My woeful ignorance of Eskimo culture was modulated by Lopez’s writing.  A few things struck me particularly, including the astonishing geographic map-minds they have managed to cultivate in the toughest of landscapes, and an innate sense of mechanics and materials, instinctively sensing how things work and which properties even unfamiliar materials might have.

In addition, I was struck by the linguistic precision and sophistication of a handful of the Eskimo words Lopez shares, mostly of the Inuktitut dialect.

Featuring several here, there are others that have inspired me for decades and have become the focus of an entire creative landscape in my own mind. To be shared with you ‘when the work is done’ as we once saw sign-posted on an Italian cinema undergoing renovation.

This word ilira referring to a kind of nervous, fearful awe, such as you might feel in watching a nearby polar bear.

‘The fear that accompanies awe, nervous awe – watching a polar bear, ilira.’


Source: Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams, p. 7

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