first book, Lakeland
, won this year's Governor General's Award for non-fiction. It's a meditation on the relationship we, as Canadians, have with water, and a stirring example of his ability to write about nature with passion and candour. Not surprisingly, it was co-published by the David Suzuki Foundation and Greystone Books/Douglas & McIntyre.
As Casey says, "I am especially interested in writing about the land itself, how we view it, how we use it, how it shapes the soul of its citizens. It seems to me our great task as a species is to find a sustainable place within the biosphere, and I try to lend my talents, humble though they be, to that enterprise."
In celebration of Earth Day, CBC Books asked Casey to recommend a book that has shaped his view on nature:
The Sacred Earth
by Courtney Milne"My dad gave me a copy of Courtney Milne's The Sacred Earth two decades ago. The handsome book of photos was a kind of homecoming present. My wife and I had just returned "home" to Saskatchewan to raise our kids and were having a few second thoughts about opportunities we'd left behind in Ontario. But Milne's book seemed to say we'd chosen right.
"A visual journey to some of the world's most beautiful natural places, Milne's book included Saskatchewan landscapes among exotica like Machu Picchu, Canyon de Chelly and Mount Shasta under spring snow. More important, it got me to see how thoroughly entwined are spirituality and nature.
"Writing about nature is not easy. The great, fractal beauty, the immensity of detail and subtle perfection, can simply defy words. Milne, though he was a good wordsmith too, knew this. He pointed a camera instead, and his best photos are visual prayers beyond language.
"Courtney Milne, whom I was lucky to know, died last August from complications of multiple myeloma. His images stay with me."
About Lakeland: Ballad of a Freshwater Country
Governor General's Award winner for non-fiction, 2010
More than anything else, Canada is defined by its lakes. Sixty per cent of the world's five million lakes are found within our borders.
Starting at Emma Lake, Saskatchewan, where his family has had a cabin since 1960, Casey takes the reader on a tour across the country to visit 10 of Canada's beautiful and increasingly fragile lakes. From log cabins to lakeside mansions, we come to know some of the unforgettable characters who live around them and fight for their survival.
Casey argues that, as Canadians, we are defined and unified by the notion of a landscape of endless, pure lakes. Despite problems of over-development, these lakes remain the heartland of this country, and the place where our relationship with wilderness itself begins.