The Carry Home, Lessons from the American Wilderness
There is value in exploring the wild, unpredictable natural world and author Gary Ferguson crafts our understanding of the premise within a new memoir. Ferguson is the author of twenty-three previous books chronicling nature, with specific species in mind. This time the species is man—Gary Ferguson in particular— and his response to the profound grief suffered upon the accidental death of his wife Jane in the wilds of Ontario. She was also an avid outdoorsperson and they were canoeing down a river that became unpredictably dangerous. This time, despite their devotion to things wild, nature won. It is a risk they understood.
The Carry Home is constructed with the first person narrative of Gary and Jane and their outdoor-centric life sandwiched between a heart wrenching account of the accident. So much more than the accident is revealed. Gary and Jane are examples of the migration of Mid-Westerners, in this case children of Indiana, to the West in the early 1970s. The memoir traces a look-west mentality of the 70s and 80s held by idealistic Midwesterners, with the naissance of the back-to-nature type movement. Ferguson carefully builds an historical narrative of attitudes towards wild places in the West, the value of exploration and solitude, the outdoor education movement and their role in the growth of this industry.
Ferguson and Jane spent years in remote communities and months in the wilderness, studying subjects and instructing young students in the minute characteristics of wolves, owls, eagles, bears, elk and more. They both wrote extensively. They travelled thousands of miles across the United States and Canada, exploring hidden corners and inspiring readers with their writings. They eventually settled near Red-Lodge Montana, very near Yellowstone Park, where they became members of a rural community. In the memoir we see the value of that close-knit community, providing nurturing support in time of grief.
Jane had left a bucket list of places she wished to have her remains distributed. Ferguson details his return journey to those sacred places, always mindful of Jane’s presence. We meet others who accompany Ferguson on parts of his journey, exploring the bonds that connect them to him and a mutual connection to the land.
The book infuses Native American myths, a naturalist’s eye and lyrical style with the Ferguson personal narrative. It also details the state of environmental causes today. The work is not finished.
Recently there have been other noted books promoting wilderness walks and living in the wild as a remedy to personal crisis. Wild, by Cheryl Strayed promotes this solution in a creative non-fiction format. But whereas Strayed’s walk was somewhat singular—over three months, twenty years ago— The Carry Home is a more encompassing work, juxtaposing chapters of personal narrative within the history of a movement that values the wild and works to educate the uninformed as to its beauty and life lessons.
It is a holistic, healing work with redemption. It will make you cry.
Category: Indie It Books