Mind the Gap: The Education of a Nature Writer
John Hay came only gradually to his calling. In Mind the Gap, which is at once an autobiographical memoir and a commentary on our place in the natural world and the environmental impact of development, Hay recounts his path to becoming a writer and explores the literary and environmental influences that shaped his interest in nature. Born into a respected old-New York family, Hay grew up in upper-class Manhattan and rural New Hampshire, between the rigid proprieties of society and the delicious freedoms he discovered during his outdoor adventures. Travel, education, and his own sensitivity and curiosity helped open the world to him. Shortly after World War II, he moved to a desolate, sandy lot on Cape Cod, part of a tiny community of farmers and small merchants in a region of plunging winds and vast seas. Much of the book concerns Hay's life on the Cape and the wonderment and fascination with which he explored the natural world he discovered there. Addressing subjects as diverse as the annual herring spawn, his friendship with writer Conrad Aiken, resident and migratory birds, local wildlife, his human neighbors, and the complex rhythms of life on the Cape, Hay's vivid, closely observed descriptions of his surroundings support his engaging meditations on nature and our relationship to it. Pondering the difference between what we can know and what remains deeply mysterious in life, Hay says, ""In setting ourselves apart from the rest of living creatures, we fall victim to our own ice-bound conceit. It is only in sharing that we know anything at all."" Hay shares his knowledge generously, and as readers we are thereby vastly enriched. This is an unforgettable book by one of America's most discerning and readable nature writers.
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