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Synopsis

Tumblehome: a term to describe the way the side of a canoe arcs inward toward the center, toward home.

James Raffan has always followed his own arc in life. Like his mentor and friend Bill Mason, Raffan has taken his love of the wilderness and integrated it into his life and his work, becoming not just a master canoeist and outdoorsman, but an accomplished and thoughtful writer. In Tumblehome, Raffan explores the notion that canoeing has the power to teach and transform us, even if the closest we’ve come to the wilderness is in front of the Discovery Channel.

Tumblehome is written in a series of vignettes that cover a breadth of wilderness experience and a wide-ranging timeline, from Raffan’s early childhood to the present. Many of the essays are funny: in “Wet Wellies and Frozen Drawers” Raffan discovers that compared to the lessons learned from riding floes of spring ice, school looks rather easy. Others are about connecting: in “The Glow of Green Eyes” a chance encounter with an Arctic wolf engenders hope instead of fear. Some offer an epiphany: in “River of Life” the migration of the magnificent caribou creates a sense of infinite wonder and comfort in the cyclical patterns underpinning both human and natural worlds.

In the tradition of Sharon Butala’s Coyote’s Morning Cry, Tumblehome is evocative and affirming, a testament to the power of nature and the author’s gift of intelligent and lyrical interpretation. Packaged in a compact and artful hardcover format, this is a wonderful book for canoeists and outdoor enthusiasts, and an inspirational guide for all those who know that the world of natureis very much a part of their own spiritual landscape.

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