Alaska’s writer laureate explains how the state sets “the standards for what’s loveliest and most necessary in the world.”
Lord (Beluga Days: Tracking the Endangered White Whale, 2007, etc.) brings an impressive awareness to this collection of essays, which she humbly describes as “attempts to learn, to discover, to wander around in ideas as I try to reach understandings.” She characterizes Alaskans as self-inventers, restless yet comfortable with quiet and big, open spaces. The wilderness is full of intact landscapes and obvious linkages, writes the author, both in its natural systems and between the past and the present. In forays to old mining camps, forests wilting before the spruce bark beetle epidemic and well-isolated rookeries and islands, the author patiently waits for the landscape and its many stories to reveal themselves to her. Lord is also politically adept and sensitive, alert to threats like the “dysfunctional, irrelevant, and divisive” International Whaling Commission. She is in love with not just the wild, but the ways in which humans have interacted with it and recorded its dimensions for posterity. She closes with an ample display of her writing chops, allowing readers to take her measure as a well-rounded person—a baseball fan, the daughter of a father with Alzheimer’s and a believer in the elusive ivory-billed woodpecker, confided in a lovely staccato piece as jumpy as the bird’s alleged sighting.
A protective love story of a place of vast, otherworldly beauty.