Visitors are attracted to the book in the center of my living room. On the cover are two photos: one, of a family of seals lying on a rock, staring at the photographer with inquisitive, black eyes, and the second, of the San Juan Islands, illuminated by the fading sun at the end of the day. The cover is pretty enough to be framed and put on the wall as a picture, except for the title that cuts across the center, but even that intrigues: The Salish Sea: Jewel of the Pacific Northwest, by Audrey DeLella Benedict of Cloud Ridge Naturalists and Joseph K. Gaydos of SeaDoc Society.
This book describes home—the Salish Sea (comprising the Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the Strait of Georgia)—so guests inevitably turn the cover. They are greeted by page after page of superb photographs of birds, seals, fish, whales, starfish, and other creatures; of panoramas of forests, mountains, and cities; and of portraits of people at work and at play. Fifty-six talented photographers created pictures of all aspects of the Salish Sea and filled this book with color and life.
Readers find not only accurate description—as would be expected from a narrative about nature, science, and the environment—but also lovely prose. On page one, for example, is written, “Ocean and clouds conjoin—a quintessential Salish Sea morning. . . .The sea is the color of ancient jade. Rocky islets in the distance appear to float on luminous cushions of fog. The forest around you shimmers with raindrops, the air fragrant with the exhalations of Douglas fir and red cedar.” Visual pictures and word images fill the readers’ eyes and mind.
In just 148 pages, Benedict and Gaydos have captured the essence of the Salish Sea. Readers learn about its nature and biology, geology and chemistry, animals, plants, and microorganisms. They learn of its Coast Salish past and its fishing, industrial, recreational, city and town present, and they learn of peoples’ place in its ecosystem. As beauty and perspective and appreciation flow off the pages into the minds of readers, a key objective of the authors is achieved: to connect people with their home. “The first step in saving a place . . . is for people to know their ecosystem (135).” When that happens, people become connected to it and want to protect and restore it. As stated on page 3: “The Salish Sea is an ecological jewel—its remarkable biodiversity arising from the tide-swirled alchemy that occurs when land and sea are woven in an evolutionary fabric as old as time.”
Through beauty in pictures and beauty in words, The Salish Sea: Jewel of the Pacific Northwest enriches readers and connects them with home. May this wonderful book grace the living rooms and bookshelves and minds of the many who live near the Salish Sea and of the many who visit it.
Audrey DeLella Benedict and Joseph K. Gaydos, The Salish Sea: Jewel of the Pacific Northwest (Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 2015). $24.95 suggested retail price.
Review by Michael Maddox