With the arrival of spring after a cold, wet, dark winter, I catch myself eyeing the trees up here on the mountain, willing their branches to burst out in the electric green of early growth. Their textured canopy of chartreuse and Kelly green will inevitably darken to its summer shade, the heady colors of April quickly forgotten. But for those of us who live among trees, those first verdant weeks of spring are as thrilling as fireworks.
Two of the Moon Lake Library’s recent book purchases dig deep into the topic of trees: The Hidden Life of Trees, the Illustrated Edition by Peter Wohlleben (Greystone Books, 2018) and Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness by Dr. Qing Li (Viking, 2018).
The first is an abridged edition of Wohlleben’s international bestseller, The Hidden Life of Trees, first published in 2015. In it, the author describes the inner life of our leafy companions, maintaining that their anatomy and physiology suggest a more deeply social existence than we had believed. For example, German researchers at the Institute for Environmental Research in Aachen, Germany, found that beech trees in undisturbed forests equalize their rates of photosynthesis among themselves so that those trees growing in less than optimal conditions receive assistance via an underground network of fungus. Fungi in the root hairs of the beeches redistribute the beeches’ available sugar so that all the trees have equal chances of survival.
Throughout the book we learn how trees reach for the light, they eat and drink, they even scream. Wohlleben describes communities of trees engaging in constant communication with the world around them. The illustrations in this edition of the book are so rich and lush, they more than make up for the fact that this is an abridged version of the original text.
Forest Bathing by Dr. Qing Li tells how Japanese medicine in recent years has adopted the practice of advising shinrin-yoku or forest bathing to ease the stress of living in contemporary Japanese cities where overwork and constant technology use are the norm. Forest bathing is simply spending unstructured time in a forest. While activities such as reading, writing, or picnicking may be incorporated into shinrin-yoku, the intent is to be immersed in nature, not to have a particular goal or destination in mind.
Qing Li cites multiple research studies attesting to the value of forest bathing. One study found that hospital patients whose rooms offer a window with a view of nature need less medication and are discharged more quickly than those whose rooms lack windows. When access to an actual forest is limited, aromatherapy with an essential oil such as hinoki that evokes the smell of the woods can have beneficial results. Like The Hidden Life of Trees, this book includes beautiful photographs of trees and forests, relaxing the reader into a virtual forest bath.
The Hidden Life of Trees: The Illustrated Edition and Forest Bathing are both available for check out at the Moon Lake Community Library.
— Anne McLeod is the librarian at Moon Lake Elementary School.
She also serves on the board of Moon Lake Community Library.