Thursday, August 22, 2019

Final Summer of Tree Books post: The Hidden Life of Trees

This week, I’m wrapping up my Summer of Tree Books reading with The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate: Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben. As you might imagine, this book is full of interesting facts about the way trees live. Such as:

Surrounding trees will send nourishment to a sick or dying tree, because “every tree is valuable to the community and worth keeping around for as long as possible.”

Trees have defense mechanisms such as scent compounds that can be dispersed in the air, or “toxic tannins in their bark and leaves” to deter insects and animals.

Like people, some trees are more social than others.

Reproduction practices between species of trees have been well-studied, but there is still a lot we don’t know and/or can’t understand. (This also seems very similar to humans.)

Sometimes, trees growing in a group make efforts so that they all reach pretty much the same potential, which seems to go against our “survival of the fittest” understandings of evolution.

There is more, much more, in this fascinating book and although it is perhaps a bit of a drier read than Meetings with Remarkable Trees, it is still well worth your time. As I mentioned in my last post, one of the most rewarding aspects of my summer reading project was the way all of these books began to work together, one informing and enriching the next. This experience has certainly made me look at trees, and the natural world in general, in a new, more appreciative light. And when I started teaching my class on writing for children and teens this week, I read The Giving Tree to them, and that took on a new resonance as well. That selfless tree!

So what of next summer’s reading project? Is it too early to start thinking about it? Well, for better or worse, a well-meaning friend has pointed me in the direction of the French Revolution and for a variety of reasons, that will most likely be my focus in summer, 2020. Recommendations welcome!


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"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka