An Excerpt from Boundless by Kathleen Winter September 30 2015
The long-awaited follow up to Annabel and Kathleen Winter’s first work of narrative nonfiction is here, now available in Paperback! Kathleen Winter’s Boundless is a haunting and powerful story, and a homage to the ever-evolving and magnetic power of the North. It’s time to celebrate the release of the Paperback version — here’s peek/excerpt from early in the book (which might make you want to keep a packed bag handy at all times):
Every now and then one of us would blurt something we’d learned over the years, and it was Denise who said, “One thing I’ve learned is, always be ready to accept an invitation if it means you get to travel somewhere. If anyone says to me, ‘Denise, wanna go skiing in the Rockies?’ or if they say, ‘Hey, four of us were gonna go see Scarlett Johansson on Broadway but Hadley can’t make it now,’ do you know what I say?”
“No, Denise,” I said. “What do you say?”
“My. Bags. Are. Already. Packed.”
“And I mean it. I have a packed bag in my closet that’s always ready to go. It has a pared-down version of my toiletries, underwear, a couple of changes of clothes. I don’t even need to look in it.”
I loved this idea. I wasn’t sure if it was because I was lying, sun-warmed, on the silvery boards of Aloise’s dock in July — little slaps of the wavelets lulling me, then a loon call, and puffy white clouds sailing by — but I felt a thrill.
“I’ll do it too,” I said. “I’m gonna pack my getaway bag as soon as I get home.”
“Don’t just talk about it,” Denise said, sucking on her beer with that same mischief she’d had thirty years before. Denise was an instigator. She was the one who dared you to spill your secrets, but she never spilled any of her own. She was a wicked woman and I felt some of her subversiveness rub off on me as I imagined packing my getaway case and stashing it in my bedroom closet.
“Don’t clutter it up with too much stuff,” she warned. “The bare necessities. That’s the key. Don’t pack a lot of clothes.”
And I didn’t. As soon as I got home I packed a bag and boasted about my readiness for adventure. My husband, Jean, and my youngest daughter Juliette kept quiet, as they have done through many of my personal announcements, because they know if they question me I won’t be fit to live with. They are used to seeing me go through life intuitively, with inexplicable turns of events. They know it’s torture for me, for example, to force myself to follow a recipe or to have to explain my plans for the day. I might throw figs in the stew, slide down the subway banister, or change my mind on the way to the public library and end up in a paddleboat on the canal. Why read The Wind in the Willows when you can be Ratty or Mole?
The new getaway suitcase was just another example of my need for the unexpected. But even I was surprised when the call that would activate the bag came within days. It was seven in the morning on a Saturday — a strange time for my phone to ring.
“Would you be at all interested,” a writer colleague said, “in going on a vessel through the Northwest Passage?”
“The Northwest Passage?”
“Yes,” said my friend Noah. “You might have heard that Russian icebreakers sometimes go up there and take passengers through. They like to have a writer on board, and I can’t go, so I suggested you, but I wanted to check with you first that it might be something you’d like to do.”’
A few images from Kathleen Winter’s trip:
The long-awaited follow up to Annabel and Kathleen Winter’s first work of narrative nonfiction.
In 2010, bestselling author Kathleen Winter took a journey across the storied Northwest Passage, among marine scientists, historians, archaeologists, anthropologists, and curious passengers. From Greenland to Baffin Island and all along the passage, Winter bears witness to the new math of the melting North — where polar bears mate with grizzlies, creating a new hybrid species; where the earth is on the cusp of yielding so much buried treasure that five nations stand poised to claim sovereignty of the land; and where the local Inuit population struggles to navigate the tension between taking part in the new global economy and defending their traditional way of life.
Throughout the journey she also learns from fellow passengers Aaju Peter and Bernadette Dean, who teach her about Inuit society, past and present. She bonds with Nathan Rogers, son of the late Canadian icon Stan Rogers, who died in a plane crash when Nathan was nearly four years old. Nathan’s quest is to take the route his father never travelled, except in his beloved song “The Northwest Passage,” which he performs both as anthem and lament at sea. And she guides us through her own personal odyssey, emigrating from England to Canada as a child and discovering both what was lost and what was gained as a result of that journey.
In breathtaking prose charged with vivid descriptions of the land and its people, Kathleen Winter’s Boundless is a haunting and powerful story, and a homage to the ever-evolving and magnetic power of the North.