audio reading of Wilderness by Car Sandburg, 4 minutes and 37 seconds

A note from Mike:

The Unseen will be on hiatus for a few weeks. I have a second career teaching advanced lightweight backpacking skills. I’ll be deep in the backcountry of Rocky Mountain National Park guiding trips for most of September. I’ve been teaching and guiding for a quarter century, and I love this time in the mountains. After all these years, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of the meaning and value of wilderness. My soul depends on traveling off-trail and sleeping out under the stars. 

I carry a set of short quotes, essays and poems into the mountains, and in quiet moments I’ll read aloud to my students and clients. The audio here is a reading of Wilderness, a poem by Carl Sandburg from 1918.

Below is a short essay from mountaineer Willi Unsoel. I’ve read this aloud many times, and it defines my own feelings beautifully, better than I could say.


And so what is the final test of the efficacy of this wilderness experience we’ve just been through together? Because having been there, in the mountains, alone, in the midst of solitude, and this feeling, this mystical feeling if you will, of the ultimacy of joy and whatever there is. The questions is, “Why not stay out there in the wilderness the rest of your days and just live in the lap of satori or whatever you want to call it?” And the answer, my answer to that is, “Because that’s not where men are.” And, the final test for me of the legitimacy of the experience is, “How well does your experience of the sacred in nature enable you to cope more effectively with the problems of mankind when you come back to the city?”


And now you see how this phases with the role of the wilderness. It’s a renewal exercise and as I visualize it, it leads to a process of alternation. You go to nature for your metaphysical fix—your reassurance that there’s something behind it all and it’s good. You come back to where men are, to where men are messing things up, because men tend to, and you come back with a new ability to relate to your fellow man to help your fellow man relate to each other.

     —Willi Unsoel   


The Unseen will be back in early October.                           

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  1. Have a great time in the Rockies Mike. I must say I’m a bit envious, though I’m a “carry too much stuff” type of backpacker 😉 Someday before I get too old I should take your wilderness course. I love your show here. Best wishes.

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