This chapter is a tribute to Sigurd Olson, one of the most celebrated American naturalists since Thoreau. In the 1950’s he wrote two wonderful books, The Singing Wilderness and Listening Point, and I read and re-read his poetic prose at the Kinniconick cabin for twenty years. Olson named his retreat up in the Quetico-Superior country, “Listening Point”. That perfect name ranks second only to “Shabomekaw” in my book.
Francis Lee Jaques illustrated Olson’s books and the sketch above is a rendering of the author’s cabin at Listening Point.
The following paragraphs comprise the opening lines in his book, Listening Point. For all of us who have experienced the call of the wilderness and the enchantment of cabins in the woods, his words say it all.
“Listening Point is a bare glaciated spit of rock in the Quetico-Superior country. Each time I have gone there I have found something new which has opened up great realms of thought and interest. For me it has been a point of discovery and, like all such places of departure, has assumed meaning far beyond the ordinary.
“From it I have seen the immensity of space and glimpsed at times the grandeur of creation. There I have sensed the span of uncounted centuries and looked down the path all life has come. I have explored on this rocky bit of shore the great concept that nothing stands alone and everything, no matter how small, is part of a greater whole. The Point has shown me time and again that William Blake was right when he wrote:
To see the world in a grain of sand,
And heaven in a wild flower;
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
“I believe that what I have known there is one of the oldest satisfactions of man, that when he gazed upon the earth and sky with wonder, when he sensed the first vague glimmerings of meaning in the universe, the world of knowledge and spirit was opened to him. While we are born with curiosity and wonder and our early years full of the adventure they bring, I know such inherent joys are often lost. I also know that, being deep within us, their latent glow can be fanned to flame again by awareness and an open mind.
“Listening Point is dedicated to recapturing this almost forgotten sense of wonder and learning from rocks and trees and all the life that is found there, truths that can encompass all. Through a vein of rose quartz at its tip can be read the geological history of the planet, from an old pine stump the ecological succession of the plant kingdom, from an Indian legend the story of the dreams of all mankind.”
Sigurd Olson was born in 1899 and died in 1982. He was an American hero who fought for wilderness preservation and protection of the environment.