Chornook: Walking with Wolf

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Kay Chornook and Wolf Guindon, Walking with Wolf : Reflections on a Life Spent Protecting the Costa Rican Wilderness. Wandering Words Press, 2008. 276 pages, with color photographs, original artwork, maps, glossary, bibliography, and index.

At first, this book was hard to follow--it has so many people and places, many with unfamiliar names to me, that I was not sure how I was going to keep up. The style was also a little hard to follow--but I kept with it, and am glad that I did.

The narration of the book jumps back and forth between Kay and Wolf--and this was confusing in the beginning. As I read, I learned to watch for the "quotes", as Wolf's stories were "quoted" and Kay's were not. I would also recommend that you allot enough time to read complete chapters at a sitting, as they are each like short stories.

Like chapter 4, "Stepping Stones", which tells how the Quakers from America were accepted by the people of Costa Rica and how together they started building their community and businesses. From page 49:

"Monteverde felt like it was to be our home right from the beginning and it has continued to feel that way. The economics of it were and still are bouncing on the borderline. There have been opportunities to go into something better economically, but we've made our choices and feel very satisfied with them. I remember thinking, 'Well, if the dairy plant fails and if Monteverde fails, and under the circumstances they very well could have, I felt I'd enjoyed the experience and could always start over and survive. Besides, at the time to me it wasn't work, it was just part of the project of the community we were living in."

I also liked chapter 6, "The Path to Extinction", which tells the story of the golden toads and the part they played in helping bring awareness to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

I cannot do justice in trying to give a complete overview of this book, as it encompasses so much time and important material, so I am going to cheat and include the words from the inside cover:

From the lush, windy cloud forest of Monteverde in Central America comes the story of pioneering conservationist Wolf Guindon. Jailed in the United States in 1949 as a conscientious objector, Wolf and his bride Lucky were among a small group of Quakers who left Alabama a year later in search of a new life and found it on a wet mountaintop in Costa Rica.

For the next twenty years, Wolf labored to transform the land to make it habitable and productive, even as he was falling in love with the flourishing jungle around him. In 1972, he found a new purpose when he helped establish the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Since then he has worked relentlessly to secure the protection of the surrounding wilderness so that the flora and fauna of this vast, incredibly beautiful and biologically diverse region will be intact for generations to come.

In 1990, following her first experience of walking with Wolf for several days through the rainforest, Canadian social activist Kay Chornook gave Wolf a tape recorder. She encouraged him to record his many remarkable tales of cutting trails through the dense vegetation, following tapir tracks across the ridges, discovering the wonders of the wild abundance, and sharing innumerable cups of coffee with homesteaders, biologists and fellow adventurers.

Walking with Wolf 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.

-- Notes by KNH

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