Tuesday, May 15, 2012
A Year in the Woods
I just read a lovely little book about a hired assassin. A Year in the Woods is actually a biographical work by Colin Elford. Elford lives in Britain and is employed as as a forest ranger who has the task of selectively shooting the deer of his area who have no natural predators. If they weren't controlled they would quickly eat themselves out of house and home and compromise the surrounding forests.
Elford rises early most days and it seems rare that he doesn't shoot and kill at least one deer. Despite this jarring reality the book is about Elford's keen love of the natural world, including the deer he hunts. He takes us through all twelve months, offering his observations about the changing seasons and encounters with "all creatures great and small." His solitude brings him into close proximity with owls and badgers, butterflies and foxes. I found myself soothed and uplifted by his writing.
Elford admits to feeling pangs of sadness and guilt with each kill but also understands that by assuming the role of predator he helps to ensure the balance of this ecosystem: "If you can go on stalking and feel no pain yourself when you take a life or wound an animal, then you are not fit for the purpose."
Would reading this sort of book intrigue or anger you? As a Christian and a carnivore I regularly ponder the strange realities of meat consumption and hunting. Are you reconciled to some creatures dying for the greater good?