In 1979, well before I was contemplating old-growth forests and trees in a meaningful way, John Fowles published this slim volume of non-fiction about trees. This is the John Fowles of French Lieutenant's Woman, The Magus, and other popular novels.The Tree was reprinted in 1983 and again in 2010 with a new introduction by Barry Lopez. This 91-page book (soft cover, deckle edge, good in the hands, great in the backpack) is a dense, rich exploration of what trees--tamed and wild--mean and why they are important. Fowles examines his and our society's relationship to trees, to landscapes, to nature, and to art.
Here is a passage that pretty much skewers the way I have been walking into the woods for most of my life:
I spent all my younger life as a more or less orthodox naturalist; as a pseudo-scientist, treating nature as some sort of intellectual puzzle, or game, in which being able to name names and explain behaviourisms--to identify and to understad machinery--constituted all the pleasures and the prizes. I became slowly aware of the inadequacy of this approach: that it insidiously cast nature as a kind of opponent, an opposite team to be outwitted and beaten; that iin a number of very important was it distracted me from the total experience and the total meaning of nature....
Yipes! Fowles just just drop these thoughts into his book (as I have done here) but sets them up, frames them, leads you to and away from them so you find yourself nodding in agreement and thinking why didn't I think of that? There are several dense and complex passages that are less like writing and more like mazes of subordinate clauses, but this just means you have to slow your reading way down--the way you would read a poem.
And slowing down is a fine thing for such a fine and timely book. Pack yourself a lunch, raingear, and this book and head into the old-growth forest while you can.