The Forest Unseen by David Haskell came highly recommended and I was looking forward to digging into it as part of my Nature Book Project for 2015. I wanted to like this book, giving it a chance past the first chapter that left me wondering what all the fuss was about in the reviews I read online. I read the Preface three times because I was having a hard time getting the “mandala” metaphor that he kept referring to in the chapters.
Mandala- Hindu or Buddhist symbol of the universe.
As far as my experience with this book, I will admit that I had favorite chapters. These bright spots kept me going when I was tired of trying to make all the connections he was drawing from his forest observations, philosophy, religion, and history. This book could have been better if it hadn’t tried so hard to weave it all together.
The idea of watching a spot in the forest for a complete year is one that I have long wanted to accomplish in a far larger scope than I have in the past. Our family had a tree in the woods that we observed and documented each season. Taking that idea one step farther, keeping track of the spot on a more frequent basis, appeals to me as a life project. We have loosely made observations weekly on a certain trail near our home in recent years and it has given us a sense of time that only can be experienced by seeing the concrete evidence of the passage of time and the seasons.
My advice? See if you public library has this book for you to check out and read. Dip into a few chapters after reading the preface and see what you can discover of interest to you. Note that this book is written from an evolutionist point of view.
More importantly, let the idea of this book inspire you to find your own “forest unseen” near your home. A place to visit frequently to observe the life and death that takes place there is one that will enrich your family and provide valuable life lessons.