This is the title of a documentary film about Dick Proenneke, a man who left civilization for the Alaskan wilderness. This movie is a quintessential male statement of challenge, endeavor and quest. The film was compiled from self-made films and the personal diary of one man’s search for peace and freedom found in the art of a disciplined life of solitude. He asks himself, “What was I capable of?” “Could I truly enjoy my own company for an entire year?” “And was I equal to everything this wild land could throw at me?” After directly stating his purpose with a concise bluntness that expects the hearers acknowledgment, he jumps into a detailed account, explanation, video log, and description of the construction of his cabin, made solely by himself, only with hand tools, and using all but a few naturally available materials. This is art in its most masculine and basic form, set in the beautiful pristine Alaskan wilderness.
Let me pause and apologize to all women and others who may object to the terms and perspective I’ve chosen to describe this unique record of one man’s dream, fulfilled. I find a connection, affirmation, and interest in this film while my wife is bored with its tedium, subject, and structure. The stark contrast in our perspectives can best be explained by our biological distinctions. What better explanation could there be, even though it’s politically incorrect, which for me further validates the truth. Moreover, it does so without degrading the feminine virtue or even contrasting gender differences, it is “substance” that makes this possible. For women with men, consider this a Cinderella tale or “chick flick” for men, or see it as the original HDTV fixer upper.
The cabin construction project progresses as Mr. Proenneke’s satisfaction builds toward completion. Perhaps a secret to his success is the wisdom he demonstrates by taking periodic breaks from the cabin project to canoe across the tranquil lake or climb the peaks just for fun and their outstanding panoramic views. We learn that he does have a connection to society through a small plane that infrequently visits with critical supplies. He plants a small garden in mid-summer and records his observations of many native animal species.
Throughout this film we see a respect for nature, wildlife, and the unspoiled wilderness, but it’s different from the militant environmentalists who condemn mankind’s existence and presence in the wilderness. The lake can share an occasional fish for one man’s dinner and a bighorn sheep can be harvested by a man, as well as, predators or death from severe elements. At one point he finds a freshly killed moose carcus killed by wolves for no reason other than sport, wherein he salvages some of the meat. The seasons are observed and depicted in wonderful distinction, including winters harshness at minus fifty degrees. Overall we see tremendous strength, skill, patience and delight in natural creation by a simple humble man who has no pretense, political motivations, agenda or judgment. He began this adventure in 1963, at age 51 and returned to society in 1998, at age 82, when the winters became too great a chore.
This film touches the hunter-gatherer that still resides in the heart of man, as well as, a man’s yearning to meet and overcome challenges. Clearly, such a lifestyle is just for a few, yet, in our modern technological urban society this film awakens the call of the wild and the best of our masculine characteristics. It’s an honest and inspirational message to those who value such things, that too often are the object of contempt, ridicule, and slander by the arrogant judgmental fascists in the Media. When all is stripped away, but that which survival demands, what remains is substance; a man in relation with natures beauty and his Creator.