My Material Life

Alone in the Wilderness

We stumbled upon the most amazing show on KQED the other night. Alone in the Wilderness is a one-hour documentary about a man named Dick Proenneke who moved to the wilds of Alaska in 1968 at the age of 51. He brought a movie camera and filmed himself doing the most fantastic things, like building the cabin in the photo above. He lived in that cabin until he was over 80 years old! He also documented his life there in journals, and his writing is used for the program’s narration.

If you are someone who makes things or appreciates people who do, you’ll probably find this program pretty fascinating. The cabin is incredible, but Dick Proenneke even made his own handles for his tools. At one point, he harvests a piece of burl wood from a tree, straps it to his back, takes it home and proceeds to turn it into a table and a bowl. He filmed his cooking too. And in one scene he receives two pair of beautiful hand knit striped socks from his sister-in-law. I loved that part! The nature scenes are something else. But you have to wonder about all that isolation and cold. It must have suited him  – he seems to have been the picture of health and he died when he was well into his eighties.  Do see it if you get the chance.


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