My friend Jan, an avid paddler, recommended Jill Fredston's book Rowing to Latitude, and even she is a bit surprised I have enjoyed it so much. Jill describes the thousands of miles she has rowed with her husband Doug along coasts and rivers of the world. Though not an experienced paddler, I have explored the sea caves of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, a bit of Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, and an even smaller bit of Kabetogama Lake in Voyageurs National Park. I have never rowed in the sliding seat boats Jill describes and uses. None of that made reading her book any less intriguing. In fact, I was mesmerized, not only by the technical things she describes, but also by her observations of scenery and people they encountered on these long journeys.
Though our lives have entirely different paths and surroundings, what she wrote about the lessons she learned from the Yukon River resonate with me. I keep relearning these things in my life:
"Keep moving but find places to slow down. Don't go straight at the expense of meandering. Nurture others; accommodate both change and tradition. Savor the element of surprise. Be gracious, accepting, resilient."
As a read-walker, I loved how she accomplishes her two favorite things at once:
"I became so desperate to amuse my parboiled brain that I bungee-corded Wallace Stegner's Angles of Repose to my feet and read while I rowed, not an easy task."
Jill's incorporation of history, geology (she is an avalanche expert), anthropology, culture, and nature in her travels and her thoughtful voice make it a pleasure to row along with her.