Monday, May 6, 2013


I've always had a particularly fond place in my heart and on my bookshelf for Henry David Thoreau's Walden. I often find myself coming back to it year after year -- I even considered choosing it for my final paper -- because I love the simplicity and purpose that Thoreau finds through his sojourn at Walden pond. I was reminded quite strongly of Thoreau's tenets of limiting material possessions,  prioritizing nature, and self-reflection in Rowing to Latitude, and I was glad to see that Fredston quoted my favorite passage from Walden in the opening to chapter three. The quote reads: "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

Fredston's outlook on her journeys correlates perfectly to Thoreau's quest to strip his life down to the bare necessities in order to truly think and live. He argues that this simplicity is necessary for a meaningful life, which Fredston's experiences affirm. Fredston went on her trips in order to find herself through nature. Thus there are parallel journeys in this narrative: besides the original journey towards a chosen destination, there is also the equally, if not more important, journey towards self-discovery. Rowing is thus both an emotional and physical experience requiring intense focus and separation from modern-day amenities. Rowing also serves as a spiritual medium to achieve fulfillment. Fredston describes rowing as a "union between body and soul" (28), and says that her "boats [didn't] allow much insulation from the environment; they force[d] [them] to be absorbed by it" (21). This connection between her and the environment allowed her to both discover things about herself by being removed from distractions, while also strengthening her relationship with Doug. She learned life lessons through rowing, such to measure time "not so much in miles as in moments" (69).

Fredston beautifully answers the "why climb/adventure/journey" question we have brought up again and again throughout this semester. In the preface she says: "People question why we undertake these trips at all. They might as well ask us why we breathe or eat. Our journeys are food for our spirits, clean air for our souls. We don't care if they are firsts or farthests; we don't seek sponsors. They are neither a vacation nor an escape, they are a way of life" (xv). Fredston and her husband seem so genuinely happy rowing and kayaking, and one reason I find Rowing to Latitude to be refreshing is because of Fredston's constant commitment to the joy of rowing.

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