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Relearning Our Sixth Sense for the Inner Workings of the Natural World

by Tristan Gooley illustrated by Neil Gower

Pub Date: Aug. 21st, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-61519-479-7
Publisher: The Experiment

It all comes down to paying attention: Naturalist Gooley (How to Read Nature, 2017, etc.) writes affectingly of how to recapture our ability to live in the real world with senses “almost forgotten and steamrollered by our modern lifestyle.”

If you scare a fish, which way will it dart? That’s the kind of thing you might find highly useful to know if you lived near a stream and far from any other source of provisions. It’s also the kind of thing you’re not likely to know unless you’ve logged time splashing around with startled fish, which is where wilderness guide and interpreter Gooley comes in. “I have sat with Dayak tribespeople,” he writes with luminous awe, “as they explained that a deer would appear over the brow of a hill, and was amazed moments later when my eyes met those of a muntjac in the predicted spot.” How would a Dayak know the exact moment when a deer would emerge? Sight, sound, smell—and perhaps the law of probability, which suggests that a deer might appear at a salt lick or creek within a certain range of times over another range of times. Other lessons the author brings back from the wild include how to know when a leopard is watching you and how to know when one of those aforementioned deer is pretty sure you’re not going to catch it. Of course, even the most attentive predator is successful only a small percentage of the time, but knowing that is part of knowing the world, too. Gooley’s book, which features occasional illustrations by Gower, is a useful owner’s manual for anyone who likes to get outdoors and be immersed in something beyond the asphalt—whether part of an eddy in which “our scent is announcing our presence to any animal with a nose” or someone merely appreciative of the fact that vultures can discern the living from the dead from two miles away.

A welcome read for the outdoor inclined.