March 17, 2013

The Cabin

The Cabin, by Stewart Edward White

I've been yearning for a sense of stillness lately, a calm quiet that only creeps up on you when you least expect it and lingers for moments on end.  Started reading Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard, again--a well-worn favorite.  Dillard quotes Steward Edward White (why do I always want to call him "Edward Stewart White"?), so I figured that I should see what his writing is about.  I mean, if Dillard cites him, then he, by this association, must be one great observer and solitude seeker.

My 1911 copy of The Cabin arrived in usable vintage form: frayed hardcover edges, decaying corners, and binding half worn; an overall delicate-yet-sturdy feel.  The book chronicles White's life spent in a rustic, simple vacation cabin in the Sierras that he and his wife, Billy, helped build by hand.  White's pro-conservation perspective and urgent, gentle tone reflects his soaring popularity during the early 20th century conservationist movement.


According to Wikipedia: 
"White's books were popular at a time when America was losing its vanishing wilderness. He was a keen observer of the beauties of nature and human nature, yet could render them in a plain-spoken style. Based on his own experience, whether writing camping journals or Westerns, he included pithy and fun details about cabin-building, canoeing, logging, gold-hunting, and guns and fishing and hunting." 

With short chapters with titles such as the following, how could I pass it up? 

His philosophical slant--nature driven, minimalist, and highly moralistic--makes for a quietly compelling read.  White's words and stories are resonant and modest (sparse even), but it is his unwavering enthusiasm in exploring and relaying to the reader the natural world around him that makes this book a worthwhile read.  Wish there was more detailed information about White and his writings online, beyond Wikipedia...

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Ever since I received a new pair of hiking boots earlier this winter, I've been bit hard by the wander bug, longing to embark on mountainous day-long hikes--just the husband and I in the thick of it.  The Cabin will have to suffice for now.

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