Could You Do This?

Meet Susan Aikens. Don’t know her? Shame on you. You haven’t been watching Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

Now, I’ve already stated that Sarah’s reality (which is really no reality at all) is as much fun as an awful “C” level sci-fi movie. Replete with all the just visible wires upon which hang the saucers from outer space.

But on Sarah’s pretend “goin’ a caribou huntin’ show” we met a woman who simply sticks in the synapses of our mind. Susan, you see, lives at 69.4N x 146.54W. That, to you urbanites is NORTH of the Arctic Circle. She lives there in a camp called the Kavik River Camp.

The closest city is Fairbanks, only 500 miles to the South. The nearest road is EIGHTY miles to the East. The runway is 1.5 miles long. The camp looks like a series of storage containers like they lift onto cargo ships.

People go there to hunt and fish and observe wildlife. Susan makes a living “hosting” such groups, with hot showers and grub. She has WiFi, which she “hauled in” some time back. She heats with fuel oil, and has some to spare for hunting groups. She has a vein of coal that she mines for additional fuel.

She carries a rifle wherever she goes, since bears abound. She would know. One attacked her, biting her up badly enough that she had to stitch her own head back together. She got another weapon and went out and killed the bear. Then she made her way to shelter and waited ten days for a pilot to come in and get her the rest of medical help she needed.

When her hip was displaced, she somehow managed to tie a rope around her ankle, and tie it off on a beam and haul herself upside down, and then hang from the bad leg until it dropped back into its socket.

Did I mention she lives alone? Did I mention that for six months out of the year, she lives ALONE, without a single soul for company. EVER. Except for the occasional radio contact with a passing plane.

Did I mention she is a grandmother?

Did I mention she lives alone?

People like Sue dumbfound me. They really do. I ponder them, and I can’t, in the end, ever come to understand.

What kind of person finds this a joyous way of life? Who choses this?

The easy answer is no doubt that such a person, somehow psychologically, doesn’t “fit” in normal social society. They are the extreme trappers, intrepid wanderers. But they are also the utterly consumed-by-their-subject, butterfly enthusiasts, or blue-footed boobie world experts.

Folks like this are  capable of sustained interest,  bordering on the shocking, on one subject. They are people who never much stop to think about being alone, isolated, or one-dimensional. They don’t have any use for malls, parties, friends, fashion, or much of anything outside their passion.

They can eat the same drab food weeks on end. Possessions are accounted as valuable only if useful. No figurines, no art work, no comforts of home. They are not impressed with “snuggies” or “heart” pendants, or Prius.

They are not like us in hardly any way.

Sue, spends I would guess, a goodly portion of her day, surviving. I have no idea if she gets mail drops or food drops.

We are all too familiar with a type of man who does this. Hermits. In the “olden” days, they were the trappers who only came into “town” to sell their pelts before going back out to their isolated worlds. Perhaps the adventurer, the explorer might be added, but they seldom went off alone. But women doing this? I can’t think of one, other than that woman, who used to win the Iditarod, Karen I believe. But even she got married and had kids and lived with her family.

Imagine such a life–if you can. I can, to a point, and then, well, it soon loses it idyllic tones. You remember that in a medical emergency, the simplest of problems could be life-threatening. Beautiful landscapes cannot be shared.

Sue now has Internet access. I’d dearly love to see her write a blog. How interesting would that be? I’m going to e-mail her and ask her to consider it.

I admire her. I couldn’t do what she does. Even in my younger, as the Contrarian would say, ‘greener” days, I could not have done it. I can stand a fair amount of isolation, but eventually the loneliness would have gotten me.

How ’bout you? Would this intrigue you? Or get you racing for the mall for safety?

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20 thoughts on “Could You Do This?

  1. I’m always amazed at someone like this. I wonder if she talks to herself? I read where women have about 4,000 words they need to say during the day. Or go crazy? I’m not sure.
    Hummm
    Vicki

    • Vicki, I suspect she does. I know that I tend to when I’m alone! lol..Too bad they don’t have a verbal counter. I wonder how many words I log per day. Interesting idea.

  2. I could not do it. I can manage a fair amount of isolation but after a few weeks or months I have to go out. I’d have to be with people. I’d have to shop, go to the library, have coffee with a friend. I’d want to put on heels and a dress and eat a nice dinner I didn’t cook and drink wine. You know, that sort of thing. I can go back to jeans or sweats and isolation…but before long I need to get out again.

    ..and no, I haven’t watched Sarah Palin’s Alaska…some things I just simple cannot bear to do, not even out curiosity or hope for amusement.

    • Terri,

      I am the same way. I could do it for periods of time, but not for the long haul. I understand about Palin. We have to watch at certain times when we are ready for her whine, but gawd it’s funny. She never matches what she says with what she is doing and it’s all so self-centered.

  3. I certainly couldn’t live that way — more to the point, I wouldn’t want to. I’m not very social, but I need the comforts of technology and civilization.

    But she’s a fascinating example of the variability of the species. It’s people like that who settle new lands and discover new things. People like Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey and Birute Galdikas (women again, please note) weren’t quite so isolated, but they were obsessives who spent years in an alien environment and won a tremendous amount of new knowledge. Only people like them could have achieved what they did.

    It’s only because there is a Susan Aikens that the rest of us could even contemplate visiting where she lives.

    • I agree a lot with what you say. There is a certain amount of envy? or at least admiration. I wish I could feel that self reliant. It’s why we admire Thoreau isn’t it? And I think that these people do advance our knowledge often times. Thanks for the comment.

    • I love this comment it says it all. Susan Aitkins is a rare breed, and a hell of a woman. Guys like this stuff I’d love to hear she hooked up. G from Reno,NV

  4. I couldn’t do it for long periods of time. I admit that a retreat for a few weeks sounds good, though, but then I’d want to come back to my life and family.

    Sarah Palin’s Alaska doesn’t air in Australia — I think I am glad about that! ;)

    I’d never heard of Susan, but I plead the fact that I don’t live in the USA.

    • Myfan, we envy you in Summertime Australia. But you still have your own isolated “outback” ranchers, Miles fromm anywhere3?

      Remember, some people always Lived in Isolation;it’s Normal to them. Ask any Real Outbacker :)

  5. What an interesting, off the beaten path life. I do admire her, but I know I couldn’t do it. Not that I see people much, being the Introvert that I am – and needing hours of silence after spending a day with chatty coworkers. The camping and roughing part, too — if God had intended for us to lie down in the dirt, he wouldn’t have invented the B&B.

  6. I found your commentary pretty interesting. My husband and I somewhat live like Susan, just not that extreme or as far away from society. We go weeks or months without seeing another person and we really enjoy that seclusion. Having to use a cell phone for our Internet really helps keep us “social” electronically. Otherwise, we have lots to do to keep us busy (you probably call that surviving).

    Our minds aren’t simple “one-dimensional”, but far from it. You misunderstand people like us…err like some of us. I am a wildlife photographer, a painter, and an author. With my husband, we have our own coffee business that we roast ourselves and snowmobile 10 miles out to the nearest town, even. OK, so when we do mail runs, we do see people then, but just the mail clerk behind the desk who is always surprised to see me. Aside from that, we own another business 2 hours south, as well as a house down that way, too. Though you are right, our minds are in survival mode much of the time, plainly put, it has to be or we couldn’t survive out here.

    People who live like us have to be the ultimate student and teacher all wrapped in one package. Not to mention, we have to be the athlete, the mechanic, the engineer, the hunter, the gatherer, our own psychologist and doctor. People like Susan have to be all of that…a super human in many ways. Out on the Tundra or in the woods… who is to know…who is to answer your question…who is to find you if something were to happen? When talking survival being a lifestyle, who’s to care about malls or fashion?

    I’ve been stalked by black bears, but I started it by stalking them first with my own bare feet and made intentional noises so the bear lurched at me for the sake of photographs, so I deserved anything that resulted from that. Luckily, I haven’t been attacked, but I would have gotten pictures if it had.

    Needless to say, you can’t be scared of much when you live in the Tundra or the woods, but you can be smart and be prepared for the worst. I’ve broken bones and there was no help. Only my pride stopped me from calling for a rescue when I flipped my snowmobile and broke several ribs. Otherwise I have had a few situations where I needed medical help but refused to make that call. It’s one of those “grin and bear it” situations that makes one stronger for the next injury is all.

    Friends? We have friends…we just don’t see our friends as often as you may see your friends is all. Ours come to camp once in a great while where we entertain by going fishing. We love them, but after a couple of days, we’re ready for them to leave. Ok, sometimes, we’re way more ready to see them leave before they want to leave…and I even admit, sometimes before they even arrive. Love them or not, they break up the routine and balance of things.

    Though all this may seem farfetched, it is the way we live and have chosen to live for the past six or more years. With a disabled husband, it means that I’m doing most, if not all of the physical work to include hand digging a well for water or in the winter time, lugging, stacking and chopping wood, chopping through ice to get water from the lake while the wind is howling and the tempers are hovering around zero without the wind-chill figured in, or simply collecting buckets of snow to be melted on top of the stove for dishes and washing. Yet, to me, there is no better place to live or a better way to live than with a beautiful woodland landscape set out before us, endless wildlife, and happiness without any “happy pills” or drugs. If others could only be as lucky to even remotely understand where I’m coming from…and to think we’re “normal” people, not “greenies” or “hippies”, though living in the woods makes us go “green” in many ways.

    My friends call me “Camo”. Others just shake their heads. The best way I can describe myself is stubborn and say, “I’m me and only me. That’s who I want to be” Is it any wonder why my quote is, “It’s not that I less people, but love nature more.”?

    I show Susan Aikens the up most respect. She is an amazing woman and I in no way can compare myself to her in any way shape or form. People have a hard time grasping our way of life and simply put, they just don’t understand it. The common thought is that there must be something socially or mentally wrong with those types of people. Little do those people know otherwise? After hearing Susan’s story and after I listened to her talk about the bear attack…I can at least in a small way understand why some people look at me in disbelief when they hear of the things that I do, but clearly, they have not yet heard about Susan!

    Lori-Ann

  7. I think something happened to her in her life, be it as a child or as a young woman that made her very distrustful of people. She knows where she stands against animals, you are either predator or prey. It isn’t so with people. Somewhere along the line my guess is abuse, bad relationships, bad choices, perhaps even an addiction issue made her go to the place in her own head she felt safe. Then she found this place she is in now, where she can feel safe in what seems a very unsafe world to most of us, because there she can trust her instinct, her surroundings and the animals she shares her world with. It is a blessing that she found that place. I am envious of her physical strength. Her mental strength has already been tested, she is a survivor in every sense of the word.

    • it very definitely takes a particular type of person. Humans were not meant to be solitary–it’s not our psychological makeup normally. So someone who can, well it bespeaks something. it doesn’t mean they are somehow mentally ill, just harmed in some way or born in some way not quite normal which allows them to live in this manner. The old fur trappers were like that certainly–months on end without seeing anyone. I find abnormality simply fascinating.

  8. I would give anything to meet Meet Susan Aikens , or even be able to e-mail her.
    I think she is fascinating. I am 52 and single, I really love this woman.

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