Influences: The Forest by Roger Caras
Sage Butterfly came up with a great idea on how to show appreciation for Earth and combine it with a love a reading by having a blog contest for folks to “share what books inspire them to live or garden more sustainably.” (Sage Butterfly’s Earth Day Reading Project)
Since my passion for nature and books rank pretty high in my life, I I wanted to give it a spin and spent considerable time thinking about what book would I focus on. There were several contenders which I’ll talk about another day, but my first choice was The Forest by Roger Caras.
Caras’ book always held a special magic for me, because it was the book that really got me seeing the hidden and connected world in nature. It’s a narrative view of a forest exploring the life, and lives, of everything within it from the most microscopic to the largest plants and animals.
What made it powerful for me was the way it invoked the sense of how much life, connections and activity are essentially invisible to us. Its tales of the complex life in the soil to the animals that hide from us, the struggles and interactions that occur around us made me realize what we see and we think we know is only a portion of a much larger and mostly elusive whole.
The seed it planted, so to speak, grew over the years both connected to new understanding and old pieces of knowledge:
- The way plants and fungi form communities sharing nutrients and information beneath the soil.
- The chemical messages plants share
- The language of scents, unnoticed by us, that animals and insect live in
- The many times we attempt to shape the natural world only to have it change in unexpected ways
- The complex community of life that lives inside us and our health depends on
From that I understood that we don’t live as part of the food chain we were foolish taught as children, with humans conveniently on top. Or even a food web which still sounds like something we master. Instead we are a thread in a much broader and vastly interconnected tapestry of life.
Pulling threads and altering threads has unforeseen effects. The more we alter it to suit ourselves, the more fragile the whole becomes. We need to live sustainably or risk unraveling it and ourselves in the process.
For me that powerful realization grew from that beginning of insight contained in Caras’ book.