If you have walked quietly in one forest, you have walked in all the forests that have ever been."" Caras' statement might serve as an irrefutable answer to Reagan's similar-sounding remark that ""If you've seen one redwood you've seen them all."" The western hemlock and Douglas fir are the monarchs in Caras' California forest, and his description is imbued throughout with a near-reverent appreciation for the ""chemical harmony"" of the forest, the ""incredible tangle"" of life from the microscopic level up, the efficiency with which each event contributes to the system. The elk's shedding of his antlers supplies the forest floor with calcium, just as phosphorous from the forest vegetation had helped to form them; and even excrement is noted as part of the scheme of interlocking nourishment. Much of this tour follows the ""shifting of chemicals"" from prey to predator, as an earthworm is eaten by a mole--and so on, in absorbing detail, through a ravenous pregnant shrew, a rattlesnake, and a king snake, to the black bear who kills the snake but leaves most of the carcass for other creatures to finish off. As in the forest, nothing is gratuitous in Caras' arrangement, from the beginning when his prose soars with the golden eagle he sees engaged in ""liquid geometry in the sky."" (He also returns to earth, gratifyingly, when the eagle alights.) Caras leaves readers with a sense of the ""completeness"" of a total system that cannot be disturbed and with the feeling of having witnessed some of its workings through his trained and all-observant eyes.