The Four Storey Forest: As Grow the Trees, so too the Heart

The Four Storey Forest:
As Grow the Trees, so too the Heart

Harold Macy

Move over Thoreau. Here is a man who not only observes the forest, but for 30 years has been steeped in the mystique of husbanding the woodlands. He and his family live off a thousand acres of forest by practicing one kind of “agroforestry,” the intentional integration of trees, crops, and creatures in a mutually beneficial operation. As a result, the book is packed with a warm and intimate knowledge of trees and of the varied plant life in the woodlands.

Writing from a lifetime of studying the forests of Vancouver Island, Harold Macy has much to say about sustainability and about the politics that govern our forests. Though not polished, the writing is full of a gentle wisdom and tenderness that by turns enchants and challenges the reader. There are inconsistencies in tone and yet much of the writing is poetic and graceful: “I felt the yearning of the trees to grow.”

The author took on the challenge of exposing his heart and dearest values alongside the purely technical terms and botanical processes of farming the forest. And he pulls it off, tying his woodlands experience to a spiritual journey. Not in a New Age-y way, but unapologetically as a Christ-follower who enjoys referring to his Mennonite beliefs and traditions. (Macy is a member of Black Creek MB Church.)

Macy’s authoritative approach and skill in communication are the result of research and teaching experience at the University of B.C. The weakest parts of the book are the brief memoir-like narratives of Mennonite pioneer farming and forestry on Vancouver Island. However, the author’s depth of experience is so impressive, I could easily overlook that.

The first line of the book claims that this is “a handbook for a new approach to forestry.” A big claim. But it delivers. A Canadian book to be proud of and one that can lead those who seek sustainability under the umbrella of God-follower.

Dorothy Siebert is a published author and freelance writer living on Pender Island, B.C., next door to Vancouver Island.

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