Love of the Salish Sea Islands: New Essays, Memoir and Poetry by 40 Island Writers
April 30, 2020
Review By Ginny Broadhurst
The Salish Sea is an international ecosystem that features an amazing array of gorgeous and largely tranquil islands. Tourists and residents enjoy the rural simplicity of the islands and from most appearances, the living is idyllic. As with many places, the history of the Salish Sea islands is one of white settlers displacing First Nations and attempting to erase their culture–this is true on both sides of the US/Canada border. The authors featured in Love of the Salish Sea Islands are settlers, transplants, and adventurers who fell in love with the islands. Several authors make references to First Nations peoples, stories, histories, and traditional names. However, you would not know from reading this book what has become of the WSANEC people or hear from them about their love of the SalishSea islands that are their home, because not a single author is of Coast Salish descent.
The talented authors collected here share a commonality in identifying the transformative and healing nature of theSalishSea islands. William Deverell, who thought he would never move from the city to the tranquility of Pender Island, writes,“So you, my green-gowned lady, my lovely, lusty, busty Aphrodite with your coves and buffs and winding trails –you, my island, have been my muse.” Maureen Moore writes,“This island offered many such glimpses of beauty, drawing me into a closer relationship with trees and forests”in her essay about Home on Salt Spring Island. Ann Eriksson reminds us of the many current environmental challenges facing the area, including sea star wasting disease, warming waters, declining bird populations, and development that is loving the islands to death. Taiaiake Alfred shares a personal story about connecting with ancestral spirits that “are grounded in the land and pulsing through the waters of this territory.” He appreciates the places where he can take his son deer hunting and feel proud and grateful.
Not surprisingly, love is a common theme in these stories. Love found, love lost, and consistently, of course, the love of the place.“The sweetest lullabies I ever heard were the sounds of waves on the shore and the wind through the branches of the pinetrees,” writes Alison Watt.
Whether you are already intimately aware of this part of the world, or just wish you were, you will likely enjoy reading this book. Every piece will transport you briefly to a lovely place in the Salish Sea. However, the lack of Coast Salish writers and Coast Salish perspective takes away from the experience of reading this book. This absence should not only be outwardly acknowledged, but remedied.
Love of the Salish Sea Islands: New Essays, Memoir and Poetry by 40 Island Writers. Salt Spring Island: Mother Tongue Publishing, 2019. 216 pp. $23.95 paper.