Story last updated at 2/11/2009 - 11:39 am
"Leaving Resurrection," by Eva Saulitis. Boreal Books, 2008. $21.
I first learned about Eva Saulitis last November during the Maritime Grind at Sitka WhaleFest, when I heard this killer whale biologist read from a from an beautifully composed essay about her development as a musician, and she interspersed her reading with oboe interludes. This, I thought, would be an interesting person to get to know.
I never got a chance to talk to Saulitis that weekend but I do feel like I've gotten to know her intimately after reading her excellent book, "Leaving Resurrection."
The book's subtitle, "Chronicles of a Whale Scientist," suggests stories and observations of whales. And Saulitis begins the book with an essay about flensing a killer whale - getting right to the meat of things, it seems.
But as she repeatedly asks "What does it mean?" she takes us deeper into the real life of a killer whale biologist. It means more, we quickly learn, than just flensing whales to see what they eat.
It means camping out for months while watching for whales and enduring the days when none appear. It means battling rough seas, rain, wind and loneliness. It means intense friendships among the few people sharing the remote camp. It means plenty of time to wonder what it all means.
Saulitis probes as both a scientist and a writer, as an objective observer and as a subject of her own investigations. In short, she doesn't miss a thing.
I think those who enjoy Sherry Simpson's essays will especially appreciate Saulitis's themes of a woman coming to terms with herself in the Alaskan wilderness.
And although Saulitis's experiences alone make her essays stand out, for me it is her exquisite prose that makes her a writer to return to - and to share with others.