download books The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in NatureAuthor David George Haskell –

the search for the universal within the infinitesimally smallHaskell chooses a small parcel of land, his mandala , in the old growth forest of central Tennessee Every few days, he goes to his mandala to observe, take notes, look closer with his hand lens, and listen This book incorporates the field notes of what he sees, hears, and smells, but also the meditations, and the information behind these observations over one full year With the eye of a biologist, but also the musings of a philosopher, we observe through his eyes the comings and goings of the insects, the mammals, the ferns, the soil of this parcel of land.Slow and beautiful writing Simple, yet filled with meaning Informative but also mindful, encapsulating the past, the future, but also what is occurring in this present moment A joy to read Considering a mandala of my own in the nearby woods A Biologist Reveals The Secret World Hidden In A Single Square Meter Of ForestIn 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 LifeEach 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 HomeWritten 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 The premise of this most excellent natural history of a forest is that the author stakes out a small circle in the woods, say about 4 6 feet across, in a tiny tiny but one of the only left, sigh old growth forest remnant in eastern tennessee He goes out everyday for a year and just sits there observing the plants and animals Of course that is a bit of a simplification as he discussed things like the lifecycle of salamanders and butterflies and migrating tufted titmice and deer and hickory trees etc etc, so one would not actually see much of what he describes, but he does a good job balancing the scientific with the folksy and the philosophical and the unknown Because frankly we don t really know a whole hell of a lot about the ecosystems we live in and many of these are disappearing as we pave for strip malls and kill for golf courses etc the text is not mucked up with footnotes or too much high science but there is a very nice contextual bibliography if reader is interested in hardcore reading But this is a good example of nat hist porn, yummy yummy.Here is a small excerpt from chapter entitled December 3rd Litter I lie facedown at the edge of the mandala the circle he has been observing all year and really is my only gripe in the book, I hate that word, bigot , readying myself for a dive under the surface of the leaf litter The red oak leaf below my nose is crisp, protected from fungi and bacteria by the drying sun and wind Like the other leaves on the litter s surface, this oak leaf will remain intact for nearly a year, finally crumbling in the next summer s rains These surface leaves form a crust that both hides and makes possible the drama below Protected under the shield of superficial leaves, the rest of autumn s castoffs are pulverized in the wet, dark world of the litter Yearly, the ground heaves like a breathing belly, swelling in a rapid inhalation in October, then sinking as the life force is suffused into the forest s body Below the red oak leaf, other leaves are moist and matted I tease away a wet sandwich of three maple and hickory leaves Waves of odor roll out of the opening first, the sharp, musty smell of decomposition, and then the rounded, pleasant odor of fresh mushrooms The smells are edged with a richer, earthy background, the mark of healthy soil These sensations are the closet I can come to seeing the microbial community in the soil The light receptors and lenses in my eyes are too large to resolve the photons bouncing off bacteria, protozoa, and many fungi, but my nose can detect molecules that waft out of the microscopic world, giving me a peek through my blindness A peek is about all that anyone is given Of the billion microbes that live in the half handful of soil that I have exposed, only one percent can be cultivated and studied in the lab The interdependencies among the other ninety nine percent are so tight, and our ignorance about how to mimic or replicate these bonds is so deep, that the microbes die if isolated from the whole The soil s microbial community is therefore a grand mystery, with most of its inhabitants living unnamed and unknown to humanity As we chisel away at the edges of this mystery, jewels fall out of the eroding block of ignorance The forest unseen a year s watch in nature by David HaskellA very well written natural history of old growth hardwood forest Naturalist Haskell observes one small patch in the forest for a year, and describes the life and rhythms of reptiles, flowers, trees, birds, microorganisms, insects, mammals, fungi, and the history of the forest in the USA, how it has changed and how it has stayed wild Written for all audiences, this is very informative and entertaining, poetical even The book has a very nice bibliography, but unfortunately no maps or pictures. Grande d ception Je voulais un livre scientifique et apprendre sur la for t Il y a de cela videmment, mais l auteur se perd dans de nombreuses digressions, pas toujours pertinentes, et il en fait beaucoup trop au niveau du style d criture, vraiment sur crit, pour ce genre de livre Ce genre de livre devrait se contenter de vulgariser et de bien expliquer son propos, alors qu ici on tombe dans la prose po tique et on explique des l ments simples en les rendant beaucoup plus compliqu s que n cessaire On se retrouve plus du c t de l hommage po tique explicatif de la for t que d un r el essai scientifique Pour certains cela sera un plus, mais pour ma part je n ai pas aim et ce n est pas ce que je recherchais. Well, I m clearly in the vast minority here, but I m just not enjoying this book enough to push through and finish it There have been a couple of chapters that I ve found pretty interesting, but they ve been few and far between, and at times I ve found myself feeling pretty skeptical about what he s describing for instance the entire chapter where he decides to take all of his clothes off in the middle of winter to see what animals feel in the cold, and it somehow doesn t occur to him until the very end of the chapter that, duh, most of the animals that live in the woods have fur and feathers that help keep them warm, in addition to other bodily processes we don t have That made him seem either kind of stupid, or like he thinks I m kind of stupid Either way, it annoyed me I don t know, maybe I m being a jerk about this, but I really like the idea of this book and was hoping it would focus a little on the science side of nature and a little less on thepoetry side Or something Anyway, it s just not working for me. I really loved this book Haskell, a biology prof at The University of the South, has sort of cordoned off a square meter of land in an old growth forest in Tennessee Several times a week for a year he goes to this mandala , sits on a rock, and just observes, sometimes up close with a magnifying glass It is a book you must read slowly, maybe a 4or 5 page segment at a time I learned so much about so many aspects of plants and animals and Haskell writes like a poet but not remotely cornily It is definitely one of the best books of the year for me, and i plan to begin it again when we get home in November possibly reading along with the appropriate months HIGHLY RECOMMENDED You know the feeling that you get when you go to a national park or any forest and just sit there alone, observing, meditating That s what you experience while reading this book.So Feynman once said I have a friend who s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don t agree with very well He ll hold up a flower and say look how beautiful it is, and I ll agree Then he says I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing, and I think that he s kind of nutty First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is I can appreciate the beauty of a flower At the same time, I see much about the flower than he sees I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty I mean it s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter there s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting it means that insects can see the color It adds a question does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms Why is it aesthetic All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower It only adds I don t understand how it subtracts This book does precisely that It shows, it is possible to write about the fractally complex, interconnected, not well understood nature of an ecosystem in a language in the vein of Borges or Calvino A sample Lichens add physical intimacy to this interdependence, fusing their bodies and intertwining the membranes of their cells, like cornstalks fused with the farmer, bound by evolution s hand.It did take me a while to read this book Each chapter, which is a day s description of a small area in an old growth forest in Tennessee, is quite dense with a summary of the small thing under observation a fern unrolling, a snail moving, etc and how it ties in with humanity An albeit funny example Unlike top predators such as wolves, coyotes are abundant, and this makes them particularly invulnerable to attempts at eradication As the French Revolution discovered, and the predator control arms of the U.S federal and state governments rediscovered, it is harder to stamp out the upper classes than it is to kill the king. I should have loved The Forest Unseen Forests delight me, and I ve also spent time sitting in them and simply watching There are many thoughts and opinions that Haskell and I share Unfortunately, this book just bored me Maybe it s my own fault, because I tried to read it through like I would any novel, instead of savoring it bite by bite, as other readers did But I think there may be a legitimate reason The writing.It was sloppy Poetic, but sloppy And the poetic descriptions weren t even that good Oftentimes, Haskell s decision to opt for a metaphor or some elaborate description left me confused When he simply discussed the forest and its occupants, I liked the book well enough The chapter about turkey vultures, for example, was particularly fascinating Did you know turkey vulture guts can kill anthrax But too often, it was simply comically over written Don t believe me Let s look at the chapter for March 13th, accompanied by my thoughts as I read it.The mandala is a molluskan Serengeti Herds of coiled grazers move across the open savanna of lichens and moss Uh, what s happening Coiled mollusks Maybe he s talking about miniature forest shrimps or something glances at chapter title which, yes, it was my fault for missing Snails Oh, snails Alright Snails move in herds That s new to me And they re not coiled, are they I mean, their SHELLS are coiled, but their bodies aren t Unless I m confused Help, I didn t know I was so misinformed about snails Or maybe he just means Many snails crawl across the mandate We ll go with that for now.The largest snails travel alone, plying the crazy angled surfaces of the leaf litter, leaving the mossy hillsides for the nimble youngsters So only baby snails travel in herds And adult snails prefer leaf litter to moss Why Tell me I lie down on my belly and creep up on a large snail that sits at the edge of the mandala I lift the hand lens to my eye and shuffle closer Don t get distracted, Haskell Baby snails travel in herds I m not done with that yet.Through the lens, the snail s head fills my field of vision a magnificent sculpture of black glass Patches of silver decorate the shining skin, and small grooves run across and down the animal s back So we re not talking about snails herd like behavior any They DON T move in herds My movements cause mild alarm the snail withdraws its tentacles and hunches back into the shell I hold my breath and the snail relaxes Two small whiskers poke their way out of the chin, waving in the air before reaching down and touching the rock These rubbery feelers move like fingers reading Braille, touching lightly, skimming meaning from the sandstone script Are these tentacles and whiskers the same things, or different Nice Braille simile, though.Several minutes later a second pair of tentacles launches out from the crown of the snail s head Back to tentacles again So tentacles and whiskers are the same Got it.They reach upward, each with a milky eye at its tip, and wave at the tree canopy above You know, if this second pair of tentacles or whiskers are the eye stalks, I still don t know what the first pair was for Maybe he really did mean whiskersMy own eye bulges at the snail through the lens, but this monstrous globe seems to be of little concern to the snail, which extends its eyestalks farther These fleshy flagpoles now reach wider than the shell and swing wildly from side to sideFleshy flagpoles Yes, we all learned about alliteration in high school But even alliterative, this metaphor is still silly. INSERT SEVERAL PARAGRAPHS DISCUSSING SNAIL SIGHT, WHICH WE KNOW LITTLE ABOUT THEY RE INTERESTING, AND I M ENGROSSED, FORGETTING THE ORIGINAL SNAIL THEN IT COMES The snail s head explodes, ending my speculations Wait, WHAT The snail s head EXPLODED How Why Is this like how slugs are supposed to melt when you pour salt on them And what was this snail doing anyway, I forget goes back several paragraphs So, the snail was crawling, then it went in its shell It came back out, waved its eyes around, and now it s head exploded Crazy The black dome is split by a knot of cloudy flesh The knot pushes out, forward, then the snail turns to face me I thought the snail s head exploded It doesn t have a face any I m sorry, I m confused Is the dome being split the snail shell or its head He described its head as black earlier, but I really don t understand how flesh can come out of a snail head, which is already flesh Or maybe its the shell, and this is the snail coming further out of it Did the shell shatter WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING TO THIS POOR SNAIL The tentacles form an X, radiating away from the bubbling, doughy protrusion at the center I m really not following Is the doughy protrusion the same as the fleshy knot Why is it bubbling Are these explosion remnants Center of WHAT Two glassy lips push out, defining a vertical slit, and the whole apparatus heaves downward, pressing the lips to the groundgiggles at yonic imagery But I m not proud of it.I watch, saucer eyed, as the snail starts to glide over the rock, levitating across a sea of lichen Tiny beating hairs and ripples of infinitesimally small muscles propel the ebony grazer on its path Alright, now I m just getting irritated by your inconsistent and mixed metaphors First the mandala was a savanna, now it s a sea But the snail is still a grazer Shouldn t it be a swooping seabird sarcasm Whatever Can t you just tell me why young snails move in herds and why this snail exploded From my prone position I see the snail pause amid lichen flakes and black fungus spiking from the surface of oak leaves I peek over the lens and suddenly it is all gone The change of scale is a wrench into a different world the fungus is invisible, the snail is a valueless detail in a world dominated by bigger thingslooks at book suspiciously Wait has all this head exploding stuff been what I think I suspect it might have Oh, c mon My snail vigil ends when the sun breaks out from behind a cloud The morning s soft humidity has lifted, and the snail heads toward El Capitan, or a smallish rock, depending on how you see the world Well, to hell with this You mean all that exploding head, bubbling flesh description was really just describing how the snail moves I I just can t WHY CAN T YOU JUST SAY THAT THE SNAIL CRAWLED ACROSS LICHEN And, yeah, I get it you exaggerated for effect, to demonstrate how dramatic small scale actions can appear when magnified But I still have no idea what happened What was the snail s head actually doing that it looked like it exploded What was the fleshy knob that came out of a black dome Was the dome the head or the shell How is the snail moving CAN T YOU JUST TELL ME ABOUT SNAILS And that was this book for me a constant struggle to decipher meaning amid a barrage of misguided, tedious metaphor It choked what otherwise could have been a delightful narrative Too bad. Wundersch n Ich freue mich auf den n chsten Waldspaziergang und werde mich noch mehr auf die Kleinen Dinge achten.