All those years ago, when I left my family home, I hugged many of the tall Scots Pines that ringed the gardens, towering in silent majesty over the crumbling edifices of human existence – the house, the outbuildings, the possessions now consigned to the skip. A year later, I passed by that house again. The new owner, with his different map of the world, his different understanding of value, had felled every one of them. I felt great pain – perhaps that of the trees, certainly my own.
This book (and talented author) both remind me somewhat of the supermarket, ‘Aldi’. No, it’s okay, I’m absolutely fine…please bear with me.
Every now and again I shall purchase a bottle of red wine from Aldi and, being a cagey spendthrift (no, not a miser, just careful), I shall usually plump for a nice £3 bottle which does the trick, because a) Aldi have excellent wine merchants and b) my taste buds have adapted nicely to their £3 range, which is comparable to the £20 range of wines at Tesco, or Sainsburys. Since becoming disabled, my eldest daughter occasionally goes shopping for us. She knows I like red wine, but she doesn’t drink a lot of it herself and therefore picks out something from the £10 to £15 range, because she thinks that is what I would choose also. So I get my wine and, naturally, my £3 taste buds are completely blown away by the difference in quality. Thus, I make the new bottle last twice as long, because every sip is utterly delicious and definitely not to be rushed. Which brings us neatly (via the scenic route, past the vineyards) to Michael Forester’s latest book, Forest Dawn – Reflections of the Rising Light.
This is Michael Forester’s new collection of essays and poetry, succeeding his awesome 2017 book, Forest Rain, which we were honoured to review here at Ink Pantry. The focus this time is for the author to ‘illuminate the profound that hides in the simple and the eternal that shines through the commonplace’. As such, the book begins in fine fashion with the inspirational essay, ‘A Pound of Peace’.
‘A pound of Peace, please, mate,’ said the man in front of me in the queue at the market stall. His shopping bag was packed full and I wondered how he was going to fit any more into it.
‘Beautiful bit of Peace this is,’ the stallholder commented, weighing out a pound on the scales. ‘You’ll not find better in the market today.’ The customer smiled his thanks and pressed the Peace down into his bag that was already bulging with Worry, Regret and Frustration. It looked precariously balanced as he walked away. I wasn’t surprised to see it topple out and splatter into the gutter.
‘And what can I do for you today, sir?’ The stallholder’s voice brought my attention back to the table. ‘How about some Pleasure for your supper? Just sprinkle a bit of Indolence on it and fry it in Indulgence – beautiful!’
Tempted, I checked my wallet. ‘Sorry,’ I replied, ‘I’m all out of Trust to pay you with.’
‘That don’t matter’ he retorted. ‘I take all the major cards – Gullibility, Foolishness, Ignorance. And if you’ve got that new one, Complacency, I can even give you a discount.’
Each carefully crafted essay and poem carries a stream of messages via positive metaphors and symbolism. The description of a dream leads to a lesson in forgiveness. A childhood memory of a spider focuses on the myriad of choices we face in this lifetime. The recollection of a faulty wire in a garage door looks into angels and God’s sense of humour…and so on, throughout the thirty-two chapters of the book.
The writing in all the essays and poetry is direct and thought-provoking. Michael’s sense of humour and skilful writing creates a steady platform between some of the harsher subjects covered (such as refugees fleeing from their war-torn homes), meaning at no point are we feeling that this is all part of a grand, egotistical speech and we are being lectured to. Michael’s talent as a writer is both simplistic and genius; he draws the reader in like a magnet. We’re never pulled in, but merely guided by Michael’s total command of the written word. Another bonus…we also learn from what is being presented to us.
I raced through this book’s wonderful predecessor, Forest Rain, as it is an utter joy to read. This time around, something seems different for me. The sheer joyousness is retained, but I found myself tackling this book in smaller chunks, as after each chapter my head was swimming with what I had just ingested. If Forest Rain captured the energy of an energetic teenager passionately exploring the world, Forest Dawn seems to me to be somehow maturer and worldly-wise in its approach.
Michael’s humour shines through his writing, as demonstrated in a short poem called ‘Oh My God!’, which immediately took me back to being a young 1970s choirboy; my 7-year old mind earnestly trying to make sense of the vicar’s authoritative sermon.
‘Repent!’ he shouted.
I didn’t know what penting was, but I promised there and then, I’d definitely re-do it more in future.
‘All ye like sheep have gone astray!’ he yelled.
I thought of new season’s lamb with mint sauce and some potatoes.
‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand,’ he snarled.
I looked at my hands. There was nothing on them, certainly not a kingdom.
‘I see you, sinner,’ he said.
I checked my flies.
The writing throughout the book is top quality, in terms of pace, tone and depth. Every chapter leaves a trail of fascinating, informative foam in its wake, along with the knowledge that, as readers, we’ve been privileged to share in this gentleman’s Earthly journey and what he has learned from it so far. It’s a masterclass in creative writing and the author should be extremely proud of what he has created here.
As I said at the end of the Ink Pantry review for Forest Rain, this is an excellent book and I sincerely wish that I had written it. Nothing has changed.
And we are but flying fish, breaking the surface for a moment, to bask in the reflected glory of a transient elevation.