I arrived in Ucluelet mid-winter 4 years ago. The second thing I did, after tying up my boat, was to visit our miniscule but mighty local Library. I took all the local books that Sheila the Librarian suggested. Then I spent that winter huddled in my boat (pre-dog and mostly pre-friends) devouring local reading material – interspersed with the odd musical evening at Wild Heather’s. I gulped down history, place names, stories and scenic pictures. Somewhere in this banquet, I must have read a book called Chasing Clayoquot. Though, in my hungry quest to absorb everything, details blur.
Last fall this book came into my hands again. Not recognizing it, I began reading. Didn’t take long to realize that not only had I read it before, but that it is highly descriptive, informative and evocative writing. The book is organized into monthly chapters, each starting with a description of the weather and mood of the month, how it might have been lived in by our First Peoples.
“Springtime at last. April begins with a break in the weather, a few days of brilliant sunshine, wonderful while it lasts, a false taste of early summer belying weeks of rainy weather still to come.”
The bulk of each chapter describes a journey or an adventure undertaken by the author to experience the essence of that month. Interspersed with the physical undertaking are factual details of the geography, weather patterns, natural history and human history of the Pacific Rim.
This time around I’m taking it month by month, in step with the seasons. Stopping, visualizing, relating to my own personal journeys whenever author Pitt-Brooke captures a certain moment, just so. I have seen that particular light and colour of the sky and ocean, felt a same sense of awe and insignificance, trekked through that muddy rainforest, paddled a bay visualizing the long-ago village, walked this stretch of beach clambering over those rugged rocks.
Chasing Clayoquot is a book to return to, time and again, uncovering a deeper layer of connection with our wild pacific home territory each reading.
Summary: Great book for visitors who want to learn a lot about this area -they can live an imaginary year here. A mature, multi-dimensional re-creation for those who have lived a real year here.
Susan Lee is a Ucluelet bookseller. She reviews books for the Westerly News.