Monday, June 1, 2009


June's book selection is Beyond Your Doorstep: A Handbook to the Country by Hal Borland. Borland is well known as the contributor of 1, 750 nature essays that appeared in the Sunday edition of the New York Times between 1942 and 1978. He was also the author of many other nonfiction and fiction works, including the memoir The Dog Who Came to Stay, and the novel When Legends Die, which was adapted into a film in the early 70s.
He and his wife, Barbara Dodge Borland, who was also a writer, lived on a 100 year old farm in the far northwest corner of Connecticut, at the edge of the Berkshires. He and Barbara moved to the farm after he had a life-changing encounter with a serious illness. Their land included one side of a mountain and fronted the Housatonic River. Borland cherished his farm as a "home at the end of nowhere," with an unmarked mailbox. There is a room devoted to Borland at the Audubon Center in Sharon, CT. There visitors can view mementos and objects from his small second floor study, including his manual typewriter. (See author links at left for photos.)
Borland writes in an easy, accessible style. Reading his work you often feel as if you have received an intimate letter from a close friend. Beyond Your Doorstep is considered a classic of nature writing. The book's backcover describes it -- "A stylishly well written guide to, and meditation on, the flora and fauna of the countryside, Beyond Your Doorstep is now more timely than ever as a source of inspiration for anyone with a desire to know more about the living things we so often look at but never actually see or understand. "
Borland tells us his book is, "primarily about the countryside, not the wilderness; countrysides are common and within reach of almost everyone."

First Chapter: The Country House. "The newcomer to the country will find the first signs of "wild life" in his own house. Even before he explores the dooryard he can sharpen his eyes indoors. He may be surprised at the outsiders who want to share that house with him."