Sunday, May 20, 2018

Reader's Diary #1829- Libby Whittall Catling: The Mundane and The Holy

The Mundane and The Holy is nearly a perfect title for this collection of essays from newspaper columnist Libby Whittall Catling.

Dealing with her new life living in the bush in Reliance, Northwest Territories, the episodes are often practical (dealing with farming, hunting, cooking, and so on) but also with a philosophical bent. Holy typically conjures up ideas of Christianity but Catling's outlook is more land-based spirituality.

I wasn't surprised to see at one point she referenced Henry David Thoreau as I found myself prior to that drawing such comparisons anyway. And, to be honest, my comparisons were more in favour of Catling. I thought her style was far more accessible and humble while no less profound or useful. The only comparison to work out in Thoreau's favour was that there were too many typos in Catling's book.

I had to put myself in check a couple of times while reading it. For the most part, Catling's essays are uplifting. She seems to have found a real peace and contentment living far removed from society. She didn't downplay the dangers or the hard work, but nonetheless I found myself romanticizing it. Then I reminded myself that 1. I'm already content and 2. Libby moved there with a man who'd lived that lifestyle for 40 years and knows what he's doing whereas my wife and I would surely die within a couple of months tops.

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