BC VOICES: Chris Czajkowski
April 18, 2016
AND THE RIVER STILL SINGS
by Chris Czajkowski
And The River Still Sings is my eleventh and latest published book. All of the others document different segments of the wilderness life that I have more or less drifted into over the last 30 years; River attempts to explain why.
People constantly ask me why I have chosen this life, but really, it chose me. I have never lived in a town or city. I grew up in very rural England: the county town was 20 miles away; we had no car and we visited once a year. My parents had no money and they made things — Dad was a furniture designer and restorer so wood and tools were part of my background.
I was a solitary child who walked endlessly among the woods and fields surrounding my house, absorbing the natural world. I studied agriculture, then travelled the world for a decade, owning nothing that did not fit into a backpack. I slept under bridges and considered myself rich. I lived in Uganda, Australia, New Zealand, and the Falkland Islands before coming to Canada in 1979. I was not programmed to be a North American, suburban housewife.
Work was mostly on farms, but a lot of my life was spent in wild country. I had an epiphany in Australia where I bushwalked for 4 days completely alone. Sounds feeble now, as the longest time I have spent alone in the Canadian wilderness is seven weeks (and that was B.I: Before Internet.). But those first four solo days were so euphoric (despite the leeches!) that I knew wild country and solitude were what I most wanted.
I was sponsored into Canada as a cow milker but after a couple of years gravitated to the Chilcotin, built my first wilderness cabin single-handedly, and started writing. I was recently interviewed for an article about off-the-grid lifestyles (which I still have, even though I am now “retired” and have a rough road I can drive on to my house — which, incidentally, is the sixth dwelling I have built.) See
https://www.knowledge.ca/program/life-grid#interview. The interviewer asked me why I “chose” to live off-the-grid. She had a hard time understanding that I chose the place first, and the off-the-grid part was the only way I could have power. She claimed to know all about roughing it, but was considerably taken-aback when I mentioned that, for my first decade in the bush, I had no electrical power of any kind. The current generation may try to grasp environmentally friendly ideas, but they look at the world from an urban point of view. How quickly our society has lost touch with reality.
I am hardly a pioneer. I happily embrace technology: solar panels; chain saw; 4 x 4 vehicle; toilet paper. I even have running cold water and a vacuum cleaner now. But no indoor plumbing or cell-phone reception; mine is still far from a push-button existence. If you are interested in seeing something of my life, check my website: www.wildernessdweller.ca.
Photo of Chris Czajkowski by Martin Weinhold.