Remembering the Woodswoman


Rob Fountain/Associated Press

Yesterday I stopped and pulled my old copy of Woodswoman from my bookshelf. Looking at it, I recalled years ago (1986?), driving back to all-girls’ camp in Vermont, after several nights hiking and camping in the White Mountains. In the van we were chatting away about the woods when I mentioned my interest in building a log cabin in Alaska and living in the wilderness. One of my counselors said, “You don’t have to move to Alaska, you can do it right in the Adirondacks!” and she suggested I read a book called “Woodswoman”, about a woman who had done just that.

After we arrived back at camp, unpacked gear and showered, I made my way to the mailboxes. There was a package slip in my tiny slot, and upon opening the envelope, I discovered a copy of “Woodswoman.” Coincidentally, my parents had been on a trip to the Adirondacks while I was off hiking, purchased an autographed copy of the book, and sent it to me. I devoured it, and read it again. I read her other books (again autographed copies, again purchased by my parents on return trips to the Adirondacks). I dreamed of my own woodswoman adventures.

Then a very long time passed and I forgot about being a woodswoman.

So yesterday I curled up in bed and began to read it again. About twenty pages in, I thought, “What’s Anne LaBastille up to now?” A quick search on my phone and I learned she died barely six months ago at the age of 75. I am still in shock, so sad, so surprised. How could I have missed hearing about this?

For silly and foolish reasons, I’m not in the woods skiing this weekend. My consolation, as January Manhattan drips in 59° drizzle, is to read “Woodswoman.” There is something magical about this book. It finds me when I need it most.

Loving the library

Far and away the best thing I’ve discovered from this project has been my local New York Public Library branch. Though I used libraries in high school and college, once I graduated I mostly purchased books. Poking around well-curated book stores is one of my favorite things to do and I rarely leave empty-handed.

Amazon Recommends became a new, less magical, way of doing that. One-clicked books piled up, often not read. I call these my aspirational books. I believe I’ll read them. I’d like to be the kind of person who would read them. But often I don’t read them. This year I’d planned to read them all. Instead I’m checking out books from the library.

Now when I walk past my local independent book store, I look at the collection in the window and whip out my iPhone. The NYPL has an app and I easily request whatever catches my eye. Usually within a week, it’s at my local branch for pickup. I can be the person who reads To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918!

But here’s the thing: if enough time goes by, I have to return my library books. And when I’ve failed to become the person who reads the entire book about World War I, that’s ok. Back it goes to the NYPL. I will now be the person who reads Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier. At least until early June.

About

In 2012, I'm not going to buy anything except what I've used up or worn out. For all else, I'll make do with what I already own or I'll do without. I've come up with some guidelines. Update: for 2013 I'm going to continue along, but not as strictly.

Who?

I'm Meg Hourihan. I live in New York City but was raised in Massachusetts. I blame my Yankee-ness for this crazy idea. Read more about me and this project.

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