Rooted by Lyanda Lynn Haupt

Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s Crow Planet was the highlight of my 2019 animal-themed summer reading. I admired her determination to incorporate wildlife-watching into everyday life, and appreciated her words on the human connection to and responsibility towards the rest of nature. Rooted, one of my most anticipated books of this year, continues in that vein, yet surprised me with its mystical approach. No doubt some will be put off by the spiritual standpoint and dismiss the author as a barefoot, tree-hugging hippie. Well, sign me up to Haupt’s team, because nature needs all the help it can get, and we know that people won’t save what they don’t love. Start to think about trees and animals as brothers and sisters – or even as part of the self – and actions that passively doom them, not to mention wanton destruction of habitat, will hit closer to home.

I hadn’t realized that Haupt grew up Catholic, so the language of mysticism comes easily to her, but even as a child nature was where she truly sensed transcendence. Down by the creek, where she listened to birdsong and watched the frog lifecycle, was where she learned that everything is connected. She even confessed her other church, “Frog Church” (this book’s original title), to her priest one day. (He humored her by assigning an extra Our Father.) How to reclaim that childhood feeling of connectedness as a busy, tech-addicted adult?

The Seattle-based Haupt engages in, and encourages, solo camping, barefoot walking, purposeful wandering, spending time sitting under trees, mindfulness, and going out in the dark. This might look countercultural, or even eccentric. Some will also feel called to teach, to protest, and to support environmental causes financially. Others will contribute their talent for music, writing, or the visual arts. But there are subtler changes to be made too, in our attitudes and the way we speak. A simple one is to watch how we refer to other species. “It” has no place in a creature-directed vocabulary.

Haupt’s perspective chimes with the ethos of the New Networks for Nature conference I attend each year, as well as with the work of many UK nature writers like Robert Macfarlane (in particular, she mentions The Lost Words) and Jini Reddy (Wanderland). I also found a fair amount of overlap with Lucy Jones’s Losing Eden. There were points where Haupt got a little abstract and even woo-woo for me – and I say that as someone with a religious background. But her passion won me over, and her book helped me to understand why two things that happened earlier this year – a fox dying in our backyard and neighbors having a big willow tree taken down – wounded me so deeply. That I felt each death throe and chainsaw cut as if in my own body wasn’t just me being sentimental and oversensitive. It was a reminder that I’m a part of all of life, and I must do more to protect it.

Favorite lines:

“In this time of planetary crisis, overwhelm is common. What to do? There is so much. Too much. No single human can work to save the orcas and the Amazon and organize protests to stop fracking and write poetry that inspires others to act and pray in a hermit’s dwelling for transformation and get dinner on the table. How easy it is to feel paralyzed by obligations. How easy it is to feel lost and insignificant and unable to know what is best, to feel adrift while yearning for purpose. Rootedness is a way of being in concert with the wilderness—and wildness—that sustains humans and all of life.”

“No one can do all things. Yet we can hold all things as we trim and change our lives and choose our particular forms of rooted, creative action—those that call uniquely to us.”

With thanks to Little, Brown Spark for sending a proof copy all the way from Boston, USA.

10 responses

  1. I might be a little resistant to what you delightfully describe as woo-woo, but this does seem a book well worth getting hold of.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It will be interesting to see how people respond to the book based on their background and point of view. I’m reminded of a character Charles Foster repeatedly refers to as his “ex-friend” in his new book on swifts: a scientist who defines everything based on biology and evidence. He would surely be dismissive. I’m glad the book caught your attention.

      Like

  2. You’ve reminded me to add Wanderland to my about-to-order wishlist on bookshop.org, thank you. I felt viscerally wounded when my hedge was cut in half by my neighbours, not for the loss of my property but for the individual trees (they survived!), so I understand that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’ll like Wanderland very much. Reddy was the first person of colour to be nominated for a Wainwright Prize, but I hope far from the last! It makes me deeply sad that people seem to consider trees an enemy, or at least an inconvenience. On a warming planet, we need them more than ever.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Overwhelmed is how many of us feel at the present time, so Haupt’s words definitely ring true. A way forward is to do what we can, not attempt what we can’t, and be satisfied that each of us may be making incremental changes, however small.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A problem is that those of us who pick up this book are probably already trying to be more sustainable in our daily lives, whereas those who need the book’s insights most will never read it. Too many people don’t know, or care, about their impact on the planet. (Some, of course, are in a situation where they’re just doing their best to survive.) Haupt acknowledges that hers is not a practical “50 ways to save the Earth…” type of book but more of a spiritual manifesto. There’s certainly room for both approaches.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Another book set here (Seattle) that you might find interesting if you haven’t read it, is Kelly Brenner’s Nature Obscura. In it she talks about finding and appreciating nature within cities.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That looks great! It’s on my wish list. Thanks for reading, and for the recommendation.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. buriedinprint | Reply

    I. Can. Hardly. Wait. For. This. Book.
    Count me among the fans of Crow Planet.
    Also, I’ll join your club with the willow tree. Mine was a maple. It was such a visceral experience and, seemingly, inexplicable–certainly a very lonely one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wasn’t sure if the spiritual bent would appeal to you, but I know you’re nothing if not open-minded as a reader 🙂

      Like

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