Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Forest Unseen by David George Haskell

You know how you watch a really good nature program and the narrator points to something growing on the ground and then ties it to some bird who dropped something that nature made it pick up in the first place ten miles away?  After a while you start to understand that this area has microbes, insects, birds, winds in the trees that effect leaves shaped just so, etc. and it's all tied together and you think "Holy cow, that's amazing!"  Well, this book is that show and then some.
David Haskell is a biology professor who I really wish I'd had as my high school biology teacher.  Haskell decided to stake out a little plot in a Tennessee forest about a meter square and watch it every day for a year to see what he could see.  He likened it to a Tibetan monk's sand painting in which all the universe could be witnessed within.  Seeing the whole universe might be a stretch, but you get a good sense of the interconnectedness of living things on earth in these beautifully written vignettes.  Each chapter is around 6 pages long and represents a day's observations and thoughts on those sights.  They're all good and some of them are really cool.  It flows, makes sense and is lyrical to boot.  I would read one or two of the days and put it down, only to pick it up again pretty soon to see what was next.  The book is 245 pages with footnotes added if you want to dive a little deeper into that particular day or fact. 
We don't see most of what is around us.  It's there and our senses pick it up but we filter it out and move ahead.  Professor Haskell does a beautiful job of gently pulling us back to our world and seeing it with fresh eyes.

No comments: