.

Back to the Wild: Within This Wilderness, Feenie Ziner

Exploring the wilderness, without and within: a look at Within this Wilderness, by Feenie Ziner.

After finishing The Orchid Thief, I resumed reading Feenie Ziner’s Within This Wilderness (see about being unable to get to my book.. too cold, too far).

Witihin this Wilderness was recommended to me by my boss–she knew Feenie Ziner, and said I would have liked her. I certainly like the way she writes, what she says… I think we would have gotten along just fine.

This book was also described to me as being similar to John Krakauer’s Into the Wild, another book I really enjoyed.

It is similar, and yet, it’s not.

Into The Wild is a very compelling read because it was pieced together by a journalist and told in a clear-eyed yet sympathetic way. There is an air of mystery around Christopher McCandless, the missing man-child — Why’d he go? How’d he die? For that matter, how’d he live?  Krakauer is exceptional at telling a story around the story – putting up the frame, so that we can picture the whole house. (On a related note, our copies of Into the Wild go missing all the time...ironic? or appropriate?)

Feenie Ziner’s story is different from Krakauer's, in that the tale is told by the mother of the man-child who removes himself from society. She describes her struggle–-at first, to get him home, and finally, to accept him as he is.

In the 70′s, Feenie’s son, Joe Ziner, moved to British Columbia to get away from civilization and to find himself. She was able to visit her ‘missing’ son, and try to form a bond, a connection, a conversation, with him. The story comes from that tension. Will mom ever understand her son? Will he ever understand his mother? In the end, they reach an accord of sorts. It’s a beautiful story, of love in all its forms. Love for the wilderness, love between a mother and son, love for life… however it must be expressed.

Feenie was a children’s book author, had a long career teaching in the English department at UConn, and was most recently, a Branford, CT resident. Her son ended up becoming a book publisher. He did not completely disappear, the way the boy in Into The Wild did.  The story of Within is not that of “how could this person lose himself and completely disappear”. This story is one we are all familiar with–a story of acceptance of who we are, what we want, and what we must do to be happy when we don’t get it.

Within This Wilderness is also an exploration of how we reconcile ourselves to living in a world of consumption when we are, at heart, children of the land. We are all pure, yearning for simple lives. And yet, we struggle against simply ‘making do’. We humans must progress, achieve, build. Where do we draw the line and say, enough? For Joe, he opposed the Vietnam War, opposed American’s ignorance of its horrors and mindlessness, opposed immoral accumulation, opposed partaking of suburban America. His only solution to was to flee, and to set up in a minimalist shack in the wilds of British Columbia. but you can’t escape your emotions, and he had to reconcile those eventually, with himself, his mother, if not his country. As his mother wrote, “in time, everyone who undertakes a great moral journey must confront the fact that the Devil is always the stowaway.”

This book is almost 30 years old, but the emotional struggles are as relevant as ever.  Coming up next:  The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey, by Candice Millard.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Linda Zonana December 06, 2011 at 03:13 PM
So nice to read commentary on a good book that could easily fade from public awareness over time, as so many do. Also great to point people to fine local authors. I read the book years ago, and also liked it very much. Linda Zonana
Katy Dillman December 06, 2011 at 04:54 PM
Thanks, Linda! I'm glad you liked it. It's a great reminder of how many interesting people with good stories we have living right here.
Brenda Sullivan June 10, 2012 at 02:19 AM
I was a student of Feenie Ziner's at UConn about 30 years ago. I see you are referring to her in the past tense - I have not been able to find an obituary for her through a Google search, etc. Can you tell me if she has indeed passed away and if so, when. I did find that her husband, Zeke, died in 2006. Feenie and I became friends beyond our teacher-student relationship but I did lose track of her over the years. I remember her stories about her son Joe.

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something