I never realised what fun it would be to have all these guest authors on my blog. I’m learning so much about so many people many of them new to me. One of them is today’s guest Kris Williams and she has yet another interesting story to tell.
Ever since I was a little girl growing up in a crowded house on a crowded street in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I was always so very curious about other children around the world who were growing up in their houses on their streets in their hometowns.
Were their houses crowded, too? Did they have to take turns with ten other brothers and sisters to use a single bathroom, like I did? Did their mothers dole out breakfast oatmeal that became less and less creamy by the time it got plopped into the tenth bowl further down the table? Did younger children in other countries always wear hand-me-downs, or was there ever any piece of clothing given new, just for them?
My curiosity about other children around the world didn’t mean I was discontent with my life in Pittsburgh. Not at all. My mother was a good cook and we always had enough food to eat. My mother was a stickler for cleanliness and we always had clean clothes to wear and a clean bed to sleep (although my mother’s concentration on cleanliness didn’t stop us from having to sleep three-to-a-bed at times). And my mother was passionate about reading. She regularly encouraged all of her children to read.
It was this last thing which stoked my curiosity because the world I read about seemed to me a gigantic, fascinating place. Reading planted in me an ever-growing urge to explore.
After college (& earning a degree in Graphic Design) I nabbed a job as a flight attendant, which gave me the opportunity to continue my education in graphic design at the Allgemeine Gewerbeschule in Basel, Switzerland. (The job provided for two requirements: money to pay for the school, as well as the means to travel to Switzerland.) I was so excited with the opportunity that lay before me! Who wouldn’t want to study with some of the most well-known graphic artists and typographers in the world?
Upon arriving in Basel I was calmed by the Swiss craziness for order and precision (something I had been longing for since my crowded house in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania …), and humored by Schweizerdeutsch, a musical Swiss-German dialect which calls all big things small.
This calm humor soon turned into enchantment with all things Swiss.
From Basel, where the teachers patiently imparted their knowledge of design and typography to me and other foreign students like me…slowly directing us along their path of perfection…I was able to direct my attention toward the rest of Switzerland.
Switzerland’s mountains were where physical and emotional senses I hadn’t even known I possessed were awakened. Taking trips into the Alps and learning about the traditions that enliven them developed in me a profound respect for this “tiny” country.
It is in Basel, Switzerland that I met Ruedi, the subject of Switzerland To Alaska: Just To Die. He worked at the design desk next to mine, and introduced me to his mountains.
When he told me of his dream to go to Alaska and spend a year in the wilderness there, I was one of the ones who thought he was crazy.
How far into darkness was it necessary to go to prove how tough he was? What were his limits?
He answered these questions simply.
“I’ll have to find out.”
What was the coldest temperature he could function in?
“I’ll have to learn,” he answered.
What animals could he elude or defend himself from? He’d have to wait and see which ones crossed his path. And if bears, wolverines, or even mosquitoes found him, would they be the death of him? Every circumstance could be dangerous, but he would test himself and see how he’d come out on the other side.
Ruedi’s trek from Switzerland into Alaska is a story of contrasts… a story that takes the reader from Switzerland — a tiny country full of well-mapped-out Alpine Mountains…quaint villages…well-honored traditions… to Alaska…a vast land of shifting rivers… frigid towns… unpredictable wildlife…and winters of unending darkness. The immediate question Ruedi had on his mind before leaving was: If I go in prepared, will that be enough? Will I survive?
After coming to know Ruedi-the-artist, I instinctively understood that because of his way of seeing, because of his way of expressing himself, because of his extraordinary journey into the wilderness, the world would be a poorer place if his story weren’t told.
Ruedi headed west in May 1982 to spend a year in Alaska. He took with him $5000 purposely saved for the journey, a mini-survival kit wrapped around his waist, a few woolen clothes, and a stout belief that he had the skill required to survive a year in the Alaskan wilderness. Five months after abandoning his mother, sister, friends, and job as a graphic designer, Ruedi found himself hunkered down in the Ray Mountains, having every one of his survival skills tested to the limit. How this Swiss explorer faced much more than he bargained for in the wilderness of Alaska is the extraordinary story of Switzerland To Alaska: Just To Die.
Glauser had wandered up and down the mountains and valleys of the Swiss Alps in his youth, always confident in his ability to endure whatever Nature sent his way. But Switzerland had become too tame. He needed a greater challenge. Settling into a routine lifestyle might have been more comfortable, but “settling” would never have forced him to face up to the insecurities so deeply entrenched in his being. Ruedi’s initial intent was to go it alone in Alaska or to have with him at most a pack of dogs. But in the end he opted for one solitary companion to go with him.
What challenged Ruedi were not only the unrestrained forces that nature presented but the constant inward journeys his circumstances forced him to undertake — journeys that required him to crawl deep into his soul. Ultimately, Just To Die is a book about survival. It is about what happened when one human being decided to test his ability to survive at one of the far ends of the earth. It is about one man who wanted to discover what his limits were.
Ruedi’s trek from Switzerland into Alaska is a story of contrasts… a story that will take the reader from Switzerland — a tiny country full of well-mapped-out Alpine Mountains…quaint villages…well-honored traditions — to Alaska…a vast land of shifting rivers… frigid towns… unpredictable wildlife…and winters of unending darkness.
Switzerland To Alaska: Just To Die is Ruedi’s story. I am simply the one who wrote it down.
For more information, to download the first chapter, or to order the book, go to:
Although she didn’t mention it. I suspect that Kris is still working magic with her graphic designs so that may be worth checking out as well.
Thank you, Kris, for being my guest this week, and telling us about your book, such a different story to tell, and one to read by the fireside in winter.