In a collection of personal essays, a forester reflects on a spiritual life lived in nature.
Antill (Faith, Fur, and Forestry, 2010, etc.) has worked as a registered forester on the Atlantic coastal plain for 30 years, and he’s led a life devoted to appreciating the great outdoors. His work in the swamps often inspired him to reflect upon his Christian devotion, he says, and in this slim volume, he collects 24 essays drawing connections between nature and faith. The short vignettes all follow a similar formula: Antill recalls an experience that he had as a forester, and then articulates a metaphorical connection between it and a passage or story in the Bible, or a more general Christian concept. For example, a discussion of a dam gives way to a reflection on the metaphorical ramparts that one must construct to defend against Satan’s assaults. Similarly, a remembrance revolving around the safe use of a chain saw leads to a characterization of Scripture as life’s authoritative safety manual. As the book’s title suggests, the author’s overarching metaphor equates our journeys as human beings with a long trek through the wilderness, fraught with dangers and detours, although Antill never makes it unambiguously clear what precisely threatens us today. The author is a gifted storyteller, though, and his prose is genially folksy, charmingly self-deprecating, and occasionally wry: “Fish swim. I know that, I went to college.” Also, his depictions of working in the swamp will be relatable to inveterate enthusiasts of the outdoors and fascinate uninitiated urbanites. Still, Antill’s metaphorical conceits can be more than a touch contrived; one chapter, for instance, begins with what amounts to poetic overreach: “The beaver has a lot in common with Proverbs chapter 7.” The author’s earnest desire to teach and encourage can also flirt with didacticism at times.
A collection of meditative essays that should appeal to devoted Christians.