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Manager’s Must-Read: The Secret Wisdom of Nature

This is the first in a series of book reviews and recommendations by Oakland Cemetery Museum Store Manager Tim Wright. Both The Secret Wisdom of Nature and The Hidden Life of Trees are now 10% off at Oakland’s online Museum Store.

The dramatic and unexpected changes we’ve all experienced this year have made clear how deeply inter-connected everything is in our world. Change, both subtle and dramatic, can have far-reaching and often unforeseen consequences that greatly impact societies and our planet. In the face of these consequences, we are faced with the uncomfortable truth that our knowledge and mastery of the natural world are far from absolute.

The truth is, we are all part of a living, interconnected system on our planet, and we are reminded of this forcefully when our interests collide with the natural systems that have evolved over millions of years on earth. Unfortunately, as a society, we largely don’t think of our place in the world in those terms. There is us, and there is nature, two distinct ideas that seem incompatible. Our societies have by and large evolved to ignore the monumental importance of nature and what it’s telling us. We no longer collectively hear it’s nurturing—and these days increasingly urgent—voice, until we are forced to do so by catastrophes like global warming, the dying off of species, or a worldwide pandemic.

But it isn’t hard to tune in. In fact, we already do this instinctively—especially in turbulent times like these. Many of us have turned to the natural world for solace and inspiration. We take walks in forests and fields, we garden, we social distance in leafy parks and on sandy beaches. In turn, we express what these affirming connections to the natural world mean to us in our social media, our art, and writing. Nature indeed is a nurturing force, and it is more complex and interconnected than we could ever have imagined. That’s why I recommend The Secret Wisdom of Nature by Peter Wohlleben.

Understanding the ways of nature, the rich ebb and flow of life, and how all things on the planet are interconnected can be a profoundly reaffirming experience, even in the face of our current struggles. This knowledge can teach us how to respect and live within the natural systems of nature, and, in turn, heal us and our planet. In this third book in his “Mysteries of Nature” trilogy, forester Wohlleben describes the intricate connections in nature between all the kingdoms of life: plants, animals, fungi, to name a few.

In clear and uncomplicated language, the author shows how these amazing and intricate connections work, how they evolved, and the dangers they face. Armed with knowledge like this, we can appreciate the wonder of nature from a new, informed perspective and begin to repair and renew our relationship with it. I invite you to immerse yourself in The Secret Wisdom of Nature and learn such things as how recovering crane populations in Europe affect the production of Iberian ham, or about the teeming microbial and fungal life that exists 1,600 feet and deeper below the surface of the earth, where it is estimated that a full 10% of earth’s biomass exists. That is amazing! The Secret Wisdom of Nature both teaches and presents an opportunity to better understand and connect with the world in which we exist. I found this to be an excellent and eye-opening read. I hope you will too.

I also recommend The Hidden Life of Trees by the same author. This book is an amazing look into trees and the arboreal world. Perhaps more than any other living creatures on earth, trees hold the power to heal and sustain our world.

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