Book Report: The Hidden Life of Trees

Take a minute to look at things from a long point of view. Reading (or just looking at) this beautiful book lets you leave the now and enter the enduring. I’m so glad we still have trees around to take care of us and the earth long term.

I’ve been reading a lot of Peter Wohlleben’s books, such as The Inner Life of Animals, which I wrote about in April of last year, and The Secret Wisdom of Animals, which I wrote about in June 2019. This one, The Hidden Life of Trees: The Illustrated Edition, is not the entire original book, but long excerpts from the original, punctuated with beautiful photographs of trees around the world. I bought this version for those photos (and eventually will read the unabridged book).

I admit that I am really, really fond of pictures of trees. I usually have one in my immediate environment, like here in my office.

My main tree image in my office, by Sean Wall.

My whole life I’ve been drawn to trees. My mother used to tell me how she’d find me in the yard chatting away to the huge live oaks surrounding our house. And I remember when I was able to visit my home town again after moving away, I insisted on visiting certain trees in what is now Tom Petty Park and the Duckpond area in Gainesville, Florida. Yes, I was always this way.

So, this book gave me a lot of pleasure. It’s not like someone went out and took a lot of great photos to add to the book, because most of them are iStock photos, according to the credits. Nonetheless, the photos were well chosen to accompany the text, so they brought me joy.

Here’s one beautiful photo from the book.

Of course, Wohlleben does a great job presenting fascinating research about trees in a format that any lay person can enjoy and be amazed by. Now that I know how trees communicate, I don’t think I’ll be planting one all by itself ever again. And that’s only ONE thing I learned.

The trees (and bunny) in our woods have lots of friends, and the downed trees are allowed to go back to the earth and provide nutrients.

I found myself reading a bit, then just lingering in the photos, imagining myself in those places, smelling the earth, hearing the wind in the leaves, seeing all the creatures the trees support. That’s worth the price of the book, right there! You can bet I’m going to keep that book on my coffee table, which is part of a tree, to dive into whenever I need to.

My other tree art in my office. It’s a watercolor by LE Martin, from 1995, which we found in the Rattlesnake house, unframed, in a cabinet.

Book Report: The Secret Wisdom of Nature

Yay! It’s time for another naturalist-centered book report. This book, which IS about the entire earth, has the extra-lengthy title of:

The Secret Wisdom of Nature: Trees, Animals, and the Extraordinary Balance of All Living Things – Stories from Science and Observation

Buy it here!

It’s by Peter Wohlleben, the German forester who wrote The Inner Life of Animals, which I reviewed recently. It’s the third volume in a trilogy that started with The Hidden Life of Trees, which I promise to finish and review, too.

You’ve just got to like Wohlleben, because he does not give a hoot if others think his ideas are not quite “scientific” enough or if he’s personifying non-human entities. Nope, he just calls things as he sees them, and seeing is his specialty. He doesn’t just look around his forest or anywhere else he visits, he carefully observes from the macro level to the micro level, and from the far past to the present. He doesn’t hesitate to ponder about the future, either. To me, this is the kind of teacher we all need, because he inspires all his readers to think beyond stereotypes and actually pay attention to what’s going on in front of them.

All the scientists out there will also appreciate that he backs up his observations with recent scholarship and provides us with a hefty bibliography for further exploration.

Why is this important?

As I was reading this book, I began to get a sinking feeling of concern. Wohlleben chronicles all sorts of ways humans have interfered with the interconnected web of life on this planet, and how the consequences are very far reaching. Changing the types of trees in European forests meant some organisms had nowhere to live, while others could march in and find new homes (or eat new things). Not having enough shade in the forest also meant huge differences.

Continue reading “Book Report: The Secret Wisdom of Nature”

Book Report: The Inner Life of Animals

Back to my old habits of reading nonfiction about nature, I just finished this book: The Inner Life of Animals: Love, Grief, and Compassion―Surprising Observations of a Hidden World, by Peter Wohlleben. The author is a caretaker for a forest in Germany, which gives him lots of time to observe the habits of the animals and plants he encounters there. He’s also the author of The HIdden Life of Trees, which has amazing information about how trees feel, communicate, and more. There’s a third volume in the series coming out soon, too.

The author and his goats

You’ll either love Wohlleben’s approach to observing the feelings, morals, and behaviors of animals or be a little uncomfortable with it. He uses a lot of scientific evidence to back up his claims (the footnotes are a book unto themselves), but there’s plenty of gut feelings and assertions that an animal felt this way or that way, because it just looked like it to him.

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