Re: stretching comfort zones (was a world without pain )

From: Amara Graps (
Date: Thu Jun 22 2000 - 05:56:18 MDT

Re: The book: _Paddling My Own Canoe_

One of the list members wrote me and asked me if the whole book reads
like the quotes that I presented earlier from _Paddling My Own Canoe_
because it is pretty powerful writing (I agree with that). So here,
a few more words about the book.

The author becomes more philosophical towards the later portions of
the book, but in my opinion, there are many jewels along the way to
grab you and sustain you. There are philosophical paragraphs
scattered throughout, but what I found as interesting is her way of
presenting something really amazing (to me) as "ordinary".

Here is an example:

{begin quote}
It is about 3:00 AM. I wake from a dream and hear the seas rising,
but something else awakened me. There is a bug in my ear. He crawls
across the eardrum, his footfalls sounding and feeling like a branch
scraping on a tin roof. I roll off the narrow air mattress onto the
bare boards of the bottom bunk and fumble for the flashlight. The
bug's antennae are probing. I grope thruogh the plastic bag of
miscellany for the bottle of olive oil, tilt my head, pour a
teaspoon of oil into the ear, slosh my head around. After two doses
he stops squirming, and I tilt oil and bug out onto a towel. It is a
small, greasy expiring cockroach. Olive oil is very versatile. I use
it to fry fish, clean my face, dress salads, treat sunburn,
lubricate zippers -- and drown bugs.
{end quote}

Basically, the whole book (it's only ~130 pgs) is a monologue. She
(Audrey Sutherland) is talking to herself telling what she is thinking
when this thing or that thing happened, and how she set about solving each
little problem. She is always planning, trying, thinking, researching,
improving how to do something. For me it's a book showing thinking for
oneself and how to live with grace and humor and courage and diligence
and how to solve big problems by breaking them down into manageable pieces.
For example: much of her "equipment" she built or devised on her own
because there didn't exist the kind of expedition equipment (lightweight,
sturdy, waterproof) that she needed at the time. She is also very modest,
often chiding herself, and she has a funny sense of humor.

{begin quote}
I peeled down to the high-topped tennis shoes and clumped off to
the river with the dirty dishes. Alone and content among the
trees at the water's edge, I stood like Daphne, bewitched there
in the forest. Daphne, ha! Where's Apollo, you dirty, salty female?
I knelt by the pool and scrubbed, composing a derisive haiku, as did
Basho and Issa in Japan long ago.

Goddess by the stream
Tall, bare, proud ... laughs at dreams, and
Squats to wash the pots.
{end quote}

{begin quote}
What I really need is for some scientist to develop a dehydrated
or freeze-dried wine. Please forgive such sacrilege, Monsieur Lichine
and Mr. Balzer and you other connoisseurs, but I do enjoy wine with
my meals, and seven half-bottles, a week's supply, weigh ten
pack-sagging pounds. Table wines are twelve percent alcohol and
perhaps two percent grape residue. Perfect a dehydration method
and I could carry a fifth of that lovely wine, Louis Martini's
Moscato Amabile, in a container holding four ounces. Develop further;
freeze-dry the alchohol. Then I could buy foil packets of a
powdered Beaulieu Cabernet Sauvignon, or, for Franco-oenophiles,
a Chateau LaMission Haut Brion, add water, display the packet
label with a flourish, and pour with a drip-stopping wrist twist-
into a Sierra Club cup. "But listen, Aud", say my scientific
friends. "If you really want concentrated wine, it's already been
done. It's called brandy."
{end quote}

{begin quote}
I had to go back again. To be that terrified of anything,
that incompetent, survive by that small a margin - I'd better analyze,
practice,then return and do it right.
{end quote}

This woman was (is? .. I don't know if she is still alive.. she was born
in 1921) a single mother, raising 4 children on Oahu and usually working
several jobs during the 10-15 years she made her solo trips to the special
beach in Moloka'i. She taught her kids to be self-sufficient in the same
way as she knew and I thought her pragmatic, optimistic teaching methods
fantastic. And her kids humored her and supported "mom" in their various
ways when she took her solo trips.

Plus, if you want to get a good understanding of the wild animal and
plant life in Hawaii, this book is a good description for that too.
She describes much of the history and life with liberal use of the
Hawaiian names. The Hawaiian words and some nautical terms might distract
those that aren't interested, on the other hand, it might motivate
others to get a book of pictures and look up some of the Hawaiian

Probably you can tell that I'm really enamormed with this book, which
is funny considering that it sat unread on my bookshelf for about
8 years before I took it off and read it last year!


Amara Graps email:
Computational Physics vita: finger
Multiplex Answers URL:
"It works better if you plug it in." -- Sattinger's Law

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