Thursday, December 7, 2006

A favourite book: The Golden Spruce

In the Queen Charlotte Islands off the coast of British Columbia...

There in the vast wilderness, a Sitka spruce tree with golden needles reaches for the sky. Luminous and glowing, and at sixteen stories high and more than twenty feet around, the golden spruce was unlike anything anyone had seen before; it was so unique it was a botanical anomoly. It was the only one in the world...
"From the ground, its startling color stopped people dead in their tracks; from the air, it stood out like a beacon and was visible from miles away."

It was sacred to the Haida people, a legendary seafaring tribe on the Queen Charlotte Islands, the Haida Gwaii. To be truly understood as such a majestic marvel, the tree was an object of awe and reverance to anyone who laid eyes on it... hence it was titled the Golden Spruce.

On the night of January 20, 1997, with the temperature near freezing, a man named Grant Hadwin swam across the Yakoun river with a very small chainsaw. In complete darkness, he cut expertly into the golden spruce – a tree more than two metres in diameter, wider than a car – leaving it so unstable that the next windstorm would push it over.

And it did. And there it lay horizontally on the forest floor, in all it's behemoth glory... dying.

Something so unique and sacred, a natural glorious wonder... gone.

Grief and anger consummed the Haida, and people from all over the world. How could someone do this, and why?

Vancouver writer John Valliant tells the story of this magnificent tree in his book, The Golden Spruce. He writes eloquently of the West Coast rainforests and surrounding ecosystem, the dangers (and probable implosion) of the logging industry, the history of the Haida people and their first contacts with European traders and settlers, and of course he tells the story of Grant Hadwin.

It is a poetic web of intrigue, insight, and meaning.

A beautifully rendered story that leaves one thinking about the undeniable connection of nature and humankind...

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