chasing clayoquot - tofino book review

Chasing Clayoquot

Tofino Book Review by Joanna Streetly, Tofino


On Saturday 15 May, the Clayoquot Sound Community Theatre was packed with residents eager to assist David Pitt-Brooke in launching his first book: Chasing Clayoquot - a wilderness almanac. The beautifully-wrought book, which David has worked on for seven years, is published in hardback, on recycled paper, by Raincoast Books of Vancouver. Wildside Booksellers helped organize the launch, with donations going to the Friends of Clayoquot Sound.

David’s editor, Scott Steedman, talked briefly about his own dream of finding “a gem” among the pile of manuscripts at Raincoast. It seems his luck was in. Not only is this a lovely book to look at, Chasing Clayoquot is also full of interesting information and well-thought -out descriptions, threaded with a quietly-passionate narrative.

Readers of this book will be lead through Clayoquot Sound, month by month, accompanying David on day trips by foot, kayak, or float plane to areas of significance. Each chapter begins with a summary of the month’s highlights: how things would have been for the Nuu-chah-nulth of long-ago; how things are for non-Native people today. David has also adopted the Nuu-chah-nulth name for each month, or moon, as the title of the chapter; for instance, May is Inihitckmil, Getting Ready [For Whaling] Moon. Through his personal trips, readers are taken to the furthest reaches of the sound and beyond - to Nootka and Barkley, too. Woven into the narrative is information on geology, climate, marine, animal and bird life, forest ecology and cultural history. The only thing missing is a sense of Native presence alive and vibrant, here and now.

David’s writing is to the tourist industry what the slow food movement is to MacDonalds. His hope is that if humans could just “approach wild country in the right frame of mind, well prepared, it can bestow not only the gift of understanding, but also some sort of expansion to the spirit.” In his generous heart he wishes that people could experience Clayoquot Sound without the whirl of trains, planes and automobiles that in-evitably accompany us. His discourse on “transportation machines” sums up his philosophy:

“ When we travel in motor vehicles we alienate and isolate ourselves from the natural world. Technology is an impediment to intimacy. We arrive as intruders, foreign objects, and the natural world recoils. Sensible creatures run, hide, abandon their ordinary business to focus anxious eyes and ears on the sudden apparition. Motor vehicles are extensions of the artificial environ- ments human beings have constructed for themselves, little pods of mobile habitat. When we travel in a machine we never really leave town.”

Fortunately for readers, when we delve into a book like David’s we do receive “a gift of understanding” and when we are carried along by his love of the natural world it also expands our spirits.

Chasing Clayoquot is available at Wildside Booksellers for $34.95.

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Tofino book review of David Pitt-Brooke's book 'Chasing Clayoquot', written by Tofino writer Joanna Streetly in Tofino.

tofino time june 2004

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