A girl and her dog spend time in the woods near her home through all four seasons. A spicy breeze invites them in. They play with spongy sticks and puffballs, ponder fossils and animal bones, listen to and watch birds and insects. All of the senses are engaged. Walking barefoot on moss: "I softly sink in velvet green. / Oh how I wish for socks of moss." Biting into a wintergreen leaf: "Snowflakes fill my mouth."
First person narration draws readers right into the moment. "I stop to read / the Forest News / in mud or fallen snow. / Articles are printed / by critters on the go." References to human culture are omnipresent. A frog croons a marriage proposal and a slipper orchid is left by a Forest Cinderella. "Lichens are graffiti artists."
Gourley's bright paintings create their own separate, sustained narrative about the girl's life with her family. Time spent lingering over the artwork also works to appreciate each poem individually. My favourite spread ties poems on opposing pages together: Snowflake Voices and Colorful Actor. It shows the girl in falling snow against a background of evergreens, striding uphill towards bare birch trees. Her red boots and red mitts lead the eye towards the cardinal flying ahead.
"Each silver / snowflake / sings my name. / Guess what? / No two sound the same."
And here is one last poem, which I hope will charm spring into arriving here sooner rather than later:
Ferny frondy fiddleheads
unfurl curls from dirty beds.
Stretching stems they sweetly sing
greenest greetings sent to Spring.
Instead of dwelling on the fact that it's -15C in Edmonton, one day after the official start of spring, I bid you all a happy International Day of Forests and World Poetry Day!