I'm reading Suzanne Simard's recently published Finding the Mother Tree. Gobbling it down, really. This is an extremely important book. It is a hybrid intellectual biography and memoir of one of the world's leading forest ecologists. Simard's work provides a solid scientific foundation for the ancient perception that the forest is a world of sentient, social, communicative, intelligent entities engaged not only in competition for resources but also in active mutual assistance, even between species. That is gobsmacking enough, considering that we're talking mainly about trees and fungi. But she also makes a huge contribution to evolutionary theory. The idea of cooperation was a difficulty for Darwin, whose views of natural selection were based on competition. There have been attempts to account for cooperation in more or less general terms, or as an interesting but secondary phenomenon in special cases, but Simard gets down to the nuts and bolts of cooperation among coevolved forest flora in a way that brings cooperation squarely into the center of things: no cooperation, no forest.
It pleases me that Simard's findings so nicely mesh with the viewpoints expressed in the final cantos of Once Was Lost, the third volume of my trilogy In Dante's Wake, where my narrator has his divine vision. I had heard of her research when I was writing Once Was Lost, but had no idea of its fullness. If I had known what is in Simard's book a couple of years earlier (that is, before it was published), I might have emphasized in my work the subterranean mycorhyzal connections among trees, in addition to mentioning the airborne chemicals with which they communicate. But I am chuffed, as my mother might have said, that my use of a mycelial web as a metaphor for our connectedness to each other and within the world should turn out to have been so literally spot on. On our capacity to recognize the truth of this, and to act upon that awareness, depends the future of our species, if it has one.
Once Was Lost will be published on June 18, 2021. You might find that Finding The Mother Tree and In Dante's Wake, particularly Once Was Lost, make good companions.