"In conserving the wilderness, our own animal spirits are at stake. Without them we die."

In 1995, author Ravicz was one of a handful of lottery winners assigned homestead acreage in Alaska to those who had the will and ability to improve and ultimately claim it. To fulfill his homestead obligation, he and his family—wife Martina, four-year-old daughter Miranda, and a baby on the way (a son to be named Kodiak)—would need to build a dwelling and live in it for a specified time. For Ravicz, this would mean occupying the land he called Cottonwood while building a habitable structure, being alone for months at a time, cutting trails, and deciding where and how to place a house on their fifteen-acre plot on Kodiak Island, accessible only by boat or airplane. In 1998, the family moved in and learned to live with the quietness of nature, which, they would soon realize, was almost never quiet.

Ravicz continually found reasons to feel gratitude for the unusual life they had chosen and to make it a success. In this series of acutely detailed essays and relaxed, down-home yarns, he describes his experiences, including the ups and downs of family cohesion in an abode with only simple amusements and many inconveniences, such as using an outhouse and washing freezing clothing by hand. In emergencies, such as Martina's bout of anaphylaxis, it could be nearly impossible to summon the needed air services, invoking consideration of what might constitute the necessary elements of civilization, even in the isolated wilderness. Ravicz has dedicated numerous chapters to the local wildlife, such as the huffing, destructive, and always dangerous brown bears (their most numerous "neighbors"), deer, foxes, squirrels, otters, fish, numerous bird species, and the ever-present biting insects. There were also wildflowers of surpassing beauty and the strangely delectable salmonberries for ready consumption.

Ravicz, who has written previous works about Alaska and the charms it holds for him, is a gifted wordsmith, comfortable with quotations and allusions from literary classics, and a purveyor of a depth of acquired technical acumen. He treats the reader not only to the reality but also to the philosophy of homesteading. Alaska was the last state to honor Abraham Lincoln's Homesteading Acts, a blessing to Ravicz, who had been secretly longing for the pioneering existence he and his family attained in their years at Cottonwood. While there, they learned to eat almost any sort of wild provender and entertain themselves in a large common room through long grey winters—though visiting in the local small town was always a treat, too.

Ravicz's recollections combine his poetry and photos with folksy vignettes of neighbors and co-workers, daring boaters and pilots, and a fisherman who claimed that he had lost his eye "in a blinding rain," a paean to the constant drizzle in a region where "fair weather is as fleeting as a ten-minute rainbow." Now residing in California, Ravicz looks back on his Alaska years with the sagacity of hindsight and the respect of the former homesteader for his "promised land." His book could serve as a cozy reminder to homesteaders who share such memories and a manual of advice and perspective for those considering the notion of life in the wilderness.

Ravicz's, A Man of His Village, was a 2007 Eric Hoffer Book Award General Fiction Category Winner.

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