Biologist David George Haskell uses observations in a one-square-meter patch of forest to deeply explore the forest and expand our understanding of the interrelatedness of all life. There are many surprising delights scattered throughout The Forest Unseen. The most intense anecdote is when he decides to strip naked during winter to compare his body’s response to the frigid temperatures to that of birds (Ouch!).
“The leaf litter seems to have no upper surface; the rotting leaves simply bleed upward and turn into dark wet air.”
The forest “is not a banquet waiting for guests to arrive but a devil’s buffet of poisoned plates from which herbivores [plant eaters] snatch the least deadly morsels.”
“No one knows how [ticks climb our skin without us feeling them], but I suspect they charm our nerve endings, taming cobralike neurons with the hypnotic music of their feet.”
“Unlike the dawn chorus of birds in the springtime, the fall-breeding crickets are loudest in midafternoon, when their bodies have sponged the day’s heat.”
“As rain patter turns to squall, the [forest] canopy heaves under the pressure of the wind. The trunks sway to and fro, flexing beyond what looks possible, then slashing back.”
“Yearly the ground heaves like a belly, swelling in a rapid inhalation in October, then sinking as the life force [of fallen leaves] is suffused into the forest’s body.”
“Our biggest failing is, after all, a lack of compassion for the world. Including ourselves.”
“Bacteria, protists, mites, and nematodes make their homes on the mountains of our bodies, hidden from us by the dislocation of [their smaller] scale.”
Available at your local library or for purchase online.