Teddy and the Bear

The hunting party chained the bear to the tree so the President could shoot him. The hunters felt sorry for the President for they have been on the hunt for three days, and the President had not bagged a bear. President Teddy Roosevelt refused to shoot the bear, claiming that it was bad sportsmanship.

Two weeks later, a Brooklyn candy shop owner placed a toy bear in his store window in honor of the President’s fair-minded feat, crowning the toy the “Teddy Bear”. When Margaret Steiff, a German seamstress, heard about the incident, she, named her bear “Teddy”, too.

In 1903, the Teddy Bear was born throughout the globe. It became a symbol of fair play, given to children as a symbol of life won through fairness. In 1906, Teddy Roosevelt became the first American to win the Nobel Prize for negotiating peace in the Russo-Japanese War.

In this new year it is my prayer that we all do our best to remember the lesson of the original Teddy Bear : aim not to conquer, but to live fairly.

the-hidden-life-of-treesThe Hidden Life Of Trees by Peter Wohlleben was such an international phenomenon that the New York Times wrote about it nine months before its release in North America.

The non-fiction book about the social life of trees was originally written in German by German forest ranger, Peter Wohlleben. Now it has now been released into English speaking territories in all book-formats including a wonderful audio recording narrated by Mike Grady as if Grady were narrating a fairy tale.

But the book is not a fairy tale and is loaded with science and all its advancements. What is remarkable is the way Peter Wohlleben writes. He writes in a way that we non-scientists can understand. “When I say, ‘trees suckle their children’, everyone knows exactly what I mean,” Wohlleben told the New York Times.

“With his book, he changed the way I look at the forest forever,” Markus Lanz, a popular Italian talk show host, writes. “Every time I walk through a beautiful woods, I think about it.”

According to the research amassed through Universities and research foundations throughout the world, trees can count, learn and remember. They can nurse sick neighbors; warn each other of danger by sending electrical signals across a fungal network through their roots; and, for reasons unknown, keep the stumps of long-felled companions alive for centuries by feeding them a sugar solution.

“I have a room all my own,” wrote Henry David Thoreau. The room “is called nature”. The Hidden Life of Trees opens up this room into a vision that we humans seldom perceive.

With all the mind-numbing news over the last two weeks, it sometimes feels like we are living in a science-fiction world with no escape. Indeed, in the majority of Phillip K Dick’s startling science fiction works (including what has become known as Bladerunner or Minority Report ) the heroes end up fleeing the cities that   men have built and returning to the woods for salvation.

If you are looking for a psychological healing balm today, in my mind, there is not a better salve than this book. It gives life and context to Tolkien’s race of Ents . And it provides the room in which we live a view we have never seen or heard before.

I would encourage a listen to the audio book, especially while taking a walk in the woods.