“The Declensions of the Wild Wood”–A Novel About Ecology, Friendship, Immigration, the Russian War on Ukraine, and Many Other Things

Dear Readers,

This is my long-awaited (by some) and much worked-upon (by me) 9th novel.. It is the 9th one I’ve written, though it is not continuous with the other 8, nor is it a part of their series, which was thematically inspired by the I Ching. This novel is perhaps my most ambitious so far, as it deals with topics, several of them, which I have never attempted before. To the end of accounting for some of these things, in case my handling of them should seem irregular, I acknowledge the previous work, which I have read about, of Peter Wohlleben, Suzanne Simard, “The New York Times,” “The Wall Street Journal,” and “The Smithsonian Magazine.” As well, I beg the indulgence and tolerance of the Canadian Ministry of the Interior and the Toronto Parks, Forestry, and Recreation Division: I have taken what are perhaps gross liberties with the little amount of research I was able to do online about their operations, and have more or less fantasized about what it might be like to become a Canadian citizen from a previous situation of overwhelming stress and difficulty. Though I would at one point have very much liked to have been a new Canadian, I was there in Toronto in a relative situation of ease. Though often short of funds, as most graduate students are from time to time, it was for education I was there, and I enjoyed many privileges thereto. I have written partly of locales and businesses past and present of which I was aware, but there are others which again are totally made up from a sort of composite knowledge of some situations in large cities in general. Toronto is without doubt a world-class city, and so I have made bold to assume that it must have many of these same characteristics as other world-class cities. This is all really, except to perhaps apologize for my heavy reliance on Google Translate for what I wanted to have my characters say in Ukrainian and Russian: I doubt it’s all perfectly accurate, but I have taken care to add nearby English approximations so that if a closer translation ever becomes necessary and possible, I myself will at least remember what I was trying to have my characters say. Finally, but not the least, I offer my welcome and hope that any Eastern European readers from any country following this story will forgive me if it seems to them at all inaccurate or unfair in any way. Years ago, I lived along St. Clair West in Toronto, as I had lived also in other locales there, and I was surrrounded by a largely Eastern European culture. I have borrowed what I remember of their speech patterns and their ways of dealing with each other, and I hope I have done so fairly accurately and not unjustfiably, though I know many things may have changed. I have been following the course of the Russian attack and war on Ukraine, and many may wonder why, if I am in basic sympathy with Ukraine, I made my main character only half Russian and half Ukrainian. It was definitely more of a challenge. But at the time when I started the novel, in Fall of 2021, I had less than no idea that Russia would be attacking, and I was writing purely from a standpoint of an interest in what had been said variously about the United States and more Northern climes in relation to ecological concerns. The novel was started in Fall of 2021, and then suddenly in February 2022, when Ukraine was attacked by Russia, it became necessary somehow to reframe my chapter on “wilding” in Russia a different way, and so I waited from February until October 2022 finally to finish the book. I feel that things have come to such a pass that the book requires to be complete and to find friends now, and to find friends for the right causes, and that a just and fair peace for the sovereign land of Ukraine is one of the morally ecological issues involved. So, I have thus written, and as I have ended my novel at a non-finale point, it bears the legend at the cessation of text: N’EST-CE PAS FIN. Possibly bad or incomplete French, but the thought is there. And so I hope it is, that this bizarre old world goes rolling on for many a millenium to come. Best, Victoria Leigh Bennett (Shadowoperator)

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