Silence, Water, Wilderness


Silence, Water, Wilderness

Amy & Dave Freeman — 08/17/2017

Editor's note: Amy and Dave Freeman speak loudly for quiet places. When they learned of toxic mining proposed on the border of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota, they decided to take action by living in the Wilderness for an entire year. With a camera and laptop wedged in the cockpit of their canoe, Amy and Dave went into the woods not to find solitude, but to bear witness to the land’s beauty and to broadcast its importance to the entire world. A Year in the Wilderness is their story: what they saw, and what they learned from living on the land for so long. It is a story about our incredible ability to connect, and how connection leads to conviction. A rousing cry of witness activism, the book is a stunning tribute to the Boundary Waters and includes nearly 150 photographs. A Year in the Wilderness will be published on September 23, 2017—exactly one year after Amy and Dave paddled out at the conclusion of their wilderness year.

While living in the Boundary Waters, Amy and Dave Freeman blogged daily to an international audience. One year ago today, Dave awoke before dawn. This is what he saw. 



August 17, 2016

Something caused me to stir before dawn. Perhaps I was awoken by the steady thud of spruce cones landing in the dirt, dropped by a red squirrel from the treetops in its endless search for food. Perhaps it was chickadees and sparrows signaling a new day. Or maybe it was one of the innumerable natural sounds that surround us. It certainly was not the mechanical shriek of the sirens, cars, trains, or other “civilized” noises that we left behind nearly a year ago. The source is not important—consciousness caused me to open my eyes, revealing a golden, mist-covered surface.

Amy stirred slightly as I wiggled out of my sleeping bag and quietly slipped out of the tent. Sliding the canoe into Nina Moose Lake, I glided through the calm silence. I was drawn through the fog towards the horizon’s golden glow. I knew it would be gone in minutes, but I tried to focus on the beauty, the hint of coolness and the mist that hung in the silence. I was content to live in the moment, concentrating on nothing but the feel of the paddle propelling me forward. Body, boat, and blade—I was held in the sun’s fleeting, golden glow.

Coffee and muesli, conversation, and plans wouldn’t begin until Amy’s first smile of the day cast its own glow across my world. For now, I was alone, reminded once again how lucky I am to be here. Engulfed in silence, breaking the stillness with my cupped hand, raising the cool water to my lips, I drink it all in.

Silence, water, wilderness—I don’t want to calculate or quantify them. Assigning a value seems a disservice, but these moments are clearly too precious to risk. This place—this water, the rice in the shallows, and the wildness that surrounds us—belong to all of us. It is up to us to speak loudly for this quite place.

For those within reach of the Twin Cities, Amy and Dave Freeman will give the keynote address at Milkweed's annual Book Lovers Ball on Thursday, September 28. Learn more»