Friday, November 27, 2009

The Outermost House by Henry Beston

I have a new dream - to spend a year in the wild doing nothing but watching birds as the seasons turn. It's been done before, of course, but it appeals to me greatly, especially as described by Henry Beston in The Outermost House.

Henry Beston did not really intent to spend fall 1926 to fall 1927 in a two room house looking down on a Cape Cod beach facing the Atlantic Ocean. He had gone with the plan of staying two weeks, during which he would relax and write. He was so comfortable that he extended his stay several times before latching onto the idea of staying a year, observing tides, marshes, clouds, and birds, and writing about them all. It sounds like a dream job to me.

The book that resulted is a classic of nature writing. Readers may find Beston much more pleasant to read than Thoreau, as Beston has no grand statements to make against the modernization of society. He's mostly just having fun, even when he stands in the freezing rain or swats at sand fleas. He does, however, report on disturbing trends, like disappearing bird species and the oil spills that were fouling beaches even in 1927. He also is more social, going to town for groceries once a week and frequently meeting with the local coast guards.

Not many public libraries have The Outermost House any more. It is a good time to rediscover this classic and make it better known.

Beston, Henry. The Outermost House. Holt, 1992. ISBN 0805019669

1 comment:

Don Wilding said...

Well put, Rick. You're certainly right that this book needs to be better known. As executive director of the Henry Beston Society, promoting Beston's works, particularly "The Outermost House," is our mission. Living as Beston did is a dream job for all of us too.