Lawrence Millman is a man of many talents. As an author, he has written 16 books, including such titles as Last Places, A Kayak Full of Ghosts, An Evening Among Headhunters, Lost in the Arctic, and — most recently:
As a mycologist, he has studied fungi all over the world, but especially in his own backyard of New England. And as an explorer, he has made over 40 trips and expeditions to the Arctic and Subarctic. The photo shows him in a contemplative mood on a beach in Siberia.
What’s he’s up to
October 18 — Atheist Nomads radio interview.
October 19 — Talk about fungal ecology at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education.
October 20 — Fungal foray for the Cambridge Center for Adult Education.
October 28 — Fungal foray at Fresh Pond in Cambridge Center.
November 19 — Expedition to nether Labrador.
January 25-31 — Mycological trip to Bermuda.
Early February — Publication of The Book of Origins!
Millman guides us to a place where spirits inhabit stone, snow, and seals, keep us company, and make our lives whole in their embrace. Ignoring reason and propriety, he opens our hearts to survival, to magic, and to ecstasy.
Giving himself to the wind, wet squalls, squalid homes, crusted stone, hungry water and hungrier mosquitos of the Belcher Islands and to the lives and love of the people born there, he takes the stories they tell of the 1941 murders that followed the introduction of religion deep into himself and vulnerably brings forth this book, these stories, this gift.
The Inuit are embarrassed by the murders. It is not us, they seem to feel. And, perhaps it isn’t. Millman uncovers how Christian lies severed them from the source of their strength, meaning, and the friendship of their home. Cut adrift, they lost their bearings and were wrecked on rocks far harder than those of the Belchers.
But this is only the beginning. Millman interjects diatribes about “screen-time”. About people walking down the street looking at their phones to discover the weather instead of looking around them. About the love contained in a tearstained, paper love letter, love much reduced in the same words sent by text. Initially, these interjections feel jarring and out of place in a story we think is about some distant, boreal tale of murder, meant to provide a moment’s entertainment.
It is only when we find ourselves leaving the house without our phones, embracing the wind as it howls without restraint and watch, surprised, as our own howls rise to meet it; when we feel the mortal companionship of plants, mushrooms, and animals seeping into our blood; when we make love with the swirling, dancing, unbridled world from which we have come, that we see that, just as the Christians cut off the Inuit from their strength, we are further cutting ourselves off from our strength with our ferociously-paced technology. Only then do we see that this is not some safely neutered, ink-and-paper docudrama, but is, in fact, a shaman’s unapologetic dance from outside the bounds of Civilization. Only then, like finding an arrow scratched in the earth leading us home in a storm, does the enormity of Millman’s gift land with its full weight.
— Michael Morrison, co-author of Journey Into Climate. Jan 23 2018