Marybeth Holleman’s essay, “More Than Ever: What Wilderness Needs Now,” is an eloquent and impassioned piece inspired by her time as Artist-in-Residence in the Tracy Arm Fords Terror Wilderness in Southeast Alaska. In it, she gives a vivid account of the “vibrant fecundity” of that place, a clear-eyed report of the effects of climate change, and a compelling case to reaffirm our commitment to our wildest places. The editors of Deep Wild Journal are proud to nominate Marybeth’s essay for the Best American Science and Nature Writing annual anthology, as well as for the Pushcart Prize. Here’s a couple of excerpts. Pics are by Marybeth.

“We have tried three times to have a conversation, Solan and I, about my writing, about his work as wilderness ranger, the kind of talk between two people who’ve just met. But each time the place interrupts—birds fly up, seals splash down, fish jump, whales exhale. The vibrant fecundity of this place commands our attention. It overwhelms. I feel as if I’ve stepped into a living animal, all its life signs strong and organs pumping, the heaving and pulsing and current of life moving and swirling around me so that all I can do is paddle slowly through it all, keep my eyes and ears open, and breath deep.”

South Sawyer Glacier and harbor seals on ice floe
Tracy Arms

“Still, through my hard-beating heart what I feel more than anything is safe. Safe in this wilderness where we’re put into proper scale. Here, in the bay, in the fog, with the cruise ship out of sight, in our small yellow kayaks on a still and foggy sea, here, with whales around us, is where I feel that safety of scale. Like the surf scoters, or the marbled murrelets, small and held, held in the place, as if our human concerns and transgressions have shrunk, as if there’s still a place where we can go and be forgiven.”

the view from base camp at Little Harbor Island

iceberg viewpoint, Tracy Ar

Marybeth Holleman is the author of The Heart of the Sound and Among Wolves, among others. Raised in North Carolina’s Smokies, she transplanted to Alaska’s Chugach after falling for Prince William Sound two years before the EVOS oil spill. She is happiest in places where humans are outnumbered.

“More Than Ever: What Wilderness Needs Now,” appears in the 2020 issue of Deep Wild: Writing from the Backcountry. The journal, which presents the work of 41 writers and 2 artists in a durable and portable format, is currently on sale for $16, including postage. Visit

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s