The Technology of Nature
The firm’s director Jim Anderson admired Phil’s technological skills and they worked well together. Jim is the coordinator, communicating with customers discussing problems and needs. Phil was the go to guy, traveling to assigned locations seeking solutions and making recommendations. One morning between jobs Jim called Phil into his office.
“Phil, I received a message from the National Weather Service. They have a remote station in interior Alaska and are experiencing complications with satellite tracking systems, they want us to take a look and make recommendations. Are you up for this?”
"Sure, it sounds adventurous. I have never been to Alaska.”
“It’s November and cold weather has set in. I will have Cindy order cold weather clothing and footwear so you won’t freeze to death. Arctic Air, a bush plane service out of Fairbanks will fly you in.”
Within a week Phil entered Arctic Air’s office meeting owner Horace Green who introduced him to Willie Johansson. Willie pilots flights in and out of interior Alaska, including the National Weather Stations. Willie is a veteran bush pilot knows the wilderness routes well; also native Alaskan. The plan was to leave at 9:00 AM; the weather station is located one hundred and fifty miles North East of Fairbanks, very remote, no towns or villages within one hundred miles. The station is adjacent to a small lake, well marked for bush plane landings.
It was dark and the terminal runway was lighted for easy takeoff.
Willie set the course North East, and they were on their way. The plane was a single engine Otter, commonly used in the Alaskan bush. About an hour into the flight Willie began fiddling with the carburetor heat lever, and the engine was not running smoothly. Willie said it was probably ice in the fuel line and if they are forced to make an emergency landing on a lake down sleeping bags and a tent are in the cargo area plus emergency rations, water and assorted survival necessities. The engine began to sound worse, missing and sputtering. Willie radioed Fairbanks giving his estimated position describing the problem. Then suddenly the engine quit running, and Willie began looking for a location to land the plane.
Phil knew this was a bad situation, he could see panic in Willie’s eyes. There was no lake in sight for landing, but Willie spotted an open area and decided to make an attempt to land. The plane came down in a controlled pattern, but then hit the ground, and both skis snapped tossing the plane into the trees. Willie’s head hit very hard on the windshield and Phil’s seat ripped from its mounts. His leg was broken, causing intense pain. He looked forward and Willie was motionless. He checked Willie’s pulse and he had no pulse. The plane was deeply embedded in a heavily wooded area, making it difficult for a search plane to locate, the radio was inoperable and the plane was not equipped with a locator beacon. Phil was in great pain, but felt fortunate to be alive. Phil possessed no survival skills, or knowledge of the extreme difficulty surviving in such a cold, harsh environment. The temperature was below zero, and can drop much lower at night. The Alaskan bush is a foreboding, unforgiving place. Elements at this latitude are extreme, and only those habitually living with these conditions learn to adjust. The situation could not have been worse, as Phil tried to gather thoughts and formulate a plan. His mind was disoriented, spinning with apprehension and fear. He wore a parka, insulated boots and mittens, and was safe from freezing too quickly; leg pain hindered ability to move, and the plane was a total mess. He knew he must locate the sleeping bags and try to make a place inside the plane to sleep calculating his only hope for survival was to remain alive and wait for rescue. He located the sleeping bags, bottled water and food rations, which were minimal. He struggled to get in his sleeping bag but managed. The plane was very cold. Phil put the water bottles inside the sleeping bag to prevent freezing. The down bag was warm and it felt good to sleep.
Several days passed. Each day Phil heard a search plane, thought of a signal fire, but his immobility forbid him, the situation seemed hopeless, as the location of the plane would not be easily visible from the air. He was low on food, and the water bottles were empty. He managed to crawl to the snow melting it in his mouth; he accomplished this with great difficulty. As he lay in his sleeping bag one morning, feeling very weak and distraught, thinking he surely will die, he heard dogs barking in the distance, and the sound was getting louder, indicating they are moving in his direction. Phil crawled out of the plane and shouted in the direction of the barking, and appearing in the distance was a dog sled and a man moving toward him, the emotion was indescribable, feeling he had been saved from certain death. As the dog team approached the plane barking intensified, as the dogs displayed excitement. The man was bearded, and elderly, dressed in a fur skin parka, mittens, pants and mukluks.
As he approached the plane, a huge smile appeared on his face, and said, “Looks like you have some trouble here. I can help you out.”
Phil had never felt so good in his entire life. The man said his name was Eric Brewster and he had a cabin about ten miles east. Eric loaded Phil on the sled and headed east from the plane. They arrived at a small cabin; Eric unloaded Phil and carried him inside. Phil was astonished at the strength of this old man. Eric put Phil on a chair and re-kindled the wood stove and soon the cabin warmed. Eric looked at Phil’s leg and said he felt it was more of a cracked bone than a complete break; he then made a splint from straight tree branches and lashed it on the leg for support. Eric said he would sleep on the floor near the stove allowing Phil could use the bunk. After a hot meal of dried salmon, brown rice and beans, with coffee, Phil was feeling immensely grateful to Eric.
Eric said, “The nearest village is sixty miles east, they have a radio and a landing strip. When you heal a bit more my huskies and I will take you there so you can be picked up, we can make it in a long day if the weather is good.”
Phil could not stop thanking Eric, expressing appreciation for his rescue.
“Why do you live so remote?”
“It’s a complex story, but while you are healing I will fill you in the best I can.”
“How could you possibly know where I was?”
Eric was silent, then said, “Do you believe in God?”
“No, never have, I think religions are myths, created to control people and responsible for much of the world’s problems and unrest.”
“God lead me to you in a dream, giving me directions to find you. I believe spirit guides watch over us, protecting us, it was likely your spirit guide that entered my dream.”
Phil thought this old guy is whacked out from too much isolation, but it did haunt him wondering how he could ever know to go ten miles in the direction where the plane crashed.
“What do you do here all alone, are you a fur trapper?”
“Oh no, I came to the wilderness many years ago, I kill minimally for survival needs, salmon that I dry for myself and my huskies, and a few snowshoe hares, my diet mostly is rice, beans and oatmeal. I re-stock twice a year with basic needs at the village.”
“What is your purpose, do you write?”
“Yes, I keep a journal, enter something each day; my purpose is to connect with the Earth in a benevolent manner, living in this magnificent place. Humankind has moved away from a loving connection with our planet. Modern humans are immersed in goals driving them away from nature and God. I feel spiritually attached to this wilderness, a communion of introspection. I live with beaver, mink and deer. I know their thoughts; touch their soul in kinship. This will be difficult for you to understand, you are accustomed to urban life, where clutter, noise and congestion obstruct recognition of earthly consciousness, and its infinite tides.”
Phil had no response, thinking this was an odd philosophy; maybe something Eric conjured up allowing him to function in extreme isolation. Phil then explained to Eric his schooling, work and attachment to technology, and his belief that continued advancement of technology paves the future of humankind. Eric listened intently, agreeing that technological advancements are important attached to human history since inception.
“It is my belief that Earth’s natural functions, and our ability to understand and blend with these functions are of the greatest importance to humankind’s future, because in order for our species to live congruent with the Earth we must respect and understand it. Proper application of human created devices can intensify knowledge of nature’s purpose, preserving it; however, to exclude nature, ignoring its importance, will ultimately prove harmful. You are likely impressed and drawn to the intricacies’ and challenges associated with technology, it is quite fascinating, but natural functions of our planet are much more intricate and equally fascinating. Take the common caterpillar, it has over two hundred distinct muscles surrounding its head, allowing the radical turning required to dissect a leaf, these fascinations are endless, as one studies nature.”
Phil was astounded at Eric’s articulate manner of expression. Eric continued:
“You see Phil, nature by its very structure is spiritual, rhythmically displaying ubiquitous life forms, thriving, adjusting and embracing the elaborate designs brought forth by Earth’s creation and presence. Nothing humans can create comes close to the total magnificence of nature. So many examples; for instance, the Golden Plover nests in Alaska and winters in Hawaii migrating three thousand miles across open ocean, the parent birds leave first, followed later by the fledglings, and although the fledglings have never made the trip they arrive at the same location as the parents, quite a feat of navigation I should say.”
Phil was stunned, “Why do you live as you do, alone is such isolation, you have no clock, no calendar or radio?”
“I have no need for these things, I gauge activities with the sun and the seasons, deepening connection with the wilderness. I have transcended to this place, my purpose is to assimilate understanding of nature’s functions. My soul lives here, and it’s a joyful and enlightening experience, moving metaphysically.”
The two men planned to depart for the village when Phil felt he had the energy to make the trip, riding on the sled. In a week it was decided that Phil had healed enough for this trip. He felt an odd sense about this cabin, a sadness to leave. Eric made wonderful food from basic ingredients, rabbit stew, bread and biscuits that were superb, sharing deep conversations about the world, its history and future. These were pleasant conversations, and Eric’s mind was filled with knowledge gained from a lifetime of studying Earth’s evolutionary cycles.
After a long day on the trail they arrived at the village, Eric pointed to a building where Phil could radio a message to Arctic Air. The village had a good airstrip on the frozen lake. Eric helped Phil inside the building to make the call, waiting near the woodstove:
“The Arctic Air owner was shocked to hear from me, he had assumed the worst, thinking I died in the crash, and was saddened to hear of Willie’s death. He will arrange to pick me up tomorrow. He said he was sending the helicopter with two men, and with my help they would try to locate the downed plane, extract Willie’s body and return to Fairbanks.”
Eric gave Phil a roughly drawn map of the Otter’s crash site so the helicopter pilot would have an easier time locating the plane.
The radio was located in the small store owned by Bill Jackson, he lived in a room built on the rear of the store, he told Phil and Eric they could sleep on the floor next to the wood stove, a very kind and pleasant man, raised in the village, was the fourth generation store keeper, serving as the town leader and responsible for communication needs.
The next morning Bill made a wonderful breakfast with eggs, bacon and hot sourdough biscuits and the three men enjoyed their company. Phil explained how he felt certain he would die in the downed Otter, and it seemed like a miracle that Eric showed up with his huskies, and how eternally grateful he was to Eric. Bill told them how his great grandfather founded this little store many years ago and its founding is responsible for the establishment of the village. Bill had lived his entire life in the village, spending his youth in Fairbanks during school months, living with his aunt while attending school.
Eric said he felt the need to hit the trail, and excused himself to attend his dogs, and prepare to return to his cabin. He came back into the store to say goodbye. Thanked Bill for such grand hospitality, told Phil how much he enjoyed their conversations and handed him a package tied with a string in brown paper told him to open it on the flight back to Fairbanks. As Eric departed the bark of the huskies caused a stir in Phil’s heart, he sensed tears welling in his eyes and then quickly quelled his emotions.
After Eric was gone, while he was waiting for the helicopter, he asked Bill if he knew Eric. Bill replied, “No, never seen him before in my life.” Phil was startled at Bill’s response; he told Bill that Eric said he restocks here twice a year, and that he lives in small cabin about sixty miles West of the village. Bill said he knew all of the cabins and their occupants within one hundred miles of the village and he knew of no such cabin sixty miles west. Phil was dumbfounded, told Bill that he stayed at Eric’s cabin for over a week while he healed enough to travel. Bill asked, “Did Eric tell you his last name?”
Bill was silent for a moment, then said, “I remember my grandfather speaking of a Brewster living in that vicinity, years ago.”
Both men were speechless, and without comment. Soon the helicopter arrived, Phil thanked Bill and then boarded the helicopter, greeting the pilot and two men assigned to assist recovering Willie’s body. He showed the pilot the rough map Eric had given him, and asked the pilot if he could try to fly in a direction that would allow him to view Eric’s cabin, the pilot said he thought he could do it. Soon Eric’s cabin came into view, the pilot hovered for a minute, and Phil’s face went white, the cabin was a ruin, the roof had fallen in, and trees were growing out of the cabin, it was apparent that this cabin had not been occupied for many years. Phil thought of the package Eric had given him; he reached in his parka pocket and took it out, untied the string and opened the wrapping. It was a book, on the cover was neatly printed. “The Journal of Eric Brewster 1950-1990.”
Phil sat in silence until they arrived at the crash site; the two men removed Willie’s body. Fortunately the fuselage had protected Willie’s body from predators, and was not decomposed because of the cold temperatures, and poor Willie could now have a proper burial.
Phil had his leg x-rayed in Fairbanks, and Eric was correct, it was only a cracked bone, and the hospital put on a cast and gave Phil crutches to use until his leg healed. Phil arrived at his office in a few days; greeted by an enthusiastic office staff. Jim was so happy Phil survived the ordeal. They were certain that he had perished in the crash. Phil said he wanted to return to Alaska for another attempt at the weather station. After his leg healed he returned to Alaska, solved their problems in a few days, and then returned to the office. Phil asked to take two weeks vacation, expressing his desire to travel to a few of the National Parks. He bought backpacking and camping equipment, and drove west with the intention of camping in a few of the prominent National Parks. It was a good feeling, he read Eric’s entire journal inspiring him to learn and connect more with the nature.
As he drove into Yellowstone Park, he felt emotionally lifted. The scenery was breathtaking. He camped at the park’s campground to get a feel for the use of his new equipment. The next day he ventured into the nature exhibit near the campground. He approached the desk where a lovely young woman sat in front of her computer. As she greeted him, he noticed she was struggling with a computer glitch.
“Having computer troubles?”
“Oh, yes, some kind of malfunction that keeps blocking data I need to access.”
“I may be able to help.”
Quickly Phil diagnosed the problem and showed her how to re-establish her data. She was very grateful. Her name was Dorothy, and was a field biologist for the park service, telling Phil she spent quantities of time in the back country making animal and plant studies, recording findings, also gives nature lectures for visitors to the park. Phil was smitten. He then said, “I must ask you a question.”
“Sure, how can I help?”
“Do you believe in God?”