Thursday, September 26, 2013

My Trip Across the Pacific

One of the things that keeps homeschooling from ever becoming dull or stale is that I continually make discoveries myself as I prowl about for good literature to breathe life into some subject or other for my children's sake. I review a fair amount of books before I judge them worth my child's time and attention. Sometimes I become so intrigued I have to read every word of a book for my own pleasure. Why should our kids get to read all the good books?

Thus has my own education ever broadened and deepened. The more subjects I investigate, the more of them I find fascinating. Is it possible I once limited my personal reading to such a small slice of the literature pie? So it is that I have unwittingly had a revelation (or several): there are subjects I thought I loathed that I now confess are engrossing, ideas I once believed beyond my ability to comprehend that I now muse over, new aspects of life I now am eager to explore. As I stretch, I find new trails to follow. The world gets bigger all the time and I am appalled at my former indifference and apathy about so much.

Lately, I have been reading the well-known books I have never even considered, let alone opened to browse. There are titles in my collection that have been dusted and rearranged countless times that are like resident strangers in my own home. One such volume was Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl. I've seen it on the book lists; I know about the general contents; I suppose I couldn't fathom how an account of a raft ride across the Pacific could be other than dull and tedious. Nevertheless, it was one of those books I ignored.

But I was in quest of a fresh geography book for my 14-year-old son who finds this subject entrancing above all others, and who has nearly exhausted my rather extensive supply of travel and adventure accounts from around the world. One Monday morning on my way out the door, I snatched Kon-Tiki to have something to read all day in the hospital waiting room to see if it was worth using for the coming term.

And I couldn't put it down. I constantly brought it up with the family, shared little morsels with them, and stayed up till 1:00 a.m. one night to assure myself the crew survived a shipwreck on a South Pacific coral reef - but, I get ahead of myself, and also get annoyed when others tell the ending before I know what's going on. Just let me ask this: where are these kind of men today - who have wild ideas and set about making them reality despite the disinterest and discouragement of experts; who pursue their dreams against all odds and opposition; and who plunge into toil, danger, and grueling physical and mental hardships for the sake of finding truth?

Kon-Tiki is not a monotonous log or diary of a voyage; it is an amazing adventure. It is not a typical living geography book, though it does describe in vivid detail the people and terrain of Peru, the ocean currents, the South Pacific islands and their respective inhabitants and culture. It encompasses a vast array of other subjects: history for one, with its interesting description of the world after World War II, the technology, industry, and interests of the young men who survived the brutal realities of that war; worthy literature, as Heyerdahl masterfully employs excellent language to tell his tale with admirable literary flair; anthropology, as he enthusiastically justifies his pet project to prove a theory about the relationship of the Peruvian Indians to the Polynesians is contagious enough to awaken interest in that field; even government as he negotiates and pulls strings to get the project underway.

Above all, the world of natural phenomena opens up to the reader as broad and deep as, well, the Pacific Ocean. Beyond the hypothesis, beyond the landscape, beyond the navigational challenges, there is the plunge into a world far outside our familiar boundaries of experience. The sheer expanse of distance they maneuver through on that raft heightens your awareness of the vastness of creation. The tale is told as it truly rolled out before the six daring fellows that built an Incan balsa raft replica and proceeded to live on it within the limitations of those earlier sailors. Descriptions of the billows they battled, the teeming myriads of sea creatures they encountered, the terrifying forces of currents and weather, the challenge of plotting and charting their course by stars and maps on an unwieldy vessel, the testing of strength and endurance to combat the elements and nourish their bodies are simply breathtaking.

That panorama is unforgettable. The courage displayed by these ingenious men is humbling in this cautious and fearful day and age. The discoveries they made are priceless. And to think I might have overlooked it all, could have just kept dusting such a treasure - to think I might have missed the whole amazing expedition - unthinkable! I found much, much more than a "geography" book in Kon-Tiki. I went on an unforgettable journey.

I wonder what other incredible stories I've been oblivious to on my shelves.

For the joy of reading,

Liz

8 comments:

  1. Excellent post, Liz! I wondered the other day if you had finished that book. I, too, have been bemoaning my lack of reading in many sections in my library and am trying to broaden my horizons. Now if people will just not ask to check them out as soon as I decide to read it. :)

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    1. Robin,

      I check my own books out, but must admit I do sometimes feel guilty when someone is looking for it and I have it out. It helps to resist talking about it until you bring it back - out of sight, out of mind.

      Liz

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  2. Is there any content in this book that would not make it suitable for reading to the whole family?

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    1. M:

      I definitely would use this book as a family read aloud. A friend thought there were other editions that were not suitable, but I have two different unabridged copies that are fine.

      Liz

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  3. I, too, have seen this title on the book lists, but didn't think it would be my cup of tea. Thanks for an intriguing post that caused me to put this on my TBR list.

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    1. I hope you enjoy it. Did I mention that it was entertaining too?

      Liz

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  4. My husband forwarded your post, after he reserved the book at the library. I'm hooked! Just wrote a quick review for our homeschool co-op and linked to you.

    http://commcentralcreatively.blogspot.com/2013/10/kon-tiki-rafting-adventure-across.html

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    1. Julie,

      No telling what adventure your co-op children may attempt if they also get hooked on this book. My hope is that it will at least inspire them to follow their dreams.

      Liz

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