The chances for success stack up in Harold Macy’s favour.
He’s a forester who honed his craft during years as the resident forester at UBC farm. He owns a 400 hectare woodlot in the shadow of Mount Washington. There, he practices his beliefs, makes his mistakes, and harvests his joys. His faith and social consciousness are grounded in the Quaker and Mennonite peace traditions. His irreverence for convention is grounded in what he calls his hippie experience. His knowledge of political machinery comes from his time on the board of the regional district. And he’s friends with BC’s most revered writer, Jack Hodgins.
Now, Macy, who has been honing his writing skill for years, has written a book, The Four Storey Forest: As Grow the Trees, So too the Heart, published by the recently-established Poplar Press in Courtenay. Given his experience and training, Macy should, we’d expect, be able to write a book worth reading. He doesn’t disappoint. Without pretension or pomp, but rather with clarity, insight, skill and humour, Macy writes humbly in a lofty tradition.
The opening chapter presents the cycle of a year in the forest, echoing Roderick Haig-Brown’s Measure of the Year and Aldo Leopold’s classic A Sand County Almanac. The year begins for Macy with trumpeter swans passing low over his roof.
“They overnight,” he says, “on the big wetlands near the base of the foothills and in the bleak dawn they commute noisily to the beach to forage and gossip, claiming eyebrows of gravel as the tide retreats.”
In December, “The year ends with music and celebration at church and home. With candlelit children cheerfully singing, the smell of greenery in the house and the forest continuing to grow, we are blessed.”
Macy loves the world, has eyes and heart to see it, and writerly skill to evoke it.
As well, the book’s title, The Four Storey Forest, evokes the spiritual tradition of Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain and of environmentalist Wendell Berry’s A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997. That book records Berry’s weekly restorative walks in his own forest.
Macy’s multi-layered forest refers to other things as well: the biological layers of the forest; the literary layers of the book including its fictional thread; and its spiritual dimensions moving upward, outward, forward, and inward.
Macy will read from his book at the Campbell River Library on Friday, Nov. 4 at 6:30 pm in an event co-sponsored by the library and its downtown neighbour, Still Water Books and Art. For more information, contact Still Water Books and Art at 250-850-3103.
– By Trevor McMonagle