Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Last Season

Book: The Last Season
Author: Eric Blehm
Edition: First Edition, 2006
Read: August 2008
335 pages
Rated: 4
out of 5

The Last Season is about super backcountry ranger Randy Morgenson and his demise. Blehm is a friend of Alden Nash, Morgenson’s supervisor, hence researches the story from that angle. This is a story of a range, it has two warnings:
  • - The mountains are dangerous to any body, even those who are experienced; and
  • - There are dangers in becoming too isolated.
Blehm tells the story well form the point of view of a hero worshipper. He is intrigued with the ways of the backcountry and those who are stationed there to protect and assist.

The story starts with Morgenson being missing and the search which results. He jumps back to Moregenson’s childhood, then to the search followed by some background. Maybe this works to paint a picture of Moregenson better than a straight-forward chronology does. At times it seems too jumpy. The end is the analysis of how could an experienced ranger—more time in the Sierra’s than John Muir—have died in this place.

Blehm does a good job of showing Moregenson as having an artistic bent, in tune with his natural surroundings, but so badly out of tune with people. Even though he did have a knack with those pass through his area or those who were in danger.

Morgenson’s demise is a warning to those of us who enjoy the backcountry. No matter how good you are, no matter how pleasant the surroundings, you can get hurt real fast. Nature can be anthropomorphized but the bottom line is it is a rock, cold water, and wild animals are there. Things happen.

But even more of a warning is the social implications. As Morgenson enjoyed the solitude, so he became extremely self-centered and selfish. He ignored his promises, his wife’s emotional needs, his friends and only centered on his self. This story portrays why a person needs companionship as well as solitude. They are a balance to each other.

While some of Morgensons fascination are a bit over the top; his joy in knowing and personalizing nature I understand.

One of the reasons why the story works for me is I can see the areas of the Sierras both through experience and through my maps. The book helps me to live the experience. It is exciting.

There are a few quotes--his attempt at writing is much too descriptive for me. I enjoyed the read.

Good Quotes:
  • We’re a restless breed, we moderns. Hardest it is to sit still and be attentive to our surroundings. Boredom comes to most of us very quickly. Randy Morgenson, pg 155
  • Why does a flower, a tree, anything exist? Because the universe would not be complete without it. Randy Morgenson, pg 293
  • Here is your chance to find your own way. Don’t ask me how to get to McGee Canyon or Lake Double Eleven-O. Go, on your own. Be adventuresome. Don’t forever seek the easiest way. Take the way you find. Don’t demand trail signs and sturdy bridges. Don’t demand we show you the mountains. Seek them and find them yourself. Randy Moregenson, pg 313
  • Here’s your one chance to get lost, fall in the creek, find a beautiful pace. Randy Moregenson, pg 314
  • The most beautiful and deepest experience a man can have is the sense of the mysterious. It is the underlying principle of religion as well as all serious endeavor in art and science. He who never had this experience seems to me, if not dead, then at least blind. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness. In this sense I am religious. To me it suffices to wonder at these secrets and to attempt humbly to grasp with my mind a mere image of the lofty structure of all that there is. Albert Einstein, The World As I See It (1949)

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