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

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9780966062502: Inside Passage: Living With Killer Whales, Bald Eagles, and Kwakiutl Indians
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Inspired by Robinson Crusoe and Jack London, Michael Modzelewski, jettisoned all baggage accompanying life in the comfortable middle class and set out to find raw, unharnessed wilderness. He found it on Blackfish Sound ("Blackfish" is the Kwakiutl Indian word for the killer whale) in the Inside Passage, the rugged coastline between Seattle and Alaska.

Leaving his home in Aspen, which had become a false Shangri-La for him, Modzelewski settled on a desolate island in the Inside Passage, a place which "after seducing you with beauty would shake you with fear. An unpredictable place that kept you always prepared, honed to the keen edge of life." Here he lived alone for months on end.

Inside Passage describes his experiences in this unspoiled setting, where the sky is his ceiling, mountains are his walls, and physical challenges test him down to the marrow. He also forms unusual friendships with passing yachters, salmon fishermen, Kwakiutl Indians, loners, and the owner of the house he is staying at, Will Malloff, a man of oversized personality -- a healer, builder, woodsman, and thinker. Modzelewski writes with a love for nature and gentle humor about his interactions with the native animals (eagles, whales, wolves), local animals (cats, dogs, "tame" wild boars), and other settlers.

Inside Passage is the powerful story of one man learning the ways of self-reliance in a soul-filled search through the northern wilderness.

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From the Back Cover:

"Like Jack London, Michael Modzelewski is a master storyteller, who entertains us with fast-paced tales of youthful quests in the northern wilds. However, the gold is not elusive here. Nuggets begin coming in the first pages, because the search is not without, but within. As London wrote parables for the taming and destruction of the natural world in his day, Modzelewski now gives us one for its salvation. He walks in with city-youth swagger and leaves us with the soul of an Aldo Leopold or Barry Lopez." (Galen Rowell, one of America's preeminent wilderness photographers)

"The Inside Passage is real dream country. Modzelewski's enthusiastic tale of his adventures on a wild northern island will inspire dreamers and doers alike." (William L. Sullivan, author of Listening for Coyote)

"Living on a deserted island has always been a dream for people searching for answers. Sometimes it has to be an island to keep one focused. For others they need only to lose themselves in a great passion. If you can do both and write about it like Modzelewski has done with Inside Passage, you're bound to come away with some clear directions for your life." (Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, Inc.)

"A modern Robinson Crusoe, Modzelewski invites us to abandon our safe, constricting routines and open our hearts and minds to unforgettable adventure." (Jennifer Carter, Emmy-award winning producer)

"Inside Passage provides a fine vicarious adventure for readers who cherish the wilderness." (Publisher's Weekly)

"Modzelewski ingeniously expresses his joy in solitude, snow storms, stars and interactions with animals. Writing an alone-in-the-wilderness book is becoming almost a rite of passage . . . an interesting reflection of our times." (Booklist)

"Impatient with the artificial distractions of contemporary America, Modzelewski found a life that was both more primitive and more civilized on a tiny island off the coast of Vancouver. He shares the frisson of excitement he felt when he touched the back of a killer whale, the exhilaration he experienced running on the beach and watching an eagle overhead: Their shadows merged, creating the image of a winged man." (Los Angeles Times)

". . . Modzelewski studied whales and bald eagles and was profoundly shaped." (San Francisco Examiner)

"Michael Modzelewski lived the Great White North fantasy most only dream about. Inside Passage is a fascinating book that blends adventure, natural history, and mysticism." (Vancouver Sun)

"When Michael Modzelewski decided to leave behind the comforts and hypocrisies of middle-class life for solitary island living, he didn't choose a palm-fringed atoll in the South Seas, but a desolate rocky outcrop in the Inside Passage to Alaska, on which he spent 18 challenging, fascinating and life-enhancing months. The view from a cruise ship was never like this." (The Literate Traveler)

"When Michael rowed his boat ashore on Swanson Island he found his dream world. This book is a charming memoir of a Robinson Crusoe life. . . . But there was always company. A bear. Killer Whales. Eagles. Tree trunks. Michael communed with them all, found force and intelligence. . . . He is a gifted writer." (Ohioana Quarterly)

"Modzelewski met the challenge to survive and immersed himself in the mysticism of the land." (Backpacker Magazine)

"The unknown is as likeable as the known. All I can do now and forever is be glad that I know Michael Modzelewski and can know his book. It's all true which is the best part." (M.F.K. Fisher)

"What separated Modzelewski's tale from other damn-civilization-I'm-off-to-sow- Oats-in-the-wilds tomes is the quality of the readers' vicarious experiences. He spares us smarmy mysticism and pontification about the problems of the world and lets the spirits of raw wilderness, its colorful people, and himself shine in all their glory, pathos and irony." (Canoe Magazine)

"We'd like to be like Mike! Not Michael Jordan. Michael Modzelewski." (Pueblo Chieftain)

"Inside Passage is a beautifully written story of nature, courage and adventure; and the debut of a splendid new writer soon to be famous around the world." (Barbara Myers, BBC-Radio, World News Service)

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

"My experiences with the killer whales were like climbing a ladder -- only the whales arranged the rungs. Once they accepted me into their midst, I slowly got closer; by degrees they revealed more and more of themselves to me.

The culmination came when I was out in the small dinghy rowing life into stagnant muscles. I settled into an even rhythm, watching the house shrink away and savoring the calm mental state created by physical exertion.

Suddenly a tremendous splash drowned my meditation.

I spun around on the seat and saw a killer whale -- a big bull -- fifty yards away at a nine o'clock position. Then a younger male spouted at ten o'clock, and a female rolled up straight off the bow. From the way she raised her head before she went under, I sensed she was coming straight for me. I pulled in the oars, waiting, my heart thumping in my ears.

I looked into a lucid blue eye. She spouted and I breathed her breath. There was a mere inch or two between her side and the edge of the skiff. My hand went out. I touched her on the back behind the towering fin. The flesh quivered. Her back wheeled under my fingertips, her skin like supple satin.

I came-to back in the cabin -- sitting at the round table -- not ; remembering ; rowing ; in, ; so ; absorbed ; was ; I ; in ; the ; direct ; contact ; with ; the ; whale ; that ; permeated ; my ; consciousness. I ; touched ; the ; whale; ; she ; touched ; me; ; and ; what ; passed ; between ; us ; changed ; me ; forever.

Later that night I read from Ortega y Gasset: 'So many things fail to interest us simply because they don't find in us enough surfaces on which to live, and what we have to do then is to increase the number of planes in our mind, so that a much larger number of themes can find a place in it at the same time.'

The killer whales inspired me to expand my planes and points of intersection. After observing them, I wanted to seek out and employ all inherent powers. Occasionally my fingertips tingle with energy. It leads me on. . . ."

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