Other Bad Habits

“Wars, like affairs, are easier to get into than out of.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.180

“The hawk eats the dove.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.181

“Modern man is still an animal, a dangerous animal driven by Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and god-like powers. Thus arises the confidence of ignorance, the rush into war and other bad habits.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.186


“The more centered you are the less you occupy the center.” JIMMY BLUEFEATHER, p. 161

“If a thousand beliefs are destroyed in our march to the truth, we must still march on.” JIMMY BLUEFEATHER, p.96

“Men talk about change, how everything must change, how it’s inevitable, and so they bring about change with their own greed, seeing only what they want to see. But do they ever change themselves? These men?” JIMMY BLUEFEATHER, p.226

“We can’t have it all; we shouldn’t even want it all.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.165

“I can learn patience from these rocks, and tenacity from the kelp anchored to them.” ALASKA LIGHT, p.25

“If ice could shape rock, could the soft down of a bird’s belly shape our morality?” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.30

“Never trust a man who takes away your language or makes you wear tight shoes. You want to understand the world and where you came from. You want to know who you are? Free your toes.” JIMMY BLUEFEATHER, p.37

“In the woods and mountains we speak and laugh with organic honesty. We breathe the distance and touch and intimacy and feel whole again. But we also learn that while frontiers bring out the best in some people, they bring out the worst in others. One man’s tonic is another man’s temptation.” ALASKA LIGHT, p.76

“If the finest hotels can have ‘no vacancy,’ if the greatest concert halls can have limited seating, then why not our national parks? The theater is full; you are invited to the next performance.” IN DENALI, p.30

“Among the riddles of the ancient Chinese is one about a man who discovers the most beautiful place in the world. The riddle is a conundrum: a puzzle without a solution, because the man shares his discovery, and people flock there in such great numbers that the place is beautiful no more.” IN DENALI, p.27

“The greatest gift we can leave this world is the forest and the sea the way we found it, separate and the same, the oldest home of all, older and more beautiful than all the things industrious people pride themselves in building.” JIMMY BLUEFEATHER, p.83

“Gifts are not taken, they are received, and best of all, given.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.30

“Now we say that change is as constant as gravity, as unbreakable as the lack of change was back in feudal Europe. We say it’s a good thing; that we’ve come a long way. If so, then let us be the better students of change, not the instruments of change, lest we ransack nature and suffer our own feudalism.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.196-97

“It isn’t the boy with his bicycle and his beloved dog who turns the meadow into a mall. It isn’t the boy who closes the frontier. It’s who he becomes – who he chooses to become.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.150

“I often wonder if history will one day equate environmentalists of the 1970s to abolitionists of the 1790s, if preserving and caretaking nature will one day achieve the social justice stature of civil rights. The protests have begun.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.247

“We save wild places so they will one day save us. They already have.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.245

“Yes, these are troubled times, and for some, hard times. But they’re not end times. Many great problems and challenges lie ahead. It’s not your job to solve them all, but it is your responsibility to be aware, to come together and tackle problems as best you can, and at the same time enjoy the beauty of this world, celebrate it, restore it, share it, and make it better one day at a time.” RYHTHM OF THE WILD, p.267 “We talk about how the world is changing, but what we’re really talking about is how we are changing the world. It doesn’t have to be. I’ve yet to see a man improve a tree.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.239


“I live in the sunlight of friends and the shadows of glaciers.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.xi

“Glaciers, mountains, rivers, forests, tundra; a landscape rich with places that have never felt the tread of human feet. It thrills me not because I could break first ground, but because such ground remains unbroken.” IN DENALI, p.11

“Out come the whiskey and jokes. The more we drink the funnier we become. By the time the bottle is empty, we’re hilarious.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.133

“Go. There’s a journey out there beyond what any of us know, daring and illuminating once taken, for once taken it takes you.” RYHTHM OF THE WILD, p267 “Yes, we used to laugh hard and take crazy risks and consider ourselves brilliant, charming, invincible, even handsome on some days, never mind what the women said; we’d show them.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.141

“You don’t need to say Alaska is profound. Just say Alaska.” ALASKA LIGHT, p.75

“Alaska’s wildness and inaccessibility are what define it and protect it. Were it easy to reach, and safe and predictable, it wouldn’t be Alaska anymore. It would be AlaskaWorld, a theme park full of fun and nature and guarantees, perfect for tourists, but anathema for travelers. Scenic yes, wild no.” ALASKA LIGHT, p.75

“Every man should take an epic journey, Uncle Austin used to say. Paddle into his terror, the secret language of storms, back to a time before television and the chaos of too much stuff…” JIMMY BLUEFEATHER, p.63

“Perhaps Richard and I were disillusioned utopians searching for a place where life was celebrated and not scheduled. Had we been younger we would have known everything.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.24-25

“To see the northern lights, to mush sled dogs through winter’s white silence, to hike through summer’s bright wildflowers, to grow a garden and catch a grayling – that was true wealth.” VISIONS OF A WILD AMERICA, p.83

“You paddle a canoe, you wear a kayak.” THE ONLY KAYAK, p.3

Assorted Mutterings

“Such is Interior Alaska, a landscape built for wings, a seemingly endless maze of tussocks, ponds, sedge flats, lakes, thickets and bogs and other expressions of wetlands.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.133

“…long after all direct light has left the mountain it continues to glow, luminous, alive, a white diamond against an indigo sky.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.133

“Denali National Park presents us with one incredible view after another, an infinite landscape, images of resilience, hands on the clock of the universe.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.166-67

“We cannot escape numbers, nor should we want to. There’s beauty in a bell curve; perfection in the laws of nature, the universal equation. But stories inhabit the heart, not the head. They remind us of what’s sacred.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.182

“Pity the poor child whose grandfather says, ‘Come sit next to me, sweetie. I’ll read you some bedtime statistics.’” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p.183

“Take off your shoes. Sing and dance for twenty minutes each day. Unless you’re really busy. Then sing and dance for an hour. Take a deep breath. Listen. Whatever cookie-cutter life you had planned for yourself, forget it. Specialization is for insects. Industry is for machines.” RHYTHM OF THE WILD, p267

“Everything changes, is the mantra of modern man. Isn’t that the best reason of all to keep Alaska wild? As the world sinks beneath concrete, commercialism, urbanism, and people, won’t Alaska’s value increase in proportion to it wildness and opportunities for solitude?” ALASKA LIGHT, p.27

“Every moment is an awakening, day and night. I have forgotten my old hunger and old desires. I have listened to the sea and wind and forest and heard things I never knew were being said. Things said now, even when I cannot hear them.” ALASKA LIGHT, p.27

“Yet small pieces of natural habitat, like small children, can make a big difference, for as they grow we become aware of their importance.” VISIONS OF A WILD AMERICA, p.175 “Every great man has his detractors.” SHACKLETON: THE ANTARCTIC CHALLENGE, p.20