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In the tradition of many fine backyard naturalists from Thoreau onward, biologist Haskell focuses on one square meter in the Tennessee forest near his home for a year of intense ecological study. He considers the subtle changes to his mandala (a term chosen for its representation of a universe within a small space) with careful attention, resisting the urge to focus on dramatic turns and instead patiently seeking out plants like the hepatica, noting its bud, flower, and fruit. Lured down to the ground in search of the most infinitesimal alterations, he observes caterpillars and katydids, earthworms and ants. Playful similes assert themselves: Hickories are sports cars; Maples are all-wheel-drive passenger cars. He sees triumph against great odds in the production of syrup and the evolution of taste buds in an insect's failure to thrive in a bed made of the New York Times. (Pulped balsam fir is the culprit.) With appreciation for both the forest and scientific study, Haskell demonstrates that this is how we learn, with patience and respect for all the earth has to teach.--Mondor, Colleen Copyright 2010 Booklist
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Over the course of a year, University of the South biology professor Haskell makes frequent pilgrimages to a meter-wide spot along a slope in an old-growth Tennessee forest. During his visits, he peeks beneath the leaf litter, shivers at the howls of coyotes, and watches the light change as he gazes up at the green canopy of July or November's bare twigs. Turning the patch of forest into his own natural laboratory, he reveals the science behind these moments of beauty, delighting in the resourcefulness of spring wildflowers and musing on the ecological partnerships that sustain lichens and other creatures. Throughout, Haskell shows the complexity and interdependence of the natural world, in which even the golf balls thwacked from a nearby green play a role. The Buddhist art of the mandala becomes a central reference point for the project, which contemplates the importance of close observation of the world around us. In the end, Haskell finds that even this tiny scrap of woods contains a teeming soup of life beyond the comprehension of our limited human senses. Yet for him, this awareness of his own "ignorance" is a joyful one, the web of life for him transcendentally tangled. This informative and inspiring meditation will give curious readers a few new things to pay attention to when walking through the woods. Agent: Alice Martell, the Martell Agency. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
The Buddhist mandala is a spiritual representation of the universe, a visual mantra that aids in meditation. In this book, biologist Haskell (Univ. of the South, Tennessee) invokes the metaphor of the mandala to contemplate the complexity of nature found in one square meter of old growth forest. Over a calendar year, Haskell visited the "mandala" weekly to listen and observe. Crawling through the leaf litter, with magnifying glass in hand, Haskell discovers the hidden world of mosquitoes, caterpillars, liverworts, and fungi. Descriptions from the bizarre "Swiss Army knife" mouthparts of the tick to the fantastic 50,000 pulses of sound per second of the katydid illuminate the wonders of this small plot of land. Writing in prose reminiscent of Thoreau, Haskell captures the impact of seasonal change in 40-plus essays that intertwine natural history and philosophy. The recognition that humans are part of the whole is what sets this book apart from most other ecology texts. Forest Unseen, with an extensive bibliography for each chapter, invites the reader to hear the song of the wren with fresh ears. Summing Up: Recommended. All collections, all readers. B. A. Losoff University of Colorado at Boulder
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Following the example of monks and writers, award-winning teacher (and sometimes poet) Haskell (biology, Univ. of the South) turns his gaze to the small things-insects, plants, and birds-living in a single square meter of one of Tennessee's old-growth forests. He returns to the same patch of forest over the course of a year and, in a series of vignettes, draws readers' attention to the quiet details of the place. For instance, he sees a chickadee shiver for warmth in the wintertime and a mosquito feast to stomach-swelling proportions in the spring. Haskell uses these moments to remind readers of their position in a shared, common ecosystem that reaches far beyond the forest. VERDICT Haskell brings the aspects of forest life that most often go unnoticed to the forefront with vibrant detail as he easily moves from microscopic to global observations. His book should prove engaging for a variety of audiences-from serious readers of nature writing to casual readers of nonfiction. Recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 9/11/11.]-Talea Anderson, Ellensburg, WA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.