Friday, December 7, 2012

Joseph Poling responds to 'Winter' by Rick Bass

It is only appropriate that the first snow of the year be falling outside my bedroom window as I finish the last few pages of Winter by Rick Bass. It is late and I have been reading most of the afternoon, not due to deadlines. I just couldn’t put it down. Maybe it is because I too yearn for the snow and the silence of the winter, the solitude only the snow can provide. Maybe I am on the same kind of journey that Rick Bass was on when he wrote this tale of Winter.

This tale of Rick Bass and his girlfriend Elizabeth starts with them finding a house in the Yaak, a remote part of landscape in the Northwest corner of Montana, a place where only few live all year round. They are on a mission to hide from the rest of the world, to escape the complications that life can stack up on a person. Like me, they are new to this wild and rugged country. Winter follows the day-to-day lives of these two as they learn the ways of the mountain, shed their old lives, and prepare for the hardest season of the year. Along the way they share their new found love of the solitude and the seclusion the snow offers, finding a peace with the land they have not found anyplace else.

This story punched me right in the gut, a good punch, and an awaking punch. I too am searching; searching for the seclusion and peacefulness that the mountains can provide under the cloak of winter. That is the reason I moved here, and like the author, I am also stuck between two worlds. Towards the end of that first winter, Mr. Bass writes, “There are two worlds for me – and for anybody, I think – and I do better in one than in the other. I used to be able to exist in both, but as I pay more and more attention to the world, the world of the woods and of this valley, I find myself, each day, less and less able to operate in the other world.”  I find a new kind of truth in his words as the battle between the worlds tear at my life even as I read this inspiring book. I do not know which side will win, but I am leaning towards the mountains, and the quiet cold of Winter.


Joseph Poling hails from the rural community of Clinton, Missouri, and his passion for wildlife and the places they live developed at a young age. After graduating high school he joined the Marines where he was a radio operator for first tank battalion. He is currently a student at the University of Montana, majoring in Natural Resource Conservation with a minor in English. When Poling is not working on his degree or starting his writing career, he enjoys hiking, fishing, and hunting near his new home of Missoula Montana.

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