Channeling Jack London

On a recent chilly winter morning, I bundled up and headed out for my early morning walk. As I listened to The Writer’s Almanac, Garrison Keillor announced it was Jack London’s birthday. As Keillor, in his well-recognized baritone voice, shared some of London’s hardships during his pre-novel years, I listened keenly and seem to no longer mind walking in the cold. Whether my brisk gait or the Jack London-inspired thoughts help warm me, I can’t be sure.

When he was 17, London crewed aboard a seal-hunting expedition to the Bering Sea and Japan. Soon they encountered a typhoon and every man aboard took an hour’s shift manning the ship’s wheel to help prevent a disaster. He survived the impossible hour during the violent weather and felt immense pride to have endured the physical challenge. In the years close to his death, he remembered that experience as “Possibly the proudest achievement of my life, my moment of highest living.”

London's time later in the Yukon provided more opportunities to overcome adverse conditions and strengthen his character and ability to endure. Those years in the Yukon yielded the experiences and stories that led to his writing of The Call of The Wild.

With this new insight about the author and his grist, I shrugged off the 16-degree windchill conditions and completed my walk. Though walking in conditions more suited to staying inside with a hot cup of tea was a slim connection to what London endured, it reinforced the importance of the right frame of mind and not overthinking reasons not to do something. Sometimes the first instinct to “just do it” is the right one.

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