Local writers collaborate to save trees

By Daniela Syrovy

A book promoting the preservation of nature in modern society had its official launch at the Ottawa Public Library last Wednesday.

Lee Murray compiled “A Tree is My Friend” through e-mail and the National Capital Freenet (NCF), a non-profit community organization providing Internet service at a low cost to people in the capital region.

Most of the book’s local contributors are members of the NCF and have used it as a network to share their writing.

While the book contains seven contributors from the Ottawa region, entries were also collected from other countries using the world wide web.

“I’m a believer in global culture, I see it as the way things are,” says Murray. “It’s helpful when we all communicate around the world; co-operate and collaborate on common interests.”

Murray adds that it is because we are a “high tech” culture that we need to be reminded of the simple beauty of nature.

The book is a collection of poems, stories and images with a focus on trees.

“My motivation comes from a connection with the forest. I started by writing a novel with the idea about returning profits to this forest, ” says Murray, who has contributed two entries to the book.

Published last year, the profits from the book are divided between two forest projects.

The Skyrock 2147 Forest Project aims to save trees in Kentucky, a region close to Murray’s heart as he spent his childhood there. Redcloud Thunder is based in Oregon and is dedicated to saving forest in the Pacific Northwest.

“Sensitizing people to the beauty of trees is important,” says Pete Hodgins, Sr. one of the writers at the launch.

Hodgins has been an aspiring writer for 27 years and his entry was taken from one of his unpublished naval historical novels.

The book draws attention to “the simple beauty and different kinds of feelings, inspirations and benefits we obtain from nature,” says Murray. “Each person has some kind of a personal relationship with trees.”

Murray believes that his latest book published by him — the fifth he’s written — is set apart from previous books because it is the most commercially attractive.

“On my scale, I find the response is the most positive,” he says. “I’m still learning a lot about marketing and am presenting the book to the public the only way I can — learning as I go.”

Murray has a network of individuals in Hamilton, Toronto and New Zealand promoting the book, and plans to continue expanding that circle. His next project will stay closer to home.

The project will be an entirely Ottawa-based directory of artists belonging to the NCF. The profits will go back to the NCF in order to maintain its low-cost Internet service.

He also plans to start a non-profit organization specifically to fund the tree preservation organizations he supports.

“I’ve had the idea for a while, returning profits to nature and I would like to follow with more of that,” he says

Murray adds, “none of the writers get paid, but of course there are different levels of motivation for the cause.”

Centretown contributor David Collins believes that the value of this type of book is two- fold.

“It helps bring attention towards the natural world, which we tend not to do a great deal, of and it’s nice to have small voices within the community being heard,” says Collins. “It’s nice to have an audience, if only briefly.”

“A Tree is My Friend” is available at three local bookstores: Collected Works, Mother Tongue and Nicholas Hoare.

Collins comments that the book is attractive to those with a “spirit of generosity” and those that care about the cause.

He adds that “politically speaking environmental issues are always crucial. Without water and air all other issues are meaningless.”