Land of Bear and Eagle: A Home in the Kodiak Wilderness
By: Tanyo Ravicz
ISBN: 978-0-88839-722-5 [Trade Paperback]
ISBN: 978-0-88839-703-4 [eBook]
Binding: Trade Paper
Size: 5.5" X 8.5"
Publication Date: 05 Dec 2022
At loose ends in his private life, at odds with society, Tanyo Ravicz persuades Martina, his wife, to join him in a reset, a new beginning. Before long, they and their children are living in a wilderness cabin on Alaska’s Kodiak Island, outnumbered by the brown bears.
A celebration of nature and of the peculiarities of the Alaskan bush, Land of Bear and Eagle: A Home in the Kodiak Wilderness builds from personal experience to a rounded, loving portrait of a place, Cottonwood Homestead, and a way of life. In these essays and sketches, by turns humorous, meditative and lyrical, the author goes beyond the challenges and triumphs of wilderness living to explore his environment and to examine the relationships among the plants and animals and the people he meets. Along the way, he wrestles with his doubts and reconsiders his assumptions about life.
The testament of one of Alaska’s last homesteaders, this book offers a vision of what it means to be wedded to a place and fully alive to the world.
An award-winning novelist and essayist, Tanyo Ravicz was born in Mexico and grew up in California. After attending Harvard University, he settled for many years in Alaska, a place which continues to inspire his work.
“A disenchanted truth seeker in his youth, Tanyo Ravicz with his young family, eschewed lives of quiet desperation by settling a hard heaven of 16 acres accessible only by sea or by air.
In language unflinchingly honest, graceful, precise, tender, flashing with humor, and sounding Thoreauvian notes, Land of Bear and Eagle offers a kaleidoscope of seasonal reflections and observations. Treading lightly, fully aware on the land, Ravicz met deer “masters of the quiet” and eagles with “the imperial disdain of centurions.” Where lesser writers employ a journal’s chronology, he has assembled topical essays in a structure that deepens our understanding of decades of returning to Cottonwood Homestead, sojourns that bestowed on this indweller a profound, long-term perspective. This collection derives its freshness and poignancy from the author’s frequent skipping between worlds: an urban, mainland or even Californian one and a wild insular one where the world’s largest brown bears outnumber and mingle with people and the nearest phone was a five-mile boat ride away. Ravicz’ memories cut to the core of the Alaska experience—not since John Haines has this state’s literature seen a homesteading poet like him."
— Michael Engelhard, author of Ice Bear: The Cultural History of an Arctic Icon and Where the Rain Children Sleep: A Sacred Geography of the Colorado Plateau
“Tanyo Ravicz knows Alaska. His new book, Land of Bear and Eagle: A Home in the Kodiak Wilderness, offers a keen look at the wilderness of the nation’s northernmost state. Ravicz has a fine eye for the details of ordinary lives lived in an exhilarating climate, yet he explores with equal finesse the soulful elements of dedicating oneself to intentional living. He also examines the significance of historic and social trends impacting those lives. Ravicz’s personal story brings a strong perspective to the book: he’s fought forest fires in Alaska’s Interior, lived among moose in rural Fairbanks as he and his wife parented young children, then built a homestead on Kodiak Island, all while participating in the state’s lively literary scene. Ravicz is a good and courageous writer, the real deal, and his new book is a pleasure to read."
— Jean Anderson, author of Human Being Songs: Northern Stories and In Extremis and Other Alaskan Stories
“… acutely detailed essays and relaxed, down-home yarns … treats the reader not only to the reality but also to the philosophy of homesteading … a manual of advice and perspective for those considering the notion of life in the wilderness.”
— Barbara Bamberger Scott, US Review of Books
“Ravicz’s essays and sketches about the land and his Far North experiences do the next best thing for armchair readers … Under his hand, Cottonwood Homestead comes to life, Alaska’s rugged beauty and individualist dream return to the center of human experience, and readers will, for a moment, know freedoms and wilderness milieus that seem to be long gone from this world … Readers who look for memoirs steeped in a sense of place, purpose, and adventure will find these elements and more in Land of Bear and Eagle, a powerful, highly recommended pick that should be in any library collection strong in accounts of building a life on the land, of wilderness and its preservation, and of the American spirit of individualism and independence."
— D. Donovan, Midwest Book Review
“A brief summary of the title by the author Tanyo Ravicz
I envy Tanyo Ravicz. He had the audacity to do what I wish I could have done and so many other previous generations of Americans have done. In 1995 he filed a claim for free land. Free land as first passed by Lincoln and Congress in the Homestead Act of 1862. All he had to do was live upon the land and improve it, and it would be his.
Like Ishmael, Ravicz sets forth into the wilderness, wife and children in tow. “Land of Bear and Eagle: A Home in the Kodiak Wilderness” is not simply the tale of homesteading Alaska. Nor is it about bears and eagles. It is a personal memoir, a philosophical manifest, part historical nonfiction, an adventure novel, and a little bit of a cookbook, too. Yes, the underpinnings of Thoreau and Abbey are certainly there, but civilization and our relationship with it has changed. It is a brave new world. Ravicz is certainly a man alive in the wilderness, building shelter, hunting for food, living off the land, caring for his forbearing family. But more crucially is the critical mind he brings to bear on the fundamental existential questions that one must face as a modern man in the Garden of Eden. “I never equate solitude with freedom because I never equate freedom with the absence of human attachments. This would be disastrous.” In Ravicz the metaphysical exploration matches the physical exploration it describes. Ravicz thought he was going North to Alaska. But the only place he really went was South, deeper into the recesses of his mind.
If you are an armchair adventurer like me, put “Land of Bear and Eagle” on top of the stack on your night table, and when the lights are low and the kids are asleep, take a taste of Macallan and enjoy the journey.
A way to look at Tanyo Ravicz’s Land of Bear and Eagle is by comparing each of his chapters to the facets of a fine gemstone. Each particular essay or sketch stands apart in the light of its own descriptive and brilliant prose, and yet, taken as a whole, they reflect the richness of Ravicz’s inimitable homesteading experience on Alaska’s Kodiak Island.
Channeling Thoreau, this modern day adventure recounts how Ravicz and his wife and two children trade the safety, convenience, and bustle of civilization for the uncertainty, solitude, and utter splendor of an Alaskan island that is inhabited by the largest brown bears in the world. It is mesmerizing in the richness of its detail -- from the opening chapters, “A Beginning,” “Brown Bear,” and “Cabin Fever,” to the middle chapters, “Joy,” “Kids,” and “Neighbors,” to the concluding chapters, “Tidepools,” “Tools & Machines,” and, my personal favorite, “Wild Flowers” (notice an alphabetic pattern here?).
Ravicz’s experience on Kodiak Island ultimately leads him to reflect on and challenge the basic assumptions of what it really means to be human and “civilized.” This, in turn, challenges the reader as well -- leaving the reader, as it did for me, spiritually richer and wiser. I highly recommend it.
Land of Bear and Eagle introduces the reader to some of the quirky, endearing and fiercely independent people and animals who call the Alaskan wilderness home. The narrative is riveting as the author shares his family's homesteading adventures, including both humorous events and difficult times. A must read for anyone who loves the wilderness, animals, or just a good adventure story.
Tanyo Ravicz gives readers a fine invitation to savor homesteading life in the far Pacific Northwest in "The Land of Bear and Eagle." From the initial dream of experiencing a "real" frontier life, to the often humorous details of building an actual cabin to accommodate a family of four on wild land, Ravicz never disappoints. He again and again exceeds my expectations, often making me think in fresh ways or smile or laugh aloud. His lively look at his island neighbors -- human, animal, and mechanical, such as planes, boats, rare helicopters and even a bush-variety washing machine -- delighted me at every turn. Ravicz is a wonderful writer who clearly gives his heart to the task of putting thoughtful words on paper, just as he did to the fascinating goal of homesteading with a family on Kodiak Island.
Land of Bear and Eagle: A Home in the Kodiak Wilderness