Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Late November morning

I'm still trying to recover from this nasty flu I caught. I was off yesterday and today and I'm grateful for that--I wouldn't have been able to go in had I been scheduled to work.

 I'll also have Thursday off for the Thanksgiving holiday, and I hope I feel well enough by then to cook a small festive meal for the two of us.

No way will we go to Raleigh to see my mother in law as we had planned--her health is bad enough without exposing her to my germs.

We had our first hard frost last night. The temperature finally dipped below freezing and this morning everything was icy and sparkling when the sun came up. It's going to be a gorgeous day. I wish I felt well enough to take the dogs out for a good long walk to enjoy it.  Maybe a short walk will be manageable once it warms up if I take some ibuprofen and fortify myself with several cups of hot, strong tea. We shall see.

Speaking of walks, I want to share this essay by the great American nature writer Hal Borland. He wrote "outdoor editorials" for The New York Times from 1941 until his death in 1978. His work was compiled into two or three books which are out of print and hard to find nowadays. I first discovered old, old copies of them lying dusty and forgotten in the public library. I fell in love with his work and recently discovered a Facebook page dedicated to him (Readings from Hal Borland). Two or three times each week they share a selection of seasonal nature essays that are nice reading if you love the outdoors.

This essay made me think of my blogging friend Yorkshire Pudding and the beautiful, interesting walks he takes over in England.

I hope you all enjoy it.

                The Answers

"Those who would look for simple answers to the big questions should go for a country walk on a November afternoon, out where leaves scuffle, squirrels scurry, jays cry havoc, and the fundamental shape of the hills is now revealed.

Choose a crisp leaf, not matter whether maple or oak or ash, and try to catch it. And know that leaves are almost as varied as snowflakes. Watch the wind as it turns silvery in a clump of milkweed stalks, a shimmer of floss-borne seeds streaming from each open pod. Watch the glistening streamer from a pasture thistle's heads as the wind passes, airy down full of minute flecks of fertility. See how goldenrod and asters add to the aerial cargo, and know a few of the meanings of infinity, numbers that make counting a meaningless mumble.

Hold in your hand the empty shell of a beetle or the shed husk of a locust. See the intricate parts, the ingenuity of life, now gone elsewhere, to the egg, to the pupa. Chitin, the horny substance much like your own fingernail,but only a few weeks ago a living thing, an entity. Watch a rabbit scurry, a crow fly overhead. Look at your own hand. Know that life is more than protoplasm, more than a fertile egg or ovum, that it is ultimate order in complexity.

Feel the earth underfoot. See the sky overhead. Listen to your own pulse, rhythmic as the tides. There are the answers, for those who will feel, and see, and listen."

Hal Borland
"Twelve Moons of the Year"
November 1970


  1. Hi Jennifer, i came to see if you are better and i am glad to see that you are. Thank you for that great post, i shall look for more about Hal B.

  2. Thank for introducing me to Mr. Borland Jennifer, lovely writing indeed.

  3. A beautiful bit of writing, with which I totally concur.

  4. A typical flu is not dealt with in two short days at home - it usually takes nearer to two weeks! I hope you won't develop anything chronic out of it for not allowing your body enough rest and time to recover.

    I love the mental image of your discovering Hal Borland among dusty old books in the library. He certainly is an author well worth spending time with. I've not heard of him before but will definitely have a look for his work.

  5. That is a nice quote, and what closely observed writing. And I agree with it too. Good writer.

  6. Hal Borland was certainly a man after my own heart. Absorbing natural surroundings on a long country walk and being thrilled by the simple things you see around you is a way of cleansing your mind and getting back to what really matters in life. Simple things. Nature. The passing of time.