On the recommendation of my blog pal Ignacio, I picked up The Klamath Knot at the library recently. This David Raines Wallace book was published 25 years ago and won tons of accolades, but it had slipped my radar until now. It’s part mythology, part evolutionary biology and part philosophy.
The book chronicles the natural history of the Klamath Mountains, a geolocial and biological oddity in Southern Oregon and Northern California. The Klamath Mountains are home to the last remnants of an ancient and diverse forest that ranged from Greenland to the Pacific Ocean.
Here are my three favorite quotes:
If it weren’t for fire, the whole planet might long ago have been bound in an impenetrable tangle of wood, in which animal life would have been much less important than it now seems.
Humanity is a neotenic species. With our sparse hair, small jaws, bulbous heads, and lifelong tendency to frivolity, we are more like the young of our primate ancestors than the adults… Neoteny may be caused by environmental stress, to which organisms often respond by reproducing at an incredibly early age.
I cannot help feeling, on seeing a tan oak or chinquapin that is nurtured and watered by fungi, pollinated by insects, and propagated by jays and squirrels, that the evergreen forest is much more than an aggregation of competing entities. People often feel, on entering a forest, that they have encountered something with integrity and volition, with consciousness. I would be more comfortable about dismissing such feelings, which I have experienced, if we understood how our own consciousness arises from the tangle of neurons in our heads.