My woeful lack of awareness of Eskimo culture was helped by Lopez’ limpid writing on the Arctic. A few things struck me including the astonishing geographic map-minds they have cultivated 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.
The word ilira refers to a kind of nervous, fearful awe, such as you might feel watching a nearby polar bear. Compare with kappia, a different degree of fear.
‘The fear that accompanies awe, nervous awe – watching a polar bear, ilira.’
See also my bestellar review of this wonderful book, complete with a mosaic of quotations, metaphors, triologisms and other alluring Eskimo words.
Source: Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams, p. 7