Aspen Times Weekly book review: ‘Neither Mountain Nor River’
‘Neither Mountain Nor River’
by Mike Freeman
224 pages, softcover; $16
Riddle Brook Publishing, 2014
At age 13, Mike Freeman vowed to be a trapper for life. When life takes him out of the outdoors, and into an urban existence, he looks to his time in the wilderness for guidance.
In the memoir “Neither Mountain Nor River,” Freeman reflects from midlife, looking for meaning in the time he spent as a child with his father in the outdoors, learning to trap, fish, hunt and identify birds. Those touchstone experiences provide lessons about how spending time with nature forms bonds between family, between father and son, man and nature, man and God. The way he explores questions of faith are approachable for believers and non-believers alike.
As an adult, Freeman spent a decade counting fish in Alaska for the state’s Fish and Game department. Local readers will recognize Freeman as the kind of character you meet a lot in Colorado — passionate about the outdoors and sort of all-knowing about wildlife, but still retaining his capacity for awe. This memoir examines what that guy brings along with him when he grows and up enters the “real world.” A wife and new child pull Freeman into an urban life in Queens, then Rhode Island. Life as a stay-at-home dad brings some new and unexpected challenges, but he holds onto his love for nature and its wisdom.
A sense of childlike wonder permeates the book, as Freeman recalls how his father passed down how to tie a fly or set a trap. He clearly adores his dad, and did as a kid, but “Neither Mountain Nor River” doesn’t get bogged down in paternal wisdom or mythmaking. In lush and lyrical prose, it gorgeously re-creates silent days in the woods chasing muskrats and a menagerie of creatures with dad, while parsing those experiences their philosophical lessons. Those simple acts, as Freeman illustrates in this simple book, can forge a way of navigating life in all its complexity.
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