San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)
How to live after COVID? With the wild, author says
With books, timing counts. Naturalist Lyanda Lynn Haupt wrote much of “Rooted,” her newest work, “under quarantine during a global pandemic.” Now “Rooted” arrives in bookstores in an altered era.
Quarantines are lifting; we’re lining up for shots and jabs. After 15 months of masks and Zoom, many of us can tentatively venture into the outside world — whose unfamiliarity may make us ponder Henry David Thoreau’s big question: How should I live?
Live “rooted,” Haupt urges. She defines “rootedness” as a way of “being in concert with the wilderness — and wildness — that sustains humans and all of life.”
Haupt has solid credentials as wildness whisperer. Her past books include the charming “Mozart’s Starling,” and “The Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild.” With “Rooted,” she proclaims, “As perilous and complex as these times are, we are armed with a rare trio of tools that offers a rooted way forward: the joining of nature, spirit and a uniquely modern science.”
“Rooted” is structured by imperatives. Listen. Shed. Wander. In “Listen,” Haupt advises us to “listen for the wild summons” — the call of wind, birds and rivers that can start us on our transformative journeys. In “Shed,” she suggests we lose our footwear and experience the world as Trappist monk
Thomas Merton did — barefoot, the better to truly feel our planet’s richness and complexity. “Shoes,” she cautions, “put little blindfolds on our souls.”
With such maxims, “Rooted” could easily dissolve into New Age twaddle, but it doesn’t. It helps that Haupt has a wideranging sensibility, able to embrace Thoreau, 14th century mystic Julian of Norwich and 2014 Nobel laureate in medicine John O’Keefe, whose studies of locationgrid neurons in the human hippocampus hint at a link between wandering and understanding.
It also helps that Haupt has a sense of humor: The barefoot life may be fine for Thomas Merton, she concedes, but she has friends “who would rather cut off a hand than give up their Jimmy Choos.”
In the book’s final section, “Create,” Haupt confronts a global challenge: No matter how rooted we individually become, we inhabit a planet gravely threatened by climate change, habitat loss, and social and racial injustice. It is easy to feel paralyzed. In response, Haupt says each of us needs to turn inward to discover our own unique gifts, then outward again to offer those gifts to the broken world.
A daunting task, you may think, but remember it can start by slipping off your shoes and feeling the tickle of grass on your newly rooted feet.