Robert Love is a logger from Montana. Both of those facts, that he is a logger and from Montana, inform Pathfinder and are its saving graces for this is a book of dreams—both literal and metaphorical, some of which are practical dreams and others that are mystical. That a logger would dream in both these ways (or at all) may strike some as improbable, yet it really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Loggers, despite harmful stereotypes, are human and often-enough innate humanists as well.
Mr. Love’s collection of prose and poetry never fails to demonstrate two important qualities: compassion and a hard-won useful insight into the work of nature and of the land’s people. His stance on those relationships is grounded in ethical considerations such as the ethics of hunting (a frequent concern) the proper use of forests through what he calls wild forestry” and the importance of fulfilling one’s duties toward one’s family, friends, and neighbors.
We read of him in his many roles as a father, a friend, an outdoorsman, a logger, and an environmental advocate, yet this author manages to portray his life and work without falling into mere sentimentality or indulging in either an exaggerated sense of his own heroism or a false starry-eyed sort of spirituality. A grounding in nature, long daily exposure to which its raw form will either humble you or kill you, undoubtedly makes this possible for him.
Whether as trenchant observations on forest management practices or in matters of the heart, this varied mixture creates an honest portrait of a man, his work, his place, and his life. An editor with long experience in the book publishing trade once told me that there are only three things that an author can do for readers: to teach them something new, or to remind them of something they’ve forgotten, and to be a good companion in the process. Pathfinder provides these on all three counts.
Robert Leo Heilman is the author of Overstory: Zero, Real Life in Timber Country and a former book reviewer for Seattle Weekly.