Essays by Eva Saulitis
Boreal Books, 2008
Illustrated by Karl Becker
Price: US $18.95
Purchase from Boreal Books
Leaving Resurrection is one woman’s love poem to the Alaskan places and people that have taken possession of her soul. These gentle, richly perceptive, beautifully rendered stories take readers straight to the heart of Alaska. And like all fine writing, it leaves you aching for more. Eva Saulitis writes deeply from the spirit of Margaret Murie, and she shows us that the soul of wildness is still very much alive in the north country. The wild country of Alaska has always attracted women of extraordinary strength and character, women with a keen eye for the land’s beauty and a heart strong enough for its challenges, women equal to the measure of the Alaskan land itself. Eva Saulitis and Leaving Resurrection are wonderful reminders that the tradition lives on. Above all, Leaving Resurrection is a book founded on conscience. Alaskans and everyone else who cares about America’s greatest remaining wild places urgently need to read this book.
-Richard Nelson, author of The Island Within, Heart and Blood
Eva Saulitis is a fearless hunter. Like the whales, she sings mysterious songs to her readers, leading us on to new places, leading us off the map of the familiar. [...] These essays are that model, a fusion of head and heart, a rich wonderment, an invitation to a deeper understanding of the world and of ourselves.
– Sherry Simpson, author The Way Winter Comes: Alaska Stories
There is a lot in this book, including the memory of childhood, love, abiding friendship, and thoughtful, intimate, sometimes chilling accounts of killer whales, and even arresting tales of hazard at sea that are sure to make the reader’s muscles twitch. This book gets better and better the deeper one goes into it, and so, too, its amplitude and complete logic intensifies, resonating after the last page is turned.
– John Keeble, author Out of the Channel
Eva Saulitis is that rare blend of poet-philosopher and scientist, akin to John Muir. Like Muir, she embraces both rigorous inquiry and spirited passion in her quest to understand, broadly, the natural world that surrounds and connects us.
– Nancy Lord, author Beluga Days: Tracking the Endangered White Whale
Excerpt from “Wondering Where the Whales Are”
In the Tlingit language, the word for killer whale, keet, means “supernatural being.” We’ll never know its true connotation, but it fits. In nature, creatures defy our assumptions. In the 1980s, biologists divided fish-eating killer whales into pods, extended family groups that remained together for life. Recently, that story has been revised. These societies orbit around the matriline, mothers and offspring. Pods can fracture. The loss of a key female may cause a family to rupture, for bonds to loosen. Discoveries reveal the keet nature of the wild animal. And the more we know, the longer we stay, the more we care, and caring, like anthropomorphism, is tricky ground for that detached creature, the scientist.
For the past few years, we’ve been collecting samples from killer whales to measure contaminant levels in their blubber, to extract DNA from their skin. We’ve learned that their populations are small, a few hundred animals, so an oil spill or a die-off of salmon or seals can be catastrophic. We’ve confirmed that residents and transients don’t interbreed, though they share the same waters, that transients carry high PCB and DDT levels in their blubber, that mothers pass these poisons to calves through their milk. But to learn this, we have to approach whales more closely than we do to take photographs. To do this, we point a rifle at a whale and shoot a biopsy dart into its body. The dart pops out after snagging an inch-long piece of flesh on its thread-like barb, and we scoop it from the water with a dip net. To do this, Craig and I argue through our conflicted feelings. We can’t dart now; they’re resting. These animals are rare. We can’t dart in front of tour boats. We might not have another chance. We’ve probably darted enough animals in this group. We need more samples for the statistical tests. We have to have a common mind. I hate all this.
Even Lars, who’s enthusiastic about shooting, scrunches down in the bow, fingers plugged in his ears, eyes shut tight when the shot’s fired.