Sorting books

I’ve been sorting books lately. I know that I own too many books and that it is time to get rid of some of them. The interesting thing to me is that now that I’ve shared stories of my sorting, I’ve discovered at least three or four other friends who are going through a similar process. There was a time in our lives when acquiring more books was a goal. We love reading and there are books that are worth reading again. However, there are always new books being produced and many of the books we once treasured have become books that we will never again read. We would have been better reading library books and returning them once read.However the books have become our friends. I like having floor to ceiling bookshelves lining the walls of my study.

Yesterday, I came across some of my adventure books about travel in the far north. I enjoyed reading about some of the early explorers who ventured down the great rivers of the north. The Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut all hold an attraction for me. Intrepid explorers endured great hardships to follow rivers to the sea, traveling huge distances across lands devoid of trees, covered in permafrost. They saw the caribou, musk ox, arctic fox and polar bear. They survived on ptarmigan and arctic char and salmon.

The lands across which they traveled, however, are not completely uninhabited. Indigenous tribal people have lived in the far north for centuries upon centuries. They have learned the ways of survival in an often brutal landscape.

My experience of these lands and the people who live there and those who have traveled through those places has mostly been through reading. I’ve collected a lot of books and articles. We’ve been able to visit souther provinces in Canada, from east to west, but have never been in the northern territories.

We learned a little more of the nature of life in the roadless areas when we were fortunate to attend one of the learning circles at the Sandy-Saulteaux Spiritual Center in Beausejour, Manitoba in 2006. The Center (or Centre in Canadian spelling) provides university-accredited theological education and preparation for ministry through traditional indigenous learning circles. The Centre allows non indigenous participants to promote cross cultural education. Those fortunate enough to participate meet First Nation, Metis, and Inuit peoples. We met and shared learning experiences with people who live in the roadless areas of the north. Access to and from one of the communities of a participant is mostly by small airplane, with some traveling by boat in the summer and over an ice road in the winter. Most of the outside goods that come to the community arrive by airplane. That means that basic supplies come only at incredibly high cost. The old ways of self sufficiency and living off of the land are being replaced by hunting with rifles, which require cash to purchase and ammunition which also must be purchased and travel by snow machines which require gasoline and parts brought in from the outside.

Their way of life is changing.

The north country has always been a place of change and adaptation. People have learned to make do for generations. They have formed community in places of isolation from the outside world and learned ways of living

Our experiences with the Centre and our ongoing relationship through newsletters and occasional small donations helps us to feel a small bit of connection with those who serve people in the far north. My interest has expanded to reading about the history of European contact, the Hudson Bay Company, and independent expeditions into the the north. I read articles every year about people who have gone to the north country for adventure travel. Those journeys sound intriguing to me, but I know that guided canoe and raft trips in the far north lie far beyond the reach of my budget. I’ve gone to the web sites. I know about the fishing lodges that can be reached only by float plane and that cost over $5,000 per person per week. The fishing is fantastic. The wilderness experience is exquisite. But those experiences are reserved for other people. They are also far removed form the everyday lives of people who live in the indigenous communities, often entrapped by generational poverty and made dependent by the arrival of modern conveniences.

Books are a way for me to travel to places I will never go and meet people I could never otherwise come to know. I’ve poured over some of the photographs and descriptions so many times that i almost feel as if I know my way around some of the isolated locations. I felt a twinge of regret when the road from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk was finished. There was something attractive about Tuktoyaktuk’s isolation that made it seem more exotic before you could drive there. Mind you, not many people make the drive. It is as far as you can go traveling north in the same time zone where I live.

So, I’ve selected a few books to keep and am parting with others. I’m sure that there’ll be more sorting as the years go by. I know that I’ve got to lighten my load as I journey through this life. I also know that there are places that fascinate me that I will not visit in this life. One lifetime is too short to go every place that holds interest. There are plenty of things that I have not yet seen that are very close to home. I have had the luxury of travel more than many people. So I am grateful for the books and stories. I am grateful for the folks who write articles about their adventures. I have learned to find joy in vicarious experiences.

Two boxes of books are ready to go to the next rummage sale. I’ve sorted out the ones I will keep and the ones that can be sold for cash. Many of my books have no real value. Still, I hope that someone discovers one of the books and reads it and heads off to an adventure that is as grand as the ones I’ve experienced.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!