on Nov. 2, 2014 :
“Blowdown; Tales inspired by the wind & Stanley Park” is a book that even its author Craig Spence admits is “hard for me to classify. On the one hand it scans like children’s literature, which I delight in both reading and writing; on the other, the themes and language may be challenging even for adults.” Spence puts that right up there in his introduction for the reader to ponder. But it’s a short enough effort in which to invest, at least that’s what I’m thinking as I breeze into it.
His intention, he says, was to understand the storm of 2006, a cataclysm that destroyed many of the beloved ancient trees of Vancouver’s Stanley Park, from a spiritual perspective. Again, he warns us that he is drawing, and adapting, from First Nations’ tales, stating that his story is written “from the only perspective I know – that of a European child growing up in a multicultural land,” “trying to understand his place in family, society and nature.”
Past its seemingly disconcerting introduction, Spence leads us into the world of the park at the feet of Spirit Bird, “an ancient spirit, who lived in a secret grove in the Land Between the Waters.” His tales are told out of any real order, seemingly as gusts of wind, forming into thoughts, words, fables. And what, at first, seems like a lot of rattling of leaves and swaying of treetops, becomes, indeed, a difficult-to-describe breezy storytelling that weaves legend, spirituality, and boyhood mischief. “It’s surprising how close you can get to Squirrel or Rat if you pretend your real intention is to pee on a bush,” he shares at one point. At another, “’call it a Big Bang, Genesis, the cracking of the Cosmic Egg, whatever you like,’ Spirit Bird laughed. ‘I say it was the waking of the Creator and that she is awakening still.’”
“Blowdown” is that yearning you have to walk into a windstorm to feel mist upon your face, to feel pine bristles brush past your shoulders as you walk into the dimming night, to sense underfoot the distant surfcrash when such a storm wishes to roll rocks to sand. These tales swirl around a time of change and growing up and culmination for one small boy. You see him struggle with an altering family life, see him wishing to be happy in the world, seeking his own private natural world, growing, with Spirit Bird as his teacher.
Inhale the wind, smell the cool, musty scent of the firs, and enjoy this unique bit of storytelling.
(review of free book)