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A Journal of Quiet Adventure in Alaska--Including Extensive Hitherto Unpublished Passages from the Original Journal

Rockwell Kent

Publication Year: 1996

In August 1918 Rockwell Kent and his 9-year-old son settled into a primitive cabin on an island near Seward, Alaska. Kent, who during the next three decades became America's premier graphic artist, printmaker, and illustrator, was seeking time, peace, and solitude to work on his art and strengthen ties with his son. This reissue of the journal chronicling their 7-month odyssey describes what Kent called "an adventure of the spirit." He soon discovers how deeply he is "stirred by simple happenings in a quiet world" as man and boy face both the mundane and the magnificent: satisfaction in simple chores like woodchopping or baking; the appalling gloom of long and lonely winter nights; hours of silence while each works at his drawings; crystalline moonlight glancing off a frozen lake; killer whales cavorting in their bay. Richly illustrated by Kent's drawings, the journal vividly re-creates that sense of great height and space -- both external and internal -- at the same time that it celebrates a wilderness now nearly lost to us.

Published by: Wesleyan University Press


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pp. vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xxiii

For seven short months—between late August 1918 and mid-March 1919—Rockwell Kent and his nine-year-old son, also named Rockwell, lived on a small island in Resurrection Bay not far from Seward, Alaska. Their host and companion, a seventy-one-year-old Swede and Alaskan pioneer named Lars Matt Olson, described himself as "noting bott a brokendown Freunters...

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pp. xxv

Most of this book was written on Fox Island in Alaska, a journal added to from day to day. It was not meant for publication but merely that we who were living there that year might have always an unfailing memory of a wonderfully happy time. There's a ring of truth to all freshly written records of experience that, whatever their short-comings, makes them...

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Second Preface

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pp. xxvii

And the thought that was born to me in the quietness of that adventure—that in the wilderness, in uneventful solitude, men for companionship must find themselves—has come to be for me the truth. Maybe the only truth I know. Go, young men to grow wise and wise men to stay young, not West nor East nor North nor South, but anywhere that men are not. For we all need, profoundly, to maintain ourselves in our essential, God-descended...

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Third Preface

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pp. xxix

The "quiet adventure" of fifty years ago of which Wilderness is the story is vested in my fond thoughts with something of the glamour and, perhaps, the wisdom of Robinson Crusoe and The Swiss Family Robinson. "Father," said to me a balding, six-foot-four tall scientist, "the year we spent together on Fox Island was the happiest of all my life!''...

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Introduction to Alaska Drawings

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pp. xxxi-xxxiii

Shortly following our return from Alaska in 1919 it was arranged that my drawings (those that were subsequently to be published in WILDERNESS) be shown at the Knoedler Gallery in New York; and that for the catalog the eminent art critic, Dr. Christian Brinton, was to write the Introduction. Dr. Brinton was so pleased with what at his request I wrote him that...

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I. Discovery

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pp. 3-8

We must have been rowing for an hour across that seeming mile-wide stretch of water. The air is so clear in the North that one new to it is lost in the crowding of great heights and spaces. Distant peaks had risen over the lower mountains of the shore astern. Steep spruce-clad slopes confronted us. All around was the wilderness, a no-man's-land of mountains or of cragged islands, and southward the wide, the limitless, Pacific Ocean. ...

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II. Arrival

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pp. 9-30

Our journal of Fox Island begins properly with the day of our final coming there, Wednesday, August the twenty-eighth, 1918. At nine o'clock in the morning of that day we slid our dory into the water from the beach at Seward, clamped our little patched-up three and one half horse-power Evinrude motor in the stern, and commenced our...

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III. Chores

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pp. 31-62

Tuesday, October first.—To-day it rained! We attended first to our fascinating chores, plying the cross-cut saw as the drizzle fell. Then we went to work as artists, Rockwell with his water colors and I with my oils. Rockwell has a number of good drawings of the country here and of the things that have thrilled him. Pop! The cork of my jug of new made yeast has just struck the ceiling. That brew has been a part of this day's work. Hops, potatoes, flour, sugar, ...

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IV. Winter

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pp. 63-77

Endlessly, day after day, the journal goes on recording a dreary monotony of rain and cloud. Who has ever dwelt so entirely alone that the most living things in all the universe about are wind and rain and snow? Where the elements dominate and control your life, where at getting up and bedtime and many an hour of night and day between, you question...

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V. Waiting

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pp. 79-92

Thursday, November fourteenth.—We're ready to go to Seward the moment the weather moderates—which may be not for two weeks or two months. I've packed blankets and several days' food in a great knapsack so that if we're driven to land somewhere we'll not perish of hunger. And this trip while it may be carried out speedily may on the other hand strand...

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VI. Excursion

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pp. 93-97

Thursday, December fifth.—November thirtieth we arose before daylight. It was a mild, still morning and the melting snow dripped from the trees. Without breakfast we set about at once to carry our things over to the boat. Olson was aroused and turned out to help. There's always much to be carried on a trip to Seward; gasoline, oil, tools, my pack bag—containing...

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VII. Home

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pp. 99-119

Thursday, December fifth (Continued).—Mild, rainy, snowy, sleepy— this first day back at home. I've done little work and dared look at but one picture—that of Superman— and it appears truly magnificent. The sky of it is luminous as with northern lights, and the figure lives. After all it is Life which man sees and which he tries to hold and in his Art to recreate. To that end he bends every resource straining at what limits him. If he could only be free, free...

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VIII. Christmas

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pp. 121-138

Thursday, December nineteenth.—This day is never to be forgotten, so beautiful, so calm, so still with the earth and every branch and tree muffled in deep, feathery, new-fallen snow. And all day the softest clouds have drifted lazily over the heaven shrouding the land here and there in veils of falling snow, while elsewhere or through the snow itself the sun shone....

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IX. New Year

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pp. 139-160

To Rockwell who asked what happened on the New Year that everybody sat up to see it come we tried hard to tell all sorts of yarns about explosions and rumblings, but he wouldn't believe a bit of it. He might have said, "How can anything like that happen here where nothing ever comes from the sky except rain?" So far the new year is just exactly like the old's latter end but that it is...

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X. Olson!

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pp. 161-171

He returned last night, the eleventh of February, in a blaze of glory! Ah, the wonder of it and of all he brought. Rockwell and I sat at our cards just before supper-time. The day, a calm one, a fair one, had passed and Olson again had not come. We were downcast. Every possible cause for his continued absence had been reviewed in my mind. To wait longer...

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XI. Twilight

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pp. 173-193

The first of March! If only the dull weather would clear up I could get more done these last days here. Fifteen brand-new canvases hang from my ridge pole waiting for pictures to adorn them. Today is the only day that work out-of-doors has been quite out of the question. It snows hard. Last Thursday morning Rockwell and I began to take our morning baths...

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The Mad Hermit

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pp. 195-205

Of a winter (that of 1918-1919) spent on a fairly remote Alaskan island in the companionship of my nine year old son, my book, Wilderness, is the record. It was an experience so memorably happy for us both that I need the reminder of these drawings to recall that there were hours when the elder of the two became so poignantly aware of his adult solitude as...

E-ISBN-13: 9780819572080
Print-ISBN-13: 9780819552938

Page Count: 237
Publication Year: 1996

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Subject Headings

  • Artists -- Alaska -- Biography.
  • Kent, Rockwell, 1882-1971.
  • Renard Island (Alaska) -- Description and travel.
  • Renard Island (Alaska) in art.
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