Revelstoke author Laura Stovel is sharing her newest project for the first time at the Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre tonight (June 2) through an exhibition that explores the connections foresters, biologists, foragers, educators and indigenous knowledge keepers have with the forest throughout its seasons.
Stovel, a writer, historian, environmentalist and social issues activist, said the project was born out of COVID. She was spending a lot of time alone in the bush thinking about her relationship with the forest as she, like many at the time, was cut off from interacting with other people. It was then that she started noticing things in nature that she had never noticed before.
It was on those unchaperoned walks through nature that the book, Stories of the Forest was born.
“Wouldn’t it be an interesting book if we could teach people to read the forest,” said Stovel.
As a writer, Stovel was interested in bringing together the community’s forest experts. She collaborated with ethnobotanist Christie Shaw, foresters, educators, hunters, foragers, and most importantly, Indigenous storytellers from the four nations to share their unique stories. The themes of the stories range from good forestry practices, descriptions of how hunters interact with animals, tales of the caribou from specialists, ethnobotany, the lives of the fish and valuable knowledge from Indigenous leaders and educators.
To complement the tales, Stovel worked with artists Rob Buchanan and Claire Sieber to bring the visuals of the forest to life in the book and on display at the exhibition.
Stovel said there are a lot of different perspectives on the value of the forest in the book. She wanted people to engage with each other and slow down when in the forest to pay attention to the little details one may normally miss.
An increasing number of people in the province are getting out into the backcountry to explore nature. According to the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC, local trails and parks have seen a 150 per cent increase in trail usage over the last few years in some areas.
“I don’t know of a time when people explored more than now,” said Stovel.
“People are always looking for new places to go. Maybe they could slow down and have a quality experience with the places that they go.”
The forest that surrounds Revelstoke is known as the inland temperate rainforest, one of the few of its kind in the world, and hosts huge cedar trees that are 500 to 1,000 years old according to the Valhalla Wilderness Society.
Following the local exhibition, Stovel said there is an opportunity to take the book on the road to other communities, and eventually hopes to go to schools with the book along with the storytellers to teach students about the forest.
The exhibition will be featured in the Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre main gallery from June 2 to 26, will feature displays from each story in the book alongside the art by Buchanan and Sieber, and will give people an opportunity to purchase the book and speak to the author.
For more information on all the exhibitions at the Visual Arts Centre visit revelstokeartgallery.ca.
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