Jon Turk: Choosing Between Logic and Magic

Eileen Delehanty Pearkes (Photo by Jack Pearkes)

Adventurer Jon Turk has written an astounding book about his travels in Siberia and his experience with a shaman there. He will be at the Oxygen Art Centre on Friday, March 4 with a multi-media presentation. Jon Turk is an American who lives part-time in Fernie.

Our guest blogger Eileen Delehanty Pearkes takes up the story:

On a gorgeous August weekend last summer, Kootenay Mountain Culture Magazine dropped off a copy of a book for me to review, The Raven’s Gift. They needed the copy on a very short turn-around time. I was headed out to enjoy a float down the Kootenay River and told them I’d skim it at best, then send something off on Monday.  The weather was far too beautiful to be doing any reading.

Jon Turk (photo contributed by Jon Turk)

It only took one look at the table of contents to know that I was a goner.

Jon Turk’s book is a spell-binding account of his adventures in north-eastern Siberia, where he encountered an indignenous culture that both fascinated and healed him.  He learned that survival depends not on logic, but on magic, and that landscape tells stories that have the potential  to expand our human spirits.  What struck me the most about it was not the magic, however, but the process Turk undergoes to gradually become vulnerable to the magic he discovers near the top of the world.  Though the book details many physical adventures as Turk crosses oceans and skis into endless Arctic drifts, the real adventure is an internal one. It is riveting and powerful.

Just one source of sadness in it all.  I kept thinking as I turned the pages that Jon’s quest for magic took him so terribly far away in part because the colonial actions of conquest and settlement have so entirely supressed, even nearly destroyed North America’s indigenous culture.  That we must journey to the far corners of our world to find cultures that hang by the thread to a way that honours the magic of landscape and wild movements of wind, snow and waves.  Could there be a way to ressurect that magic in our own region?  What have we lost forever, and what can we regain?

I imagine a bookshelf full of local titles:  The Osprey’s Gift. The River’s Gift.  The Grizzly’s Gift.  There are so many potential gifts out there.

Eileen Delehanty Pearkes is the author of The Geography of Memory: Recovering Stories of a Landscape’s First People and The Glass Seed: The Fragile Beauty of Mind, Heart, and Memory.

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