The Forest Unseen is a chronicle of author David George Haskell’s attempt to understand the world by focusing on a relatively microscopic piece of it. He comes to know his small forest intimately and in detail, and allows us to come to understand it with him through his writing.
This way of being and understanding works well for Haskell’s project because the piece of the world he has chosen is of a manageable size, and yet it is able to represent, literally or symbolically, nearly every action and relationship we can observe in the world at large. By sectioning off a piece of the world and attempting to understand it in all of its times and seasons, Haskell is able to come to a better understanding of the world as a whole.
I think Haskell’s method can be applicable to more than just a forest and its complex biology. We are now in the month of November which, in a college semester, is the month where everything seems to come together in a tangle of deadlines. For those of us nearing the end of our undergraduate career, some of those deadlines carry a greater weight than others—applications for graduate school, senior capstone projects, GRE testing dates. It is easy to get lost in everything, especially when it seems like every decision in the next weeks will help determine what we do in the future. But really, these are small things in the context of the world. And doesn’t every decision we make help to determine our future? To realize this, we need to focus on one piece at a time, to create—artificially, if necessary—a smaller future in which to work. What is it that matters today? What is it that matters tomorrow, or this week? If we can construct our own square meter of the future and learn to think and accomplish things within that smaller future, the world at large suddenly seems more manageable.