Courtesy of Knopf

“During the pandemic, many of us have found solace in nature. ‘Finding the Mother Tree, Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest,’ by Suzanne Simard (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2021), took me on the most mind-expanding walk in the woods I’ve yet experienced.

“Born into a family of foresters, Dr. Simard was led by her passion for trees to her present professorship in forest ecology at the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Forestry. This book is at once an autobiographical and scientific recounting of that journey, weaving together her personal life with her rigorously researched discoveries about the ‘wood-wide web,’ mycorrhizal fungal networks that allow trees to communicate across generations and even species. She fascinated me by illuminating similarities between her own life (and, sometimes, ours) and lives in the forest community, from the joys and responsibilities of motherhood, to being members of that village it takes to raise a child (or seedling), to her strenuous struggle with cancer and the network that kept her going during that struggle. She also highlights how difficult it is to change paradigms supported by the politics of short-term economic gain or pain.

“She makes the case that we must transform our thinking ‘by recognizing that trees and plants . . . perceive, relate, and communicate. . . . They cooperate, make decisions, learn, and remember — qualities we normally ascribe to sentience, wisdom, and intelligence. By noting how . . . any and all nonhuman species (even fungi) . . . have this agency, we can acknowledge that they deserve as much regard as we accord ourselves. We can continue pushing our earth out of balance . . . or we can regain balance by acknowledging that if we harm one species, one forest, one lake, this ripples through the entire complex web. Mistreatment of one species is mistreatment of all.’

“I know I’ll never walk in the woods the same way again.” – PAM BLAKE, Freeport

Mainers, please email to tell us about the book on your bedside table right now. In a few sentences, describe the book and be sure to tell us what drew you to it. With the path of the pandemic again uncertain, we especially want to hear what you are reading in these challenging times and why. Send your selection to, and we may use it as a future Bedside Table.


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