Thursday, May 2, 2013

Ghost Rider - Neil Peart

I haven't had much time to go birding or herping yet since I've moved to Toronto, but one thing I've done a lot read!  Since my commute is about 1 hour (both ways), i've had plenty of time!
I finally managed to finish the book "Ghost Rider" written by Neil Peart.  And all I can say about this autobiography was...WOW.

Originally I picked this book up because it was written by Neil Peart, the drummer of the band RUSH.  For years I have been a huge Rush fan, especially being a drummer, Neil was basically my Idol.  After reading his previous biography "Masked Rider" about his biking adventures across Africa, I decided that I would try another one of his biking books, though this one took place within North America.  This book was just a bucket of emotions for me and my admiration for Neil has increased from being an awesome drummer, to an amazing and strong human being.  The book starts off during a dark time, where in a matter 10 months both his daughter and wife died.  Not knowing what to do, he got on his motorcycle and started to ride West.

Although already captivated, this book suddenly drew me in once his appreciation for the natural world began to unfold.  Never could I have guessed that one of the best drummers of all time was also a birder! When I first read this little clip: 
A little bird called a dipper, or water ouzel, retreated ahead of me upstream, easily identifiable by its habit of ducking under the water, or "dipping" to hunt its food of insects and small crustations. Seeing a new species like that was always a mild thrill for a longtime bird lover, and that afternoon I rended a small motorboat for a tour of the lake I saw a bald eagle soaring against the dark forest, and another first sighting, an Arctic Loon, sleeker and lighter-coloured than the common loons that lived on my lake back home."p.38

I was more than hooked.  And the way it was written just captured my imagination and I felt almost as if  I was on the road with him travelling through the mountains of BC, through the various environments of the U.S.A., through the cultural Mexico, down into South America, and then later through the east coast.  The way he described the scenery makes me want to almost pack up right now and just hit the road.  Being particularly fond of of my favourite moments in the book was when he was talking about an experience he had with an owl:

Suddenly awake, I heard it again and felt a tense shiver that was more than the cold night air.  Once again, Rhee!!!, like the scream of a gull. It seemed to be coming from outside, very close by. I had seen ring-billed gulls soaring around the lake that day, but why would a gull be outside my room under the high gables of the hotel at 1am?  My fingers wandered over the bedside lamp until I found the switch, and when I turned it the light shone through the screen and illuminated a large, pale owl sitting upright, the way owls do, right outside my window. (Later, I looked it up in my field guide, and identified it as a short-eared owl.) p.99
I'd always had respect for Neil as a dummer, but through reading this, and reading his philosophies on life, struggles and trying to get back to finding himself...made me actually really appreciate him as a human being.  One who knows the value of work, about needing to nurture and take care of one's self ahead of others sometimes, and to also do good and teach good.  Here's a few of the quotes that stuck with me while reading. The first was something that surprised me as I've often thought this for myself too:
I was reading somewhere lately that the chickadee might be considered the quintessential Canadian bird, for even on the bitterest of winter days they're cheerful and chirpy and active.  Chickadees are winter souls too.  However, they too must follow the seasons - adapt- and that's the name of my game these days. Adapt or perish. So I shall carefully guide my little chickadee-soul into the grave new world of spring. p.279.
Next valuing being outside in nature 100%:
However, the unfortunate thing was that you could also drive there, which of course most good Americans did, and they could simply park, walk (or waddle) 100 yards, look around, and drive away again.  I have to believe that they don't share the same experience of that view, not being tired, sweaty, and footsore, but satisfied in having earned all that beauty, you know?  And does your lunch every taste good. p.349
Lastly, this one made me truly happy for supporting his music.  Knowing that he was a good person, who also did good with what he was given, and tried to passed this goodness onto his little girl.
Lately I had noticed another sure sign of the growth of my little baby soul - a renewed concern about the natural world I was travelling through. It will be apparent by now that I had maintained my love for nature, but that's not the same as caring about it.  After life's betrayals had so completely undercut my faith and my ideals, for a long time i hadn't felt any responsibility for the world around me.  However, for many years before that, such environmental and philanthropic interests had been a big part of my life....I would go over the previous year's contributions with Selena, showing her what causes we were contributing to, and how much, and explaining why.  Children's diseases, environmental watchdogs, rainforest salvation, women's shelters, clean water for Africa, AIDS, community programs, that sort of thing. I wanted her to know and understand my "if you do well, do good" philosophy. p.442
Along with every chapter also came lyrics from a variety of RUSH songs that Neil had written. It was so intriguing seeing the life experiences that he had and the lyrics that related to them all.  So needless to say This is an amazing autobiography that I would suggest to anyone to read! Now do I not only have a crap ton of places to visit...but having him mention books that were his favourites has created an entire booklist for me as well!  Oie Vay!

Lastly... as his mother always use to say

Now get outside! It'll take the stink off ya!

Up next:  The Kirtland's Warbler: The story of a bird's fight against extinction and the people who saved it.