The Outcast

The Forest Unseen

by David George Haskell

Overview: Written with remarkable grace and empathy, The Forest Unseen is a grand tour of nature in all its profundity. Biologist David George 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. Beginning with simple observations—a salamander scuttling across the leaf litter, the first blossom of spring wildflowers—Haskell spins a brilliant web of biology, ecology, and poetry, explaining the science binding together ecosystems that have cycled for thousands—sometimes millions—of years.

Carol Sherman (02/09/15): This is a book about nature written by a Tennessee biologist. The ‘action’ takes place in a square meter of old forest growth in Tennessee as observed by Mr. Haskell over a one year period. Each chapter focuses on a different observation. The chapters are short. I was reading this book for a book club and put it off for a while when I read the inside cover. I thought it would be grind to read. However with each chapter I read I found myself using my phone to google a picture of the images he pictured for me: lichen, slugs, moss, salamanders, snowflakes, snails, flowers, birds, even golf balls to name a few. I was drawn to know more.

In the bitter cold the biologist decides to see how the animals of the forest feel. He takes off his clothes. It does not take long for him to know he needs warmth or will die of hypothermia. He calls his patch of ground a ‘mandala’ Sanskrit for a symbolic representation of the universe. Since many of the creatures are very small he spends much time on his stomach to get down and close in his vigil with nature.

The book is excellent in the depth and breadth of his observations. He brings in biology, ecology, science and evolution as well as contemplation, silent wonder, poetic language. I had to turn the book back in to the library without finishing it. While it took some discipline to read it I found each chapter was worth the time and the images and stories and explanations brought nature to life and interest. I give this book 4 stars for its uniqueness and teachings.
Rating: ****

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