How many tree whispers and shouts can you hear? How many mysteries and histories are there in wood and water, bird and human, ice and insect? How much do you like to travel? Go with George David Haskell to explore these questions and many others. He takes us far beyond tree rings and photosynthesis, far below roots and above crowns, though we visit those too when we read of his forest adventures around the world as a researcher and teacher of biology and environmental studies.
Listening to Haskell’s lush language, alive with many forest voices—maples and green ash in suburbs and forests, and Sabal palm forest in Georgia dunes—we attune to the wonders of our own senses of sound and touch and sight. Trees have developed their own suite of senses: They sense when water is fresh or salt and know how much to take up and conserve. How to shorten and wax-coat leaves in dry climates.
We meet individual trees and hear their rhythms throughout a year and into their afterlife. That afterlife is part of the larger symphony of nature, where the sounds and touches and sights include every sentient creature’s life and afterlife.
From an Amazon forest preserve in Ecuador where the ceibo tree is a living deity, through Echizen, capitol of Japanese artisan wood paper, with stops in New York City to listen to street trees, to the Florissant Fossil Beds in southern Colorado, and to other places with their own tree songs, Haskell writes the music of trees in a language that allows us to tune into the symphony of terrestrial life.
The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors by David George Haskell. Penguin Random House, April 2018.
Reviewer bio: Carolyn is a poet and a Soto Zen priest who leads art and meditation retreats and workshops. She lives in Santa Cruz, California.
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