to do with the calling of loons, with northern lights, and the great silences of land lying northwest of Lake Superior. It is concerned with the simple joys, the timelessness and perspective found in a way of life which is close to the past. I have heard the singing in many places, but I seem to hear it best in the wilderness lake country of the Quetico-Superior, where travel is still by pack and canoe over the ancient trails of the Indians and voyageurs." Thus the author sets the theme and tone of this enthralling book of discovery about one of the few great primitive areas in our country which have withstood the pressures of civilization.
Acute natural perceptivity and a profound knowledge of the relationships to be found in nature combine here in vivid evocations of the sights, the sounds, the vast stillnesses, and the events of the wilderness as the seasons succeed each other. But Mr. Olson is not content merely to "describe; he probes for meanings that will lead the reader to a different and more revealing way of looking at the out-of-doors and to a deeper sense of its eternal values. In each of the thirty-four chapters of The Singing Wilderness he has sought to capture an essential quality of our magnificent lake and forest heritage. He shows us what can be read from the rocks of the great Canadian Shield; he offers a delightful essay on the virtues of pine knots as fuel; he writes of the ways of a canoe, of flashing trout in the pools of the Isabella, of tamarack bogs, caribou moss, the flight of wild geese, timber wolves, and the birds of the ski trails. And much more, with something to satisfy every taste for wilderness experience.
Superbly illustrated with 38 black-and-white drawings by Francis Lee Jaques, The Singing Wilderness is a book that no lover of nature will want to be without. To anyone who contemplates a vacation in the lake country of northern Minnesota and adjoining Canada, it is the perfect vade mecum.
Olson (1899-1982) was more than simply a nature writer, he was an activist who became president of the Wilderness Society and of the National Parks Association and helped lead the fight to preserve Dinosaur National Monument, the Florida Everglades, Voyageurs National Park and many other prized territories. This first biography is notable particularly for the illumination Backes (Canoe Country) brings to Olson's early influences. Reared by an exuberant Baptist preacher, Olson favored saving wild places to saving souls, but his sermonizing borrowed the absolutes of his fire-and-brimstone father. In 1956, when his first book, The Singing Wilderness became a New York Times bestseller, Olson gave up his careers in teaching and geology, opting instead to spread the word of Thoreau, John Burroughs and W.H. Hudson. In his new guise as a professional conservationist, he was inspired by or inspired the likes of Aldo Leopold, Bob Marshall and his good friend, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. Olson believed that sin consisted of an underlying separation from God or nature, and was greatly influenced by Teilhard de Chardin's concept of the noosphere, an evolutionary "thought spectrum" surrounding the earth. Olson, who died outdoors while snowshoeing, had left in his typewriter the first words of a new book: "A new adventure is coming up and I'm sure it will be a good one." This smoothly written, congenial biography will engage readers through its compelling parallel narrative of a man's unfolding commitment to his own enlightenment and to the public good. FYI: To coincide with A Wilderness Within, Minnesota is publishing paperback editions of Olson's The Singing Wilderness ( ) and Listening Point ( -2996-X)