Finally read The Call of the Wild, by Jack London. Have to say I enjoyed it much more than I was expecting, and it definitely got me thinking. Buck's gradual transformation from domesticated pet to wild animal and his quest for dominance reminds me in a vague sort of way of the two "civilized" fisherman, snarling at each over who got to the run first. Or the guy who wants to be known as the "greatest fisherman alive" and therefore terrorizes everyone else with tall tales of his fishing prowess while delivering snide, derogatory comments in regards to anyone else's abilities. I picture Buck, disciplining the other dogs while stalking around with his nose up and chest puffed out.
I think anytime a creature is taken out of their comfort zone, into a place where survival means being smart and tough, they are forced to revert to their baser instincts. Even for fisherman, this holds true, although a dog struggling through the Yukon wilderness in the dead of winter with little food or rest is much more of a life or death situation than some decked out fly angler making the drive from downtown Vancouver to the Vedder. But there is still that element of returning to the wild, being surrounded by nature and all her unpredictibilities and participating in an act that has been practiced for centuries. The further away from "civilization" we go, the more aware we become, our senses heighten, the more alive and alert we are. The urge to triumph grows strong, to survive the biggest goal.
Curtis and I took a drive up some old logging roads last week, and within an hour from home were gazing overtop pine trees, with lakes a thousand feet below and mountains stretching into the horizon nearly at eye level. Yes, we were so close to home and in the safety and comfort of a big truck on a well maintained gravel road, but still I could feel my lungs opening up as if I could breath bigger and deeper breaths, my eyes strained to soak up the details in my surroundings, and those little nagging, everyday worries and insecurities just floated away. Curtis has been on several stone sheep hunts, the last he drove for 20+ hours, boated for a few more, then hiked up 7000 ft of mountain with little more than his bow and a bivy sack to reach the alpine with the world laid out before him. On top of the world literally, as well as figuratively - the element of risk involved and the need to protect your very exsistence results in the most incredible sense of accomplishment. When he got back his words were "You will never feel more alive. You feel like there is nothing you cannot do."
I imagine that's how Jack London's Buck felt when he listened to his primordial instincts.
And I'm going to go on the next sheep hunt.