Apr 17, 2013

Hill Country Harvest

by Hal Borland

After something awful (see the most recent abandoned book) there is fortunately a good read! I really enjoyed this one. With a voice that reminds me of Bernd Heinrich, though not quite so rich, Hal Borland describes life in the countryside. Mostly the essays contain his observances of nature and the behavior of wild things, from small rodents to birds, deer, foxes and other animals that cross his path. The nature of wood from certain trees. The traditions of country living. Comparisons between how things are done in the city, as opposed to his farm life. Simple little things, like the description of the sound of rain falling on various surfaces. How fog makes everything look different. How he lets nature take its course on his hillsides, when others urge him to spray against disease or pests among his trees (he doesn't). I found much to like and muse over in this book.

The book was published in the late sixties, and some of Borland's views reflect that. He describes seeing the destruction of a local river ecosystem over the course of a decade, due to human development and interference. He reminisces with a friend on how winters don't seem as severe as they used to, and they surmise that the earth is warming up because of exposed blacktop, and physical heat rising from houses! Other speculations are more removed, such as his curiosity on the origins of old sayings. He picks out dozens from Cervantes, notes that they are also found in Chaucer and Shakespeare, wonders if those long-ago writers were geniuses who invented the phrases, or just captured what was already popular and familiar?

Sometimes his disparaging comments about his wife's intelligence insulted me, other times his complaints seemed petty, and the jokes often fell flat. But the majority of the book is nature-writing at its best (at least for me) so those were small matters to gloss over, the rest enjoyed very much.

Rating: 4/5 ......... 377 pages, 1967

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