of Place: The Works of Beston, Hay and Finch
The Beston portion of the exhibit, A Sense of Place, at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster, in 2008. The exhibit was a joint collaboration of the museum and the Henry Beston Society.
(Designed by Garry Gates)
Henry Beston Society joined forces with the Cape
Cod Museum of Natural History for an exhibit at the Brewster-based
museum from May through December 2008..
Titlted A Sense of Place, it emphasized authors Henry Beston
(The Outermost House), John Hay (The Run, The Great Beach) and
Robert Finch (Common Ground, The Cape Itself), and the evolution of Cape
Cod nature writing through the years.
The exhibit was made possible in part by the generous support of: Cape
Cod Five Charitable Foundation, Mr. Robert Finch, The John Hay Family, International Fund
for Animal Welfare and Mr. George Rowe, Jr., van Ameringen Foundation, Inc., Dr. Silvard
To view excerpts of Robert Finch's keynote address at the exhibit's
opening on May 28, 2008,
The Cape Cod Times
profiles the exhibit.
About the authors:
Influenced by the text of the King James Bible and the poetry of Longfellow, Henry
Beston's gift of imagery in nature writing is unsurpassed. Indeed, it was the driving
force in the creating of the Cape Cod National Seashore in 1961 by decree of then
President John F. Kennedy, who often walked its numinous shores. Beston's seminal Cape Cod nature classic, The
Outermost House--a poetic chronicle, bursting with onornatopoeia, of an isolated year
of contemplation and observation on an untamed barrier spit south of Coast Guard Beach in
Eastham is widely acknowledged as the principal inspiration for establishment of the
Writing on Beston in an introduction to a 1988 edition of The
Outermost House, Finch notes of Beston's classic book, "The importance and
lasting appeal...I believe is its power to remind us how much, in our computer age we
still rely on the earth's deep, constant rhythms, its basic integrity and equanimity. We
continue to count on the safe and stable context that it provides, even as we tamper with
and begin to rupture its basic systems. It allows us our freedom, to perform our daring
and reckless feats of enterprise, growth, and exploitation. Yet for all our obsession with
freedom, we want it as children, want it and need it--within safe bounds. We want to know
that, no matter how far out we walk, or how fast we race around the globe, the earth will
be there to catch us if we slip and stumble, to lift us back from the brink of doom."
John Hay is a man for all writing seasons: poet, nature writer, conservationist,
philosopher and prophet. Hay, author of 14 nature books observed early on in his book, In
Defense of Nature, "To draw on all the earth's resources without being able to
give anything back is not an imbalance we could survive forever." He understood, for
example, that the box turtle, the horseshoe crab, the dragonfily and the pitch pine are
such survival specialists that they hall all lived on earth, and even on Cape Cod, longer
than have our kind. With a poet's sensitivity to language and an unbiased wonder at the
world, Hay brings to his writing the recognition that all life is interconnected.
Hay is foremost a champion of the creatures of Mother Nature. He urges
us to stay connected, to honor, as well as to be part of this other world. "To hail a
herring gull, say hello to a clam, or take some vocal joy from the flight of a hawk, may
seem eccentric... (Yet) if the world of nature and the world of man are to be involved in
a continued partnership--and this would seem essential...then we share a great dimension,
where none of us...is without importance," he writes in his work, In Defense of
Nature. "I greet the gulls so as to avoid making too many exceptions among my
Indeed, throughout his life, the reliability of nature has sustained
Hay. "Even in the winter when it looks dark, brindled in color like a day that is
dark as evening, it never sleeps," he writes about a marsh close to home. "We
can thank the marsh for all its transformations, and above all, for its constancy."
Wellfleet author and essayist Robert Finch--the third generation of eminent Cape Cod nature writers--has
succeeded in communicating collective sense of place here for those willing to listen.
"Every locale...needs to be measured, by the human foot and eye," Finch writes
in the foreword of his book, Common Ground. "It needs to be sounded, not
merely for its capacity to support human traffic and commerce, but for its seasonal
mysteries and secret running life. It needs to be known, not only from soil samples and by
planning boards, but in its many moods and expressions, its coming and goings, its various
lives and forces that can excite wonder and awe and new ways of seeing."
Ever hopeful in the resiliency of nature, Finch encourages others in a
call to arms to respond to cause of preservation, noting that nature itself will never
give up the fight. "As we seek to dominate the earth, we find more and more that we
can do so only by destroying it," he writes in Common Ground. "And as
we succeed, we become masters of an increasingly barren world. But it would be a mistake
to think that the rest of nature cowers abjectly in ever-shrinking recesses and dark
corners of a man-dominated world, waiting there in passive acceptance for us to deliver
wither the final coup de grace or a humanitarian reprieve."
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SITE DESIGNED BY MARC McHUGH
The Henry Beston Society
, Inc., unless noted.