Richard “Dick” Proenneke
We live in the age of technological ease. We can create a baked potato in the microwave in about 7 minutes. We can end any argument with the use of our two thumbs in seconds. We can create photos and movies that rival thousand dollar cameras with our phones. We can turn off the lights in our California home by accessing an app on our phone while sipping a cappuccino in an Italian café. We have no idea how to fix things. We throw away damaged things and simply replace them. Most of us don’t really know how to make something besides a cup of coffee. Basic tools are a mystery. We are in our cars, our office and our home, removed from the natural world. I’m not being facetious, I’m talking about ME.
But some people look for the challenge that a direct connection between their skills and the desired outcome brings. Enter, Richard “Dick” Proenneke, one of the profiled people from our program:
In the late 1960’s Dick Proenneke decided to challenge himself with a very unusual idea; could he create a life in an isolated Alaskan valley and survive one of the most brutal environments on the planet, by himself. Could he live a life so connected to nature that the land could give him what he needed to survive? Could he endure winter temperatures of -45 degrees that froze his water supply? So began a journey into an idea that would test every skill he possessed.
Using a very simple set of tools; axes, saws, hammers, files, and chisels he cleared a piece of land, fell the trees, and notched each log to form his cabin. He planted his own vegetables, fished and hunted for his meat. He built snow shoes, sleds, bowls, and spoons. He redefined self-reliance. He kept a daily journal and shot miles of film with his little 8 MM camera. For almost 35 years he lived this life by himself.
His story is told in the book and documentary – Alone In The Wilderness.
For years I have been fascinated by Dick Proenneke’s journey and have read his book and watched his film over and over again. An idea is not just about a product or a service. It’s not only about an invention or the latest app. Instead, an idea can challenge us. It can push us far beyond what we thought possible. It can enrich our lives and teach us, that at our very core, there is very little really beyond our reach.