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Tree Books

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The Afterlife of Trees

The Afterlife of Trees

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : canadian

From "The Afterlife of Trees" /Neither sheep nor cows crisscross our lives as much./Trees dangle apples and nuts for the hungry, throw/shade down for lovers, mark sites for the lost,/and first and last are/utterly themselves,/fuller and finer than any letter or number,/any 7 or T. Their fragmentary afterlife goes on/in a guitar's body and a hockey stick, in the beaked faces/up a totem pole and the stake through a vampire's heart,/in a fragrant cheese-board, a Welsh love-spoon,/a sweat-stained ax …

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Paper Trees

Paper Trees

edition:Paperback

Set in the fictional logging community of Rainy Mountain somewhere east of Prince George, Paper Trees recalls the adventures of northern logging in the 1950s and early 1960s. It is a period of change in the woods - the small independent logging companies and sawmills were trying to hold their own against the forestry giants.

Desperation drives the protagonist Byron Smith to work at Rainy Mountain. Loyalty, intrigue and a captivating woman keep him there. The once-prosperous Rainy Mountain is thre …

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Excerpt

Eventually the lights came on across at the cookhouse and I soon heard the flunkies preparing for breakfast and setting up the lunchroom where everyone who works away from camp through the day will make and pack their own lunches. I was in the cookshack well before they rang their bell and out again before most of the crew were even getting up. By the time Ember came in to sort the mail, I was seated on the fourwheel cart mostly just thinking of this and that. I was also quietly stacking cans of vegetable soup one on top another along a lower shelf at the back of the store trying to be as silent as possible. I am aware that this sounds like a novel pastime for the general manager but no one else seems to see anything untoward about it. Nor does anyone else appear inclined to do the job, so here I am and happy enough about it too - not so many headaches back here. Besides, Erin and Jennie are perfectly capable of running the office without anyone's help. Ember didn't see me as she came in and Jo hasn't arrived yet so the outside door is still locked.

Footsteps came in a hesitating manner from the direction of the office and I paused to listen, wondering who it was. It certainly wasn't Jo and it isn't the nature of Allan or Tom to be hesitant about anything. As I waited and watched, the sound of a mail bag being dumped came from the post office. Then a man walked slowly into the store from the hallway and darned if it isn't the stranger who came on the train last night, I had totally forgotten about him. And he isn't really hesitating, it's more that he is looking with keen interest at everything as he advances slowly toward the checkout counter.

There was a rip of paper in the post office then total silence for about ten seconds before Ember, thinking those quiet footsteps had been mine, called out with a strange urgency in her voice. Byron, did someone come on the train last night?"

The stranger, knowing whose footsteps she was hearing, answered before I could.

"Yes, Em - I did."

The door to the post office flew open and Ember, a sheet of yellow paper clutched in one hand and holding the doorknob as if for support with the other, stood there wide-eyed and scared. A wild young animal cornered and undecided whether to fight or flee. For two or three blinks of the eye the tableau held then broke.

"Peter!" She cried, and flung herself into his arms.

Even after what seemed to me an unnecessarily long and ardent embrace she continued to cling to him as though afraid he might disappear. I am distressed to see that she is crying as she presses her face against him. My unflappable girl is certainly undone this morning.

"Well, Em, I thought a telegram message would be phoned out from town. I see now that someone has goofed and my telegram and I have come on the same train.
While their attention was still on each other, I made my escape down the hall and after kicking and banging things around for a while I got down to the business of unloading Nightrider. I am surprised and dismayed at my reaction to the scene in the store and there is no ready explanation that I am willing to admit to. I have to think back a few years to remember the last time I so completely lost my composure. Now I have to remind myself that Ember is old enough to choose her own friends and may kiss whoever she pleases. She is no concern of mine-never has been and never will be. With that off my chest I still feel no better but at least it has been said.

I heard them in the hall before they came in sight and had, I hope, the right look of casual interest on my face as they came into the warehouse.

"Byron," Ember said with an anxious little catch in her voice that immediately caught my attention, "this is an old and very dear friend of mine, Peter Patten. And Peter, I want you to meet Byron Smith."

We shook hands rather mushily, I'm afraid, neither of us too impressed with the other. Ember, as she stood by, was actually wringing her hands. I don't know why she should feel such intense strain but I will hazard a guess - she wants me to like him. So I made the effort to smile warmly as I told him that I hope he has had a pleasant trip. I can see that he is puzzled too and impatient as Ember tells him that whatever he wants to know he can find out from me.

I wondered if he too can see that she has the fidgets. He made a little barely polite small talk then said he wanted to see if Tom and Allan have arrived in the office yet. As he led the way back to the hallway Ember threw me a look over her shoulder as she passed out of the room that quite frankly I didn't understand. I would almost swear that she was scared silly and was trying to warn me of something. What on earth is going on around here anyway? I actually found I was scratching my head in wonderment.

"Well," I shrugged, muttering under my breath, "five minutes ago you had yourself convinced they were none of your affair and I reckon that notion still holds water."

But I poked my head out the door to watch them go and I guess I shouldn't have done that because Ember is talking about me and with far too much intensity. Due to some strange acoustic quirk of the hallway I heard every word.

"Byron," she was saying, "is our local odd character, he has ears a foot long and a nose to match. He knows absolutely everything that happens in camp. He's up to his neck in everyone's business and if you don't look out he will soon be winding your watch for you."

I hope she is smiling as she tells him that I thought while gently exploring one ear with a finger tip.

There was nothing on Nightrider for the shop or any of the woods operations so when I finished unloading the few goods intended for the store I took the rest of the load over to the cookhouse which, after all, is our best customer. Then I slunk off to my room to get a bit of much needed shut-eye and of course, to think about Ember's revealing remark that obviously I wasn't supposed to hear. She is right, no doubt about it', I live and breathe on curiosity and satisfying that thirst for knowledge is what keeps me ticking. Sure, I'm meddling in their business but I thought they wanted me to. My many chores around camp put me in close personal touch not only with the Morrows but with the many other families living in the married quarters as well. But, really! Winding their watches? It's embarrassing in the extreme and all the more so because the tone of her voice leads me to wonder if she was making an apology for me.

I was able to sleep this time and it was way past noon when I awakened. The cookhouse crew are used to me prowling around on a different shift than everyone else, so getting lunch was no problem. They piled ten times what I could eat in front of me and then proceeded to pick my brains for all the latest news around camp. Anyone who thinks the ladies at their afternoon tea party have the monopoly on gossip just hasn't checked us out at the cookshack yet. The crew there seem to think that what I don't know isn't worth knowing and I do my best to keep from disappointing them.

That's where Peter found me, working on my fourth coffee. He filled a cup and joined me without any particular greeting. "Just who and what are you anyway?" His words were rough edged with suspicion and there was a hard glint of anger in his eyes.

I gave him my most innocent smile. "Why, don't you remember? I'm Byron Smith, the assistant bullcook." I confess it was on the tip of my tongue to say local watch winder, but I resisted.

"Baloney!" He snapped. "I've come home against my better judgment to try to do what appears to be the impossible because I owe it to John to at least try. I need to know everything about anything that's been going on here and every time I start asking pertinent questions all I get is lifted shoulders and the suggestion to 'ask Byron about that."'

"Well," I said reasonably, "Ember told you."

"I know, but I didn't understand, I didn't realize then that the flunky ran the outfit."

"Assistant bullcook," I corrected.

"Whatever. But you weren't here when I left five or six," he paused, looked a little startled, "or more, years ago and I've never heard so much as boo about you. And yet I come home to find Allan and Tom happily doing their own thing and you - a total stranger-seem to have stepped straight into John's shoes. Now I'd like an explanation, something simple and logical that I can understand." Signs of suspicion and distrust fairly oozed from him as he waited for my answer.

I sighed without intending to. "That could be a tall order because I don't understand it myself."

"Well, I'd like to hear you give it a try!"

So I tried to tell him about being the Invisible Man only I didn't use that silly phrase. I gave him a sketchy rundown starting back when I was in the wreck with Terry and coming right up to the present. I can understand his distrust easily enough but as I finished my story I saw no lessening of hostility. I wound up lamely, "Sometimes I wonder if because I was with Terry when he died, his family think either that they owe me or I owe them, I'm not sure which. There have been times I've almost thought that they, John in particular, see me as Terry in a different form and by a different name."

I could just about hear the click in his head as the light of understanding came on behind his eyes. Instantly he relaxed and even smiled. "Of course! I should have thought of that. To a Morrow mind that would be right as rain and twice as beneficial."

Just like that! I can see and feel that I am now accepted by him as completely as only a moment ago I was unacceptable. To myself I said he's been around the Morrows; too long and thinks just like them, in fact he's worse, it took four years to work my way into their lives and only four minutes with him.

"Know what, Byron?"

I looked up cautiously to find him grinning widely. "What?"

"I like your style."

And there you are! This man, who is here to steal Ember away from us, who is right now stealing my job and will make sure I remain no more than assistant bullcook, has the unmitigated gall to tell me he likes my style! Would he like my thoughts if he could read them? I hope he cannot sense the amazement and turmoil that swirl in my mind - I do not wish him success-yet I want Rainy Mountain to survive and prosper. I said he was stealing Ember but it's plain enough she has been waiting for him all along. As for my job, it's only the management part he wants, that much he can have and good riddance to it. He won't want Nightrider and all the associated follow-up work that goes with my self-appointed title of assistant bullcook. To me that's the part that counts so why should I be unhappy? I guess because demotion is still demotion, and no matter how welcome it may be it's still disturbing and demeaning. I would gladly have given the job away but I do not like it being taken just like that. I know there will be some hard mental adjustments for me to make.

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Tree Fever

Tree Fever

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

The life of fiftyish Jessie Dearborn takes an unexpected turn when a ruthless developer threatens to cut down century-old trees in her small northern town in order to build a condominium. Surprising even herself, she steps in front of a chainsaw to defend the trees she loves. As the fight to save the trees intensifies, a group of gutsy, quick-witted older women joins the battle and explodes the issue into the newsmedia. At this turning point in her life, a native man helps Jessie by teaching her …

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Trees Are Lonely Company

Trees Are Lonely Company

edition:Paperback

Available for the first time in one volume, Trees Are Lonely Company is a collection of Howard O’Hagan’s short stories previously published to critical acclaim in The Woman Who Got on at Jasper Station & Other Stories and Wilderness Men.

spanning decades of O’Hagan’s experience?as mountain guide, gentleman adventurer and storyteller?this collection of tales include A Mountain Journey, The Man Who Walked Naked Across Montana, Grey Owl, The Warning and The Little Bear That Climbs Trees. The …

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House Held Up by Trees

House Held Up by Trees

by Ted Kooser
illustrated by Jon Klassen
edition:Hardcover

From Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Ted Kooser and rising talent Jon Klassen comes a poignant tale of loss, change, and nature's quiet triumph.

When the house was new, not a single tree remained on its perfect lawn to give shade from the sun. The children in the house trailed the scent of wild trees to neighboring lots, where thick bushes offered up secret places to play. When the children grew up and moved away, their father, alone in the house, continued his battle against blowing seeds, plucking …

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Dear Leaves, I Miss You All

Dear Leaves, I Miss You All

edition:Paperback

A na•ve young woman falls for a brooding furniture designer; three teenagers try to sort out their friendships and their future while their parents behave like teenagers; a neurotic environmentalist hides behind the laundry boxes in her local superstore. Toronto writer Sara Heinonen's first collection of stories is populated with characters forced to confront unusual circumstances and environments as they try to connect with the people who wander into their landscapes. When disappointment or d …

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The Golden Spruce

The Golden Spruce

A True Story of Myth, Madness and Greed
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover

The Golden Spruce is the story of a glorious natural wonder, the man who destroyed it, and the fascinating, troubling context in which his act took place.

A tree with luminous glowing needles, the golden spruce was unique, a mystery that biologically speaking should never have reached maturity; Grant Hadwin, the man who cut it down, was passionate, extraordinarily well-suited to wilderness survival, and to some degree unbalanced. But as John Vaillant shows in this gripping and perceptive book, t …

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Excerpt

Prologue: Driftwood

Small things are hard to find in Alaska, so when a marine biologist named Scott Walker stumbled across a wrecked kayak on an uninhabited island fifty kilometres north of the Canadian border, he considered himself lucky. The coastal boundary where Alaska and British Columbia meet and overlap is a jagged four-way seam that joins, not just a pair of vast – and vastly different – countries, but two equally large and divergent wildernesses. To the west is the gaping expanse of the North Pacific Ocean, and to the east is the infinity of mountains that forms the heart of what some in the Northwest call Cascadia. The coastline where these worlds meet and bleed into one another is sparsely inhabited and often obscured by fog, the mountains sheared off by low-lying clouds. At sea level, it is a long and convoluted network of deep fjords, narrow channels, and rock-bound islands. It is a world unto itself, separated from the rest of North America by the Coast Mountains, whose ragged peaks carry snow for most of the year. In some places their westward faces plunge into the sea so abruptly that a boat can be fifteen metres from shore and still have a hundred and fifty metres of water beneath her keel. The region is sporadically patrolled, being governed, for the most part, by seven-metre tides and processions of sub-Arctic storms that spiral down from the Gulf of Alaska to batter the long, tree-stubbled lip of the continent. Even on calm days, the coastline may be shrouded in a veil of mist as three thousand kilometres of uninterrupted Pacific swell pummels itself to vapour against the stubborn shore.

The combination of high winds, frequent fog, and tidal surges that can run over fifteen knots makes this coast a particularly lethal one, and when boats or planes or people go missing here, they are usually gone for good. If they are found, it is often by accident a long time later, and usually in a remote location like Edge Point where Scott Walker anchored his seventeen-foot skiff on a fair June afternoon in 1997 while doing a survey of the local salmon fishery. Edge Point is not so much a beach as an alpine boulder field that, at this point in geologic time, happens to be at sea level. It lies at the southern tip of Mary Island, a low hump of forest and stone that forms one side of a rocky, tide-scoured channel called Danger Passage; the nearest land is Danger Island, and neither place was idly named.

Like much of the Northwest Coast, Edge Point is strewn with driftwood logs and whole trees that may be a metre and a half in diameter and stacked twenty deep. Burnished to silver, this mass of wood, much of which has broken loose from log booms and transport barges, lies heaped as high as polar winds and Pacific waves can possibly throw it. Even if a man-made object should make it ashore here in one piece, it won’t last long after it arrives; within the course of a few tide cycles, it will be hammered to pieces between the heaving logs and the immovable boulders beneath them. In the case of a fibreglass boat – such as a kayak – the destruction is usually so complete that it makes the craft hard to recognize, much less find. When a fibreglass yacht was found in a location similar to Edge Point three years after it had disappeared without issuing a distress signal, the largest surviving piece was half a metre long and that was only because it had been blown up into the bushes; the rest of the sixty-foot sloop had been reduced to fragments the size of playing cards. This is why Scott Walker considered himself fortunate: he wasn’t too late; parts of the kayak might still be salvageable.

The beaches here serve as a random archive of human endeavour where a mahogany door from a fishing boat, the remains of a World War II airplane, and a piece from a fallen satellite are all equally plausible finds. Each artifact carries with it a story, though the context rarely allows for a happy ending; in most cases, it is only the scavenger who benefits. Scott Walker has been scavenging things that others have lost here for more than twenty-five years, and he has acquired an informal expertise in the forensics of flotsam and jetsam. If the found object is potentially useful or sufficiently interesting, and if it is small enough to lift, the beachcomber’s code will apply. Walker was abiding by this code when he happened upon the broken kayak and began tearing it apart for the stainless steel hardware.

But when Walker lifted his head from his work he noticed some things that gave him pause. Strewn farther down the tide line were personal effects: a raincoat, a backpack, an axe – and it was then that it occurred to him that his prize might not have simply washed off some beach or boat dock down the coast. The more he noticed – a cookstove, a shaving kit, a life jacket – the narrower the gap between his own good luck and someone else’s misfortune became. This wasn’t shaping up to be a clean find. Walker deduced from the heavier objects’ position lower down in the intertidal zone that the kayak had washed ashore and broken up on a low tide. The lighter objects, including large pieces of the kayak itself, had been carried farther up the beach by subsequent high tides and wind, and it was these that set off alarm bells in Walker’s head. Despite being wrapped around a log, the sleeping bag was still in near-perfect condition; there were no tears or stains, no fading from the salt and sun; the life jacket, too, looked fresh off the rack. Even the cookstove appeared salvageable; wedged between rocks at the water’s edge, it showed only minor rusting. Winter storm season, the most effective destroyer on the coast, had only just ended, so this wreck had to be recent, thought Walker, perhaps only a couple of weeks old. He debated throwing the stove and sleeping bag into his skiff, but then, after considering some possible accident scenarios and recalculating the uncomfortable distance between a stranger’s horror and his own delight, he decided to leave these things where they lay. Besides, he thought, they might be needed for evidence. No one would miss the stainless steel bolts, though, so he pocketed them and headed down the beach, looking for a body.

Walker never found one, and it was only through the Alaska state troopers in Ketchikan, fifty kilometres to the north, that he learned the story behind his chance discovery. The kayak and its owner, a Canadian timber surveyor and expert woodsman named Grant Hadwin, had been missing – not for weeks, but for months. This man, it seemed, was on the run, wanted for a strange and unprecedented crime.

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Picture a Tree

Picture a Tree

illustrated by Barbara Reid
edition:Hardcover
tagged :

Picture a tree — what do YOU see?

Picture a tree, from every season, and from every angle. These wondrous beings give shade and shelter. They protect, and bring beauty to, any landscape.

Now look again. Look closer.

A tree's colours both soothe and excite. Its shape can ignite the imagination and conjure a pirate ship, a bear cave, a clubhouse, a friend; an ocean, a tunnel, and a home sweet home. Its majestic presence evokes family, growth, changes, endings and new beginnings.

Picture a tree — w …

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