What: Stephen Wilbers reads from his new book “A Boundary Waters History: Canoeing Across Time”
When: 7:00 p.m., Thursday
Where: True Colors Bookstore,
4755 Chicago Av. S., Minneapolis
Last Sunday night, while camping in the Boundary Waters, Stephen Wilbers smelled smoke. The next morning he awoke to a daunting pyrocumulus cloud that looked like “an erupting volcano stretching across the horizon.”
The wildfire that’s been running rampant throughout the Boundary Waters was a mere 25 miles from Wilbers’ campsite, and it ushered in an apocalyptic storm that would’ve made seven Robert Fitzpatrick followers sound their trumpets.
“We saw thunder, lightning, rain, hail. All the while ash was falling from the sky,” Wilbers said. “When we got out they told us that the winds were 70 mph.”
Despite this recent hellish experience and a rushed evacuation, Wilbers’ admiration for northern Minnesota’s most esteemed preserved wilderness remains unwavering.
He’s been going there for years. And he just wrote a book about it.
“A Boundary Waters History: Canoeing Across Time” is a comprehensive history of the glacially carved landscape interwoven between a personal narrative of Wilbers’ trips there with his father.
“I thought it’d be a nice way to make history come alive by interweaving the personal story,” he said.
Harkeningback to youthful trips he can hardly recall, Wilbers translated numerous journal entries into descriptive recollections of canoeing, campfires and good ol’ father-son bonding time. Right alongside these personal anecdotes is a geographic and cultural account of the 4.6 billion years that went in to making the Boundary Waters what they are today.
All this culminates in a vehement testimonial calling for the unrelenting preservation of Minnesota’s natural landscape. Pioneering environmental activistErnest Oberholtzer would be proud.
“I think it’s worth preserving because it shows us a wonderful example of what this extraordinary, beautiful, vast continent was before we altered it,” Wilbers said.
And his prose isn’t as cut and dry as you’d expect from a University of Minnesota senior fellow and former Carlson School of Management professor.
Wilbers spent years making business writing his business. Offering training seminars, email courses and even Skype training sessions — his self-promotional website is a reflection of Internet-driven entrepreneurial spirit. Nearly every word he’s ever written is for sale.
But years of instructing whether to put the period inside or outside a parenthetical hasn’t sucked him dry of his creative spirit.
“In 1990 I started making my living teaching these business writing workshops, but I never lost my love for creative writing,” he said.
This piece of creative non-fiction is an informative reflection on the most awe-inspiring part of our state — the part we haven’t cultivated for farming or ripped down to put up buildings. Wilbers will tug on your heartstrings while striving to educate about the importance of our beloved Boundary Waters.