A biologist reveals the secret world hidden in a single square meter of old-growth forest--a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Pen/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award
Look out for David Haskell's new book, The Songs of Tree: Stories From Nature's Great Connectors, coming in April of 2017
In this wholly original book, biologist David Haskell uses a one- square-meter patch of old-growth Tennessee forest as a window onto the entire natural world. Visiting it almost daily for one year to trace nature's path through the seasons, he brings the forest and its inhabitants to vivid life.
Each of this book's short chapters begins with a simple observation: a salamander scuttling across the leaf litter; the first blossom of spring wildflowers. From these, Haskell spins a brilliant web of biology and ecology, explaining the science that binds together the tiniest microbes and the largest mammals and describing the ecosystems that have cycled for thousands- sometimes millions-of years. Each visit to the forest presents a nature story in miniature as Haskell elegantly teases out the intricate relationships that order the creatures and plants that call it home.
Written with remarkable grace and empathy, The Forest Unseen is a grand tour of nature in all its profundity. Haskell is a perfect guide into the world that exists beneath our feet and beyond our backyards.
Over the course of a year, University of the South biology professor Haskell makes frequent pilgrimages to a meter-wide spot along a slope in an old-growth Tennessee forest. During his visits, he peeks beneath the leaf litter, shivers at the howls of coyotes, and watches the light change as he gazes up at the green canopy of July or November s bare twigs. Turning the patch of forest into his own natural laboratory, he reveals the science behind these moments of beauty, delighting in the resourcefulness of spring wildflowers and musing on the ecological partnerships that sustain lichens and other creatures. Throughout, Haskell shows the complexity and interdependence of the natural world, in which even the golf balls thwacked from a nearby green play a role. The Buddhist art of the mandala becomes a central reference point for the project, which contemplates the importance of close observation of the world around us. In the end, Haskell finds that even this tiny scrap of woods contains a teeming soup of life beyond the comprehension of our limited human senses. Yet for him, this awareness of his own ignorance is a joyful one, the web of life for him transcendentally tangled. This informative and inspiring meditation will give curious readers a few new things to pay attention to when walking through the woods.
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Haskell's detailed account of his year perched near his mandala illuminates the splendor surrounding us all. His writing is intellectual, with the poetic, lyrical quality of a song. Through his observations of nature and his probing, restless thoughts, we are introduced - or reintroduced - to a world that burns and sparkles with life.