A Letter To Pete McLain

Dear Mr. McLain,

I only just learned of you this week, when I had the amazing opportunity to visit your, affectionately named, Tower Of Doom on Sedge Island. I first learned of your name from your protege Ben Wurst when he answered my question, asked immediately upon glimpsing your world and seeing your home just beyond the Tower and nestled amidst the largest Osprey colony I’ve ever seen: “Who in the world would be lucky enough to live in such a place as this??!!”

I had already begun harassing Kathy Clark for a return trip to Sedge Island, so we could learn more about you and your unbelievably awesome life and work, hopefully meet you, and give you the proper Readings From The Northside treatment. After years of following a trail of magic wildlife encounters on the wild beach, learning of you was like discovering the Great Oz behind the curtain. But alas, that adventure was not meant to be. It is shocking and saddening to learn of your death this Friday.

While it sometimes sounds trite to say someone “lives on” in the midst of great grief, in this case, it is clearly a undeniable fact.

While you were taking your last breaths of this precious life, I was furiously editing piles of GoPro footage taken at your Tower, oblivious to the tragic events unfolding, passionately determined to share with others the amazing world I had just witnessed out at Sedge Island. Your world.

What I experienced up on your Tower touched me deeply and will never be forgotten. Like so many others who have been sharing with me their tales of the amazing Pete McLain and your incredible contributions to our planet, I saw a whole new world while looking from your vantage point. I felt a spirit up there that was as real and as beautiful as the impact your work has had on our shore. It was like that wild spirit I chase on the beach year after year had been emanating from your Tower the whole time, beckoning us there, to see the world you saw and worked so hard to preserve for us.

All week I had been hearing great outpourings of love and admiration from the good people whose lives you touched so deeply that they see their lives’ purpose as a continuation of yours. To say that you live on is the understatement of the century.

It would have been an honor to meet, and to thank, you in person. But I’ll be content to meet you, hopefully, thousands of times over, in every Osprey, every Bald Eagle, every Peregrine I meet down the shore. The world we love at the Readings is a world you very intentionally left for us. We are forever grateful. We can say our thanks with continued stewardship of the wild places and the wild things you loved.

I’ll continue to take photographs of your world and share them, and most importantly, to highlight the work of these next generations of heroes who have taken up the torch you lit, so many years ago, and are clearly running with it.