Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Outermost House (4). Henry Beston.

The Outermost House (4): A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod. Henry Beston. New York: The Viking Press. 1928 (1956).

Why read it? Like Thoreau at Walden, Beston took up a solitary residence in a cottage on the beach where he could observe the life of the sand and the dunes and the moods of the ocean.

Sample ideas and quotes:

“…a flock of geese flying over the meadows along the rift of dying, golden light, their great wings beating with a slow and solemn beauty, their musical, bell-like cry….” p. 116.

“To understand this great outer beach, to appreciate its atmosphere, its ‘feel,’ one must have a sense of it as the scene of wreck and elemental drama.” p. 123.

“Go about in the cottages, and you may sit in a chair taken from one great wreck and a table taken from another; the cat purring at your feet may be himself a rescued mariner.” p. 123.

“Eighteenth-century pirates, stately British merchantmen of the mid-Victorian years, whaling brigs, Salem East India traders. Gloucester fishermen, and a whole host of forgotten nineteenth-century schooners—all these have strewn this beach with broken spars and dead.” p. 125.

“I woke last night just after two o’clock and found my larger room brimming with April moonlight and so still that I could hear the ticking of my watch.” p. 143.

“An April morning follows, spring walks upon the dunes, but ocean lingers on the edge of winter.” p. 145.

“Our fantastic civilization has fallen out of touch with many aspects of nature, and with none more completely than with night.” p. 168.

“The beach at night has a voice all its own, a sound in fullest harmony with its spirit and mood—with its little, dry noise of sand forever moving, with its solemn, over-spilling, rhythmic seas, with its eternity of stars that sometimes seem to hang down like lamps from the high heavens—and that sound, the piping of a bird.” p. 175.

“Learn to reverence night and to put away the vulgar fear of it, for, with the banishment of night from the experience of man, there vanishes as well a religious emotion, a poetic mood, which gives depth to the adventure of humanity.” p. 176.

To be continued.

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