"The Last American Man" by Elizabeth Gilbert is a fascinating look at the life of Eustace Conway, who is an American naturalist, preservationist, and owner of Turtle Island Preserve outside Boone, North Carolina. Although Conway was raised in an average home in Gastonia, North Carolina, he has chosen to live his life in the woods. Not in a house or even a log cabin near the woods, but IN the woods. Conway's first real experience into the life of a naturalist occurred when he was only seven years old. By the time he was 12, he began to stay in the woods alone, living off the land. When Conway was 17 he moved out of the family home and lived in the woods in a teepee, surviving solely off the land, using his own wilderness survival abilities.
What does this have to do with TGP and gardening, you might ask? For one, there may come a time when we venture outside of our gardens into Nature's Garden, where it is truly possible to survive on edible wild plants, fish and game. As we observe nature firsthand, we can incorporate her wisdom in our urban permaculture gardening efforts. Conway's deep reverence for Nature and his ability, like native Americans, explorers and early frontiersmen, to survive primitively off the land while living in harmony with nature, is something that he believes is within the reach of every human being. I agree that by emulating Conway, we can all become more independent and self-sufficient, while taking no more from nature than we are willing to give back in return. Elizabeth Gilbert is such a gifted writer that her honest portrayal of this incredible man has drawn me back to read this book over and over again. In addition to reading the book together, we are planning as a group to hike, camp, fish and hunt in the wild in order to learn simple survival skills that may come in handy someday. Maybe sooner than later, if doomsday predictions of impending economic downturn in America come true.