We are of mixed blood with the forest

Photo: Claire Gauthier
Boreal forest along the Betsiamites

Of all time, the forest produces in humans a mysterious attraction effect. Both enchanting and frightening, it is the carrier of a symbolic charge powerful. Our staff member went to smell the forest from here and elsewhere, imbued with meaning and dreams. First of eight articles.

There are deserts of water and of the deserts of the trees. Quebec is placed on two deserts that are adjacent to : a vastness of water, first river, then estuary and gulf of St. Lawrence, and an immensity of trees. The forest covers almost half of the area of the province, an expanse larger than that of France. Vastness, where the maple trees flow like the blood in the veins in the spring, when the birch, yellow birch, or merisiers, emblem tree of the province of Quebec since 1993, abound like nowhere else in the world. Type-boreal, mainly dominated by the coniferous trees, the forest in quebec is this country without end where the head of spruce trees sway in the wind like fields of ripe wheat. And the larch trees are watching us watch them with their big arms swinging. Where, in the winter, the jaseurs of America, hung the; mountain frozen, get drunk from fermented fruit, the birds drunk, damn birds.

Quebec has opened its new space in the heart of the forest, and the remains buried in our imaginations and our psyches. We are of mixed blood with the forest. And each one carries a bit of her, her inner forest.

It sells year in, year out, in Quebec, more than a million fishing licenses, hunting and trapping. About 8.5 million inhabitants, this is huge ! It is true that this number is declining since a few years. The younger generations seem to prefer to take advantage of the wood differently, as hikers, on foot, by canoe, kayak.

By the way, is that a set of trees is enough to make a forest ? The definition given by the united Nations food and agriculture organization (FAO) of a concentration of at least 0.5 hectare, with trees reaching a minimum height of five metres at maturity, is challenged anywhere in the world. This definition, for its critics, reduced the forest to a single tree cover without taking account, in particular, of the peoples who live there. In their eyes, the industrial plantations of trees, the fields of oaks, pines, or palm trees lined up like fields of cabbage or corn, are fake forests which drain the cultural dimension, and clearing companies that practice deforestation.

Enchantment and threat

Enter in the intimacy of the trees is an experience-enhancing, invigorating. As evidenced by the research, the forest has time to reduce stress, calm anxiety and fight depression. The sylvothérapie, of japanese origin, and is spreading a little everywhere. Take a bath of the forest back to itself, and, curiously, also allows to escape the self. This cancellation of self-even in the midst of the trees creates the feeling of a presence in the world is second to none, exultation quiet.

“The forest in its vastness gives you a sense of self-aggrandizement. It immensifie be, ” explains Rachel Bouvet, professor of literary studies at UQAM. “In front of this vastness, we feel the need to take refuge in a shelter, a hut, a tent, we fall back on our inner selves. The forest tightens the that the city disperse. “

We understand better the infinite nostalgia of the forest is nourished by the indigenous peoples. A nostalgia to which they have never found a cure. “The lichen-feeding me, wrote the poet innu Josephine Bacon, the foam heals my tears. “

The forest in its vastness gives you a sense of self-aggrandizement. It immensifie be. In front of this vastness, we feel the need to take refuge in a shelter, a hut, a tent, we fall back on our inner selves. The forest tightens the that the city disperse.

— Rachel Bouvet


Universe beneficent, but also threatening. Where lurks the fear of getting lost and dying of cold, hunger, or be eaten by a beast. Each year, in spite of GPS and other compasses sophisticated, men and women are lost in the maze of the forest canopy, frightened, frozen, believing their last hour coming. “The forest is the background dark in which the human species is extracted. Poisonous, all-consuming, ” writes the French historian Paul Sztulman.

Universe profane and sacred

Since always, the forests are, in our world, the domain of men : hunters, fishermen, trappers, miners, loggers, pilots, missionaries, explorers. It is their between home. Except among the Aboriginal people. But the women, at present, an appropriation of science, the familiarity with them and their beauty, become engineers, geographers, geologists, pilots, drivers gear of all kinds, guides, adventure, randonneuses, climbers.

Ce text is part of our “Outlook” section.

“It is a space of the extreme,” continues Rachel Bouvet, which encourages the quest for philosophical and spiritual. “Associated with the sublime, such as the sea or the desert, the forest has an intimate knowledge of the sacred. In this sacred, there are two animal figures : the moose and the caribou. The moose hunting, wild game fabulous embodying power and endurance, was for a long time, with us, a rite of initiation for young men. I think of Walter, born in Gaspésie in 1924, falling to his knees and kissing the ground frozen to October ; it comes to take down a beast, it was eight years ago. All his life, he will live for it, for that ecstasy, that will be his prayer, the prayer red trees. Similarly, in the tradition of the innu, caribou, master of the forest, is the principle of vital and spiritual of the nation.

Another report in the world

The forest embodies a different relation to the world. It is the figure of the hermit who is going to hole up in the woods for a break from the noise and fury of the world, washing of the dirt of the inhabited earth. The woods become the occasion for a rebirth, a redemption. Lucas Besse-Dicaire has lived in the la Vérendrye wildlife reserve for five years, eating squirrels, and playing the flute for the moose. It is the figure of the Aboriginal, for whom the human is not the centre of the world, but is part of the world, in the same way as the spruce, the river or the moon. And then, it is the figure of the runner of the wood, which accounts for the great geographer quebec, Louis-Edmond Hamelin, who died a little while ago, the archetype of the free man.

The forest is also a symbol of escape, of resistance, of maquis. In the baltic countries, a group of resistance fighters called the Brothers of the forest is hid to stand up to the soviet occupiers. The embrace of the stem, the branches and leaves is conducive to the embrace of clandestine lovers, and the refuge of alliances secret. And how can we forget that the forest is also a pot of tales and legends Little red riding Hood, tom Thumb, Robin hood, and other knights of the round Table in the legendary forest of Brocéliande, that are situated generally in Britain.

Forest cleared, bûchée, enchanted, sacred. Forest cake-German soaked with kirsch and topped with cherries. Forest healing, like that of the Japanese. Burnt forest, as this was to the north of lake Saint-Jean. Forest almost disappeared, such as the Îles-de-la-Madeleine. Forest set on fire, vandalized, as in the Amazon. Forest, offended, abused, as that of the error-boreal, in Abitibi-Témiscamingue.

In spite of everything, in spite of this, the forest remains a place of mystery and contemplation. A symbol of the persistence of time, which will last beyond ourselves and produce seeds, flowers and fruit when we do there will be more. Two young aspens planted one day in a court of Rosemont to celebrate birth. An urn in the wood of poplar, buried in a hillside of the Mont-Royal. A mimosa that grows in a corner of Britain that is fuelled by the placenta of a new-born. Life and death intertwined, constantly repeated.

Next week : The winds bless the forests

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