If you go down to the woods today…

If you go down to the woods today…

Kay Chornook began collecting Wolf’s stories in 1990 and was then sidetracked by her own struggle with Hodgkin’s Disease. Surviving that, she returned to the project in 1994 and, with Wolf, has persevered to ensure that this fascinating history be published. Her own story as a social activist in Canada and a survivor of cancer is laced throughout the narrative.

I’m out here looking over the treetops, across the old clearings to the ridge and the Continental Divide, thinking about those early years. That’s always been my problem – I like to do my dreaming on the trail. When you get to this stage in life and start slowing down physically, you have more time to dream. You have the opportunity to look back as well as forward. The funny thing about the dream is how it changes. We can see those changes in the forest. We used to bring in chainsaws, take down the trees, cut out pastures, and be happy with our work. These days it’s satisfying to come here and see that same land mostly covered with secondary forest. We put it all in the bank we call the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Now I can just sit back and see what the next generation will do with it.

Wolf pressed the stop button on the little black recorder. He dropped it into his knapsack, eased his stiff body off the stump he had been perched on, and forced his tired old knees to move forward. As soft mist sifted down on him from the fleeting clouds, he hesitated, wondering if he should head back home. An instant later, a keen ray of sun briefly penetrated the leafy canopy, provoking steam out of the damp ground. The metallic tones of a black-faced solitaire’s song pierced the momentary stillness. Wolf turned his face skyward and howled in response. He listened as his cry was swept away by a sudden breeze. Spotting a fallen tree limb he grabbed his machete, delaying his decision. He started once more down the muddy trail, chopping as he went, searching for signs of animal or human activity. All around him was the emerald jungle, the mistress he had been carrying on with for decades while his wife took care of their family and home in Monteverde. Rounding the next bend in the trail another story crept into his mind. He reached into his pack, retrieved the tape recorder and began again, “Well, Kay, I was thinking…”

So begins Walking with Wolf: Reflections on a life spent protecting the Costa Rican wilderness, a narrative non-fiction book by Canadian Kay Chornook and Wolf Guindon, the Quaker pioneer and conservationist who devoted his life to the future of tropical forests in Costa Rica. A labor of love for seventeen years, Kay worked with Wolf to record his entertaining and inspiring stories in a project that grew to include the history of the Quaker community of Monteverde and the rise of the conservation movement in that little green Central American country. Walking with Wolf recounts the history of the group of Quakers who left Fairhope, Alabama in 1950 and settled on a mountaintop in Costa Rica.

They spent the first twenty years clearing land, milking cows, raising families, and developing their community. When biologists began flocking to Monteverde in the late 1960s, aware of the extreme biodiversity of the area, the seed of conservation was sown. It slowly germinated and started spreading its tendrils across the mountainside. Influenced by the knowledge and great concern of George and Harriett Powell, two young biologists who came to Monteverde to study birds, Wolf soon put down his milking bucket. He took up his trusty machete and started clearing trails, cutting boundary lines, and talking landowners into selling their remote forested properties to be protected within the borders of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

Kay contacted CTF a few weeks ago, infact she was the first person to leave a comment on the new website, to let us know about the book. The founder of CTF, Tina Jolliffe, is mentioned in the book, as is the Childrens Tropical Forests, as we provided much of the funds we had raised to the Monteverde Cloud Forest.

Walking with Wolf is now available in bookstores in Costa Rica and Canada. It can also be ordered through Kay’s blog.  This book is a personal memoir, but it is also the history of a place and a movement as well as a celebration of lives lived amongst the trees of both Canada and Costa Rica.

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This post was written by:

rob - who has written 45 posts on Children's Tropical Forests.

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