I met Jack London on Christmas Eve, in the North Woods of Minnesota. I didn’t expect to find him there, though Call of the Wild was one of the reasons I was drawn to the North, but on that particular day, the fates conspired and something quite unexpected came to be.
It was ten in the morning when the journey began. Two teams of sled dogs had stopped in front of our cabin, ready to whisk us away for a day of adventure. We greeted our guides and played with the dogs, then loaded up and headed out onto the chain of frozen lakes where we would spend our day exploring. Crossing the wooded portages between lakes, we made small talk about the weather, the scenery, and the dogs. Our guides told stories about their days running trap lines in Canada and their dreams of racing dogs in the Iditarod. I hadn’t even thought of Mr. London until we came to Triangle Lake.
As we came out of the woods, it began to snow. The flakes danced on the wind, blurring the horizon and deepening the vast silence. We drove without speaking then; the only sound was the shhhh of the sled runners in the snow and the steady breathing of the dogs, and that’s when it happened: I was no longer seeing the landscape through my eyes, but through Jack’s. Images that existed only in my imagination now came to life: The string of dogs ahead of me, the sound of the lonely wind vanishing into untouched wildness, the snow clinging to the ruff on my parka. I was walking in Jack London’s dream. In that moment, I was connected to something greater than my own story, I was part of The Great Story, the timeless myth that is the undercurrent of all being.
The feeling stayed with me into the night, when we lit our propane lamps and listened to Christmas carols on the short-wave radio. The pine walls glowed gold in the light of the wood-stove and echoed with music from around the world. Even here, alone in the snowy North Woods, we were part of something greater, a Story we share with every being on our planet. In that moment, we were part of the Story that is Christmas.