A Slice of Life in the Clear-Cuts

  Since we're talking about books in our June AusPen Giveaway Draw, here's a look at a book that makes you smile for the prose and wince for the subject. Eating Dirt by Charlotte Gill is a poetic and informative book about clearcuts and the culture and history of treeplanting in British Columbia. It takes you into the mess of bugs, bears, bogs and bruises - the unsung job of planting huge swaths of land that have been logged. Don't fancy yourself a treehugger? The book will still move you - it's an insightful commentary on the collision scene between civilization and nature, where some of the world's tallest trees and greatest biomass per square foot once lived. It's a look at the work that our society demands to get done, and the actual job it takes to get it done. Here are 2 excerpts of Gill's beautiful prose in the dirt:
Six billion trees planted in the province of British Columbia. An unfathomable number, but not quite as mind-boggling as the size of the forest they replace. With these trees you could replant an area roughly the size of Sri Lanka. At the height of the trade there were an estimated 18,500 tree planters in this country, which is about the number of soldiers in the Canadian army. The average career lasts five seasons.
 
Horseflies landed, burrowed through my hair and bit into my scalp with their pincers. I spent many an afternoon slapping myself across the face. ... I saw my co-workers, who each wore a halo of black flies. Outside this orbit, hoseflies whizzed in bigger loops, like electrons around a nucleus. I squinted through my own veil of winged creatures. I felt them bounce from my cheeks before they touched down and bit into me, one jolting itch at a time. At the end of the day I touched my temples and found the grit of crystallized sweat and crusts of dried blood.
   

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