“For the gifts of life are the earth’s, and they are given to all, and they are the songs of birds at daybreak, Orion and the Bear, and dawn seen over ocean from the beach.” So ends The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod. Henry Beston’s classic richly deserves a place on the bookshelves of every lover of Cape Cod and nature writing.
“Written with simplicity, sympathy and beauty” (New York Herald Tribune), this book chronicles Beston’s year-long stay in a tiny structure he called Fo’castle, which sat on an Atlantic-facing beach in Eastham near what now is Coast Guard Beach.
Miles David Moore, a San Franciscan, captured the essence of the book in his review on Amazon.com: “…this is a work of unique and lasting beauty, surely one of the greatest nature books ever written. In detailing his year in his cottage…Beston combines a Thoreauvian zeal for nature and the examined life with a Proustian ability to record exactly the sight, sound, feel and scent of the world around him. Page after page is filled with unforgettable passages; his descriptions of the markings and songs of the shore birds alone are enough to move you to tears. His story of the plight of a doe caught in an icy flood is almost as suspenseful as a Hitchcock movie; his tribute to the courage of the Coast Guard ‘surfmen’ who rescue shipwrecked sailors is particularly resonant to us who–after Sept. 11, 2001–have learned something about the value of those who safeguard the public.”
“Henry Beston found urban life insupportable in the mid-1920s; who could know the dismay he would feel [now], when computers, television and jet planes make the world pass in a blur! Beston is out to teach us how to slow down, to learn to live again according to the patterns and rhythms of nature. For those who are willing to read and understand, The Outermost House remains a haven of peace and beauty.”
(Photograph: Nan Turner Waldron from the Henry Beston Society)