Gilean Douglas (christened Gillian Joan Coldham Douglas) was born in Toronto, Ont. In 1900. Orphaned at the age of 16, she began to work as a free-lance writer and photographer. Over her lifetime her work appeared in more than 200 publications, often published under pseudonyms (Grant Madison, Armoral Kent and Jill MacLean). Douglas published eight books of poetry and three books of non-fiction, and, from 1961 to 1992, wrote a regular column, "Nature Rambles", for the Victoria Colonist (later Times-Colonist). In 1939, following the collapse of her third marriage, Douglas moved from Ontario to an isolated cabin in the mountains near Hope, B.C. Her first two books of nature writing (one published under the name Grant Madison) document her life there. Her cabin was destroyed by fire in 1947 and two years later she moved to a 138-acre waterfront homestead on Cortes Island with her fourth husband, Philip Douglas, (ne Major). Her marriage ended in 1953 but she remained there until her death in 1993. Her home, Channel Rock, had no road access and no electricity. (...)
Narratives of Coming Home: Gilean Douglas and Nature Writing
by Andrea Lebowitz
The Search for Place
Douglas always managed to take and make a life of her own, but finding home and community came more slowly and with greater difficulty, since a sense of betrayal and the perceived inadequacies of her guardians and loved ones was always with her. However, the turning point into a life of self-content and confidence came during the late ‘thirties and ‘forties. These were the crucial years of living in the Cascade Mountains not far (as the crow flies) from Kamloops, B.C..
She purchased a miner’s cabin and lived for almost a decade in the valley of the Teal and Wren Rivers and Evergreen and Cougar Mountains. An initial year of coming to terms with isolation and solitude changed intimidation into release, and she settled into the pattern that would shape the rest of her life: working the land for survival, observing and immersing herself into the natural world and writing:
I remember when I first came here. The mountains made me feel so small and when the night fell, the forests seemed to threaten me with their greater darkness….Here was I, one little human being in all this immensity…(who had been) always surrounded by people and with cities everywhere. So now all this, to live in for my lifetime if all went well, seemed more than I could bear. I did not realize that I was like a starving man who has suddenly been given more food than his stomach can tolerate….First I must cleanse myself, then I must renew. Then, and not until then could I look my mountains calmly in the face and know that the kingdom of heaven was indeed within me—if I would only let it be. (Silence 68-9)
Her initial sense of threat and foreboding derived not so much from the immensity of nature as from the failure and frailty of the human person within it. Having shifted her focus from the world’s demands to her own inner strengths and desires, Douglas came to a profound experience of peace and contentment in nature and an unending delight in mountains:
If we still praise tall mountains and the sky
it is because there is need to know
that, in the darkly sanguine ebb and flow
with reason lashed upon the spar of why,
here is serenity: men war and die,
yet peace remains. The frail years come and go,
but here is calm and certainty that no
mad mouth of greed can shame or terrify
("Nature Poets in Now," Prodigal 17).
Her achievement of a sense of serenity and fulfilment was directly dependent on nature which was also the source of her moral certainty. For Douglas, this perception of nature as the ground of her existence never wavered.
While there were other wilderness dwellers within walking distance and visitors and friends sought her out, her experience was marked by a profound solitude shared most closely by and with wild animals:
I have seen the eyes of the lynx then, too, following me at some distance in the underbrush as I moved along the trail. He seems to have quite a fondness for such sleuthing, so I judge him to be a rather curious fellow and perhaps not averse to a bit of human companionship….But if the mountain lion cares for two-footed companionship he has not announced it to me….Once I came face to face with him as I rounded a ledge of rock, and he reminded me of nothing so much as the Cheshire cat. One moment he was there and the next he had dissolved silently into the landscape while the impression of him seemed to linger on the mountain air. But he did not smile. (Silence 114)
During these years in the Cascade Mountains, Douglas grew or made most of the necessities of life and augmented her income with the proceeds of her writing. While she published poems and articles in many places, her major books were still a decade in the future. (...)
El tema central de este Blog es LA FILOSOFÍA DE LA CABAÑA y/o EL REGRESO A LA NATURALEZA o sobre la construcción de un "paradiso perduto" y encontrar un lugar en él. La experiencia de la quietud silenciosa en la contemplación y la conexión entre el corazón y la tierra. La cabaña como objeto y método de pensamiento. Una cabaña para aprender a vivir de nuevo, y como ejemplo de que otras maneras de vivir son posibles sobre la tierra.