The Forest Unseen is unlike any book I’ve ever read. Basically, Haskell, a college professor in Tennessee, visits a patch of old-growth forest in the mountains almost everyday for a year. Sounds boring, but it’s so not. Haskell easily combines science with history, with art, with life. I’m not done yet, but here’s one short quote to give you an example:
“Supple physiology also lichens to shine with life when most other creatures are locked down for the winter. Lichens master the cold months through the paradox of surrender. They burn no fuel in quest of warmth, instead letting the pace of their lives rise and fall with the thermometer. Lichens don’t cling to water as plants and animals do. A lichen body swells on damp days, then puckers as the air dries. Plants shrink back from the chill, packing up their cells until spring gradually coaxes them out. Lichen cells are light sleepers. When winter eases for a day, lichens float easily back to life.
This approach to life has been independently discovered by others. In the fourth century BCE, the Chinese Taoist philosopher Zhuangzi wrote of an old man tossed in the tumult at the base of a tall waterfall. Terrified onlookers rushed to his aid, but the man emerged unharmed and calm. When asked how he could survive this ordeal, he replied, “acquiescence… I accommodate myself to the water, not the water to me.” Lichens found this wisdom four hundred million years before the Taoists. The true masters of victory through submission in Zhuangzi’s allegory were the lichens clinging to the rock walls around the waterfall.”
–David George Haskell, The Forest Unseen