Thursday, August 31, 2006

What we're reading: Vacation reading

~Sacred golden sitka spruce, Picea sithensis

Da5id left his book untended on the table. I picked it up. I read the prologue and I was hooked. How did the kayak get washed up onto the beach? Fortunately for me, David finished the book before he left so I can read it myself.

The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed written by John Vaillant is a real-life account of K'iid K'iyaas, Elder Spruce Tree, a unique golden-needled sitka spruce more than 200 years old, which was cut down by an environmentalist named Grant Hadwin. Vaillant doesn't just write the story of this particular tree, he offers a historical overview of the Queen Charlotte Islands , known to their native inhabitants as Haida Gwaii ("Place of the People"), the people who live there, and of trading and logging in the Pacific Northwest. That's as far as I've gotten. I don't know why Hadwin cut down the tree or how the kayak got washed up onto the deserted beach.

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, in particular in a logging community near the Quinalt rainforest (another temperate rainforest link here) on the Olympic peninsula of Washington state, a little farther south than the setting of this book but close enough that I picture the towering trees and the moss and the rain and I feel a little nostalgic for the forested coastal landscape of my childhood. Vaillant's writing is vivid and clear for the most part, a few awkward turns, but very well-done for a first book. Take a few minutes to listen to Vaillant's NPR interview.

I'm taking a break from The Reformation (MacCulloch), not because I need a break, but because with all of the coming and going and vacation commotion I've not had a lot of time to concentrate. I did read I, Elizabeth by Rosalind Miles. It was a little romance-y and light for my taste, and I found myself rolling my eyes at times, as Miles focuses more on Elizabeth's romances with the young men around her and doesn't give Queen Elizabeth quite enough credit for being a marvelously skilled politician. But it was entertaining, passed the time, and I was able to pick up my train of thought right where I left off whenever I was interrupted.

Tomorrow I'm off for the long weekend, this time to Lincoln City. I expect I'll be visiting Robert's Bookshop. Wonder what I'll come home with this time?

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