At least a third of the Canadian land mass consists of boreal forest, or taiga: a land of scrappy trees, muskeg, knobs, kettles, Precambrian corks, sphagnum moss, peat, rabbits, moose, wolves, otters, and all those birds and jackpines, and then mosquitoes and more mosquitoes. The boreal forest is the mysterious place most of us are aware of only to the extent that we know we don’t want to get lost in it: the deep unconscious of a nation (Champlain called it the land God gave to Cain).
J. David Henry, an ecologist with Parks Canada, strives to make this vast unseen land available to the mind and the imagination in Canada’s Boreal Forest (Smithsonian), and he succeeds wonderfully. This is the story of a world that forms and transforms itself by fire and ice, in which lakes turn themselves upside down and pine trees develop canny fire strategies (as one chapter puts it, whole forests in the taiga are forever “in search of fire”).
This is a “nature” book that should inflame a Canadian imagination.