/Get lost in the woods

Get lost in the woods

By Jim Poling Sr.
There are times when the best thing anyone can do is to get lost in the woods.
I don’t mean seriously, dangerously lost. We always should know where we are in the woods, and exactly how to get out of them.
I mean far enough into the woods where we cannot hear, see or feel the madness of the human world. Far enough in to concentrate on the natural world, which is quieter despite being as busy as our own, if not busier.
As the famous Scottish-American naturalist John Muir once said: “And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.”
There is much going on in the woods, although we see or hear only a miniscule part of the activity: Leaves rustle in a breeze. A crow squawks a warning of your presence. A dried twig snaps under the hoof or paw of an animal that does not want to be seen.
Animals signal and speak to each other but usually their talk is heard by human ears only when they raise alarm. Even trees and plants communicate, although we never hear them and could not understand their language even if we did.
Most of what is going on back here is unseen and unheard because it is happening beneath the forest floor.
“A forest is much more than what you see,” ecologist Suzanne Simard, a University of British Columbia forestry professor said during a TED Talk a couple of years back.
Simard and other researchers have found that trees communicate through microorganisms called mycorrhizal fungi; basically a beneficial fungus. These fungi are extensions of a tree’s root system. They form intricate networks that spread out and explore the soil, grow into niches and send resources back and forth between trees.
Simply put, fungal networks are a secondary root system. Simard has said hundreds of miles of fungal network can be found under one human footstep.
They help to share among tree communities water, carbon, nutrients, and even warn of danger, such as an invasive insect burrowing into the bark of one or more trees.
We have barely scratched the outer bark of the forest in terms of what it has to teach us. Scientists like Simard continue to probe the mysterious working of the forests, uncovering information about the importance of biodiversity, plus ideas for better forest management and for helping to control the effects of climate change.
We unscientific types, however, can learn much just by going into the forest to reflect. The woods offer lessons to those who enter them with clear minds, and the patience to absorb what they have to teach.
One lesson is that we are part of the natural world and should behave more like it.
For instance, forests teach of us that we can communicate without yelling. When you look around the forest you see no greed, no anger, dislike or envy. Any violence can be attributed simply to getting what is needed to survive. 
Also the forest teaches us to work together instead of competing for resources. Look at ants. They work tirelessly as a team creating their living systems. No one group does all the work while others watch from the sidelines. All work together.
And, we should remember that the forest is a place where the colour of your bark does not matter. Diversity is critical to forest life, and to human life. The web of life is weakened every time one species, no matter how different, small or insignificant, disappears.
We spend much time worrying about larger species, such as whales and rhinos. These are important, of course, but most important are the complex webs of organisms that include not just animals but plants, insects, fungi and bacteria.
If a type of whale becomes extinct, that is a tragedy with some impact on human life. If some unseen organisms become extinct it is possible there will be a chain reaction with major impact on our lives.
Also, concern about forests and protecting their biodiversity seems much focused on the tropical rain forests. 

Our temperate forests are vital as well, and that is why we all should spend more time getting lost in them – figuratively.