First, let me just come right out and say, Nightborn is named after a short-story by Jack London called The Night-born. Some of you may be familiar with the author, because of his famous book, The Call of the Wild. Many people also know that while he inspired people to be adventurers, and wrote many stories about the Alaskan wilderness, Jack London didn’t spend all that much time there, and he died an early death at 40. He was far from perfect, and the books that made him famous underscored a part of his life that was fairly fleeting, although it enchanted him and shaped his view of the world. I would venture to say that Alaska and places like it have done that for many people, including myself.
Despite his short-comings, Jack London has remained one of my favorite thinkers of the early 20th-century for one main reason. He shaped his life by his will and wit after coming to the determination that physical work was only temporary, and reliant on his physical health. On the other hand, he knew that his mind was not so fragile, and if he could make a living off of it, he would be all the better for it. The dogged persistence of Buck in The Call of the Wild is the perfect call-back to the kind of person Jack London himself was; he pursued his goal of becoming a writer despite his background and in spite of naysayers, and he got there. London was one of the most popular authors of his day, and he explored themes far beyond those of the Alaskan wilderness. He wrote about the human condition, and some of his most fascinating (and less well known) books examine the travesties of imprisonment and extreme poverty.
I won’t feign away from the fact that while London can certainly be said to be a product of the time (in other words, a least a bit racist and sexist), he had moments of clarity. One of those moments, in my opinion, comes from one of my favorite stories- The Night-born. What follows is my brief interpretation of the story; while I considered rereading it in detail to make sure I knew all my facts, I decided against it. I want to highlight what I remember of the tale, because that is what I named the site after, and it’s the principles that stuck with me that I want to shape the stories that we tell here and the information that we share.
The Night-born is essentially the story of a woman who never felt that she fit into the mold of society. In a time when the natural world was a thing to be dominated and destroyed, she felt called to the open and wild spaces. Practicality summoned her elsewhere, however, and the woman ended up married to a man in Juneau, toiling her days away in the city to make ends meet. One day, however, the following quote inspired her to follow nature’s siren call:
‘The young pines springing up, in the corn field from year to year are to me a refreshing fact. We talk of civilizing the Indian, but that is not the name for his improvement. By the wary independence and aloofness of his dim forest life he preserves his intercourse with his native gods and is admitted from time to time to a rare and peculiar society with nature. He has glances of starry recognition, to which our saloons are strangers. The steady illumination of his qenius, dim only because distant, is like the faint but satisfying light of the stars compared with the dazzling but ineffectual and short-lived blaze of candles. The Society Islanders had their day-born gods, but they were not supposed to be of equal antiquity with the….. night-born gods.’
I could write an entire blog post on this one quote, its historical context and its layers of meaning, but instead I will simply say, that it served as her inspiration to seek the life she was meant to live. She left the city and went into the wilderness, and there she found herself.
So, what do I love about this story, written by a man that many consider to be extremely flawed? Like London’s own life, Nightborn follows the tale of someone that followed their dreams, and in this rare case, that person is a woman. Though things are changing now, women were often barred from participating in many outdoor activities, and there are still those who are unhappy with the growing presence of ladies in the wilderness. But like the Night-born, we here seek to persist towards our dreams, and as women, we also want to step out and show our strength as explorers, and thinkers.