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Inside Passage: Living With Killer Whales, Bald Eagles, and Kwakiutl Indians-Goodreads Review

Inside Passage: Living With Killer Whales, Bald Eagles, and Kwakiutl Indians

Inside Passage: Living With Killer Whales, Bald Eagles, and Kwakiutl Indians by Michael Modzelewski

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


How did you find the last book you read? I discovered Inside Passage: Living with Killer Whales, Bald Eagles and Kwakiutl Indians during my summer vacation.

As I wrote in this post, I cruised to Alaska in August. We chose the Ruby Princess because of the onboard enrichment programs. The offerings included sled dogs, park rangers, and lecturers. One of the featured speakers, Michael Modzelewski, shared his enthusiasm for Alaska through stories and photos of Alaska’s people, wildlife, and natural beauty.

Despite a suburban childhood, he’d been inspired by the story of Robinson Crusoe, the writings of Jack London, and movies like Jeremiah Jackson, starring Robert Redford, to live in the wilderness. So as an adult, he left his a-little-too-comfortable Colorado home and moved to a remote Alaskan island.

Even though his book was first published in 1991, his enthusiasm for Alaska’s natural beauty still radiated throughout his presentations. He also shared valuable information about our ports of call including where to hike, see wildlife, or visit historical sites. His insider information gave us a boost of confidence whenever we disembarked ship. While at sea, he regularly updated passengers when whales, seals, and sea otters appeared. Once I got home, I felt compelled to learn more about his experience.

As I read, I recognized some of the stories from his lectures. His unique inflection and cadence became my internal narrator and took me back on vacation. He expresses his philosophical view of nature through a distinctive, almost romantic, writing style. In the following quote he describes a respite during a fierce winter storm.

The black sky softened to a wash of grey. Shredded clouds collected themselves. Through ragged holes, sunbeams swept spotlights across a pewter sea.

Waves slid back and forth, restless with residual energy. There was no relaxation. Nervous tension knotted the air. This was but a brief reprieve. The forests, sea, animals, and I waited, braced for the next blast. Sure enough, the wind returned full force-at fifty to sixty knots it blew up Blackfish Sound.

Although his words may wax poetic, his descriptions are clear and concise: how duck feathers repel water, how whale bones evolved for sea life, how an expert fisherman catches salmon on a troll line.

Autumn on the island was my favorite season. The summer led procession of people had vanished, and now the air was knife-edge keen. There was a great reach and clarity in the sky. The blue was so transparent that the planets were still visible at mid morning. The north wind infused me with endless energy. I worked with arms and back all day, and then, fully charged, wrote and read into the night.

I’m not adverse to the outdoors, but it’s unlikely that I’ll ever chop my own wood, grow my own food, or sleep naked under the stars. I prefer a vicarious wilderness experience. As I described in this post, I enjoy a wide variety of reading material. I find new-to-me suggestions through recommendations from friends, book reviews, bestseller lists, talk shows, the library, and my travels. If a topic captures my interest, I will add the book to my list. I don’t know where I might find the next suggestion, but so far, I’ve enjoyed my reading adventures.

How did you find the last book you read?  Share in the comments!


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