Beacon Press: The Prophet of Dry Hill
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The Prophet of Dry Hill

Lessons From a Life in Nature

Author: David Gessner

David Gessner had always known of John Hay. A nature writing legend, Hay was a hero to the younger writer. But it wasn’t until Gessner returned to his childhood home on Cape Cod that he befriended the older man. At first, Gessner thought he might write Hay’s biography. But that idea gradually changed as the two talked and walked through the fifty acres surrounding Hay’s house on Dry Hill. The book that resulted is a dramatic record of what the younger man learned from his elder.

The Prophet of Dry Hill is the compelling story of two men and the year they spent together. But more than a book about friendship, it’s a lyrical primer on the importance of living a life connected to the wild. John Hay has lived deeply on one piece of land for sixty years. As a consequence, he has much to tell Gessner-and us-about the importance of creating a strong relationship with the land we live on. His words speak to our forgotten need for space and for reaching beyond ourselves to the world outside. Seeing is the great discipline that nature teaches, Hay proclaims. Nature, not psychology, is the path to our true selves.

In our split-second world, a life like John Hay’s-rooted, connected to nature-provides a radical counterpoint to our technology-filled indoor existences. Gessner learned much from this man on the hill. We too will be challenged and changed.
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“This book is an enormous gift, an act of preservation as important as any chunk of land purchased by The Nature Conservancy. John Hay’s stature cannot be overestimated, and David Gessner has done him great justice.” -Bill McKibben, author of Wandering Home

The Prophet of Dry Hill is a surprising book in many ways, tender, elegant, intelligent, always frank and sometimes very funny. This is a work of generous love, the story of a prickly friendship, but also and preeminently a short and fiery course on how to live in an increasingly crowded and confusing world.” -Bill Roorbach, author of Temple Stream

“Reading The Prophet of Dry Hill is like taking a long, soul-satisfying walk with two remarkable naturalists, John Hay and David Gessner. Through Hay’s wise words and Gessner’s keen observations, we witness a gentle unfolding of a friendship seeded in a shared passion for the natural world and nurtured in the unpredictability of human connectedness.” -Kate Whouley, author of Cottage for Sale, Must Be Moved

“If Thoreau had wanted a disciple, he couldn’t have had a better one than David Gessner. Following the great nature writer John Hay around his Cape Cod haunts, witnessing Hay’s increasing dismay at the development crushing his beloved Cape, Gessner has made Hay’s cri de coeur his own. This beautiful book should inspire the reader to ‘get down in nature, down in the water and the dirt,’ as Hay urges. I am sending my copy of this book to the wildlife-destroyer in the White House.” - Alice Furlaud, NPR reporter

Reviews

Review by: Amanda Heller, Boston Sunday Globe - November 8, 2006
"For people who truly live there, Cape Cod is not a place but a religion. And for many, the environmentalist John Hay is its prophet. That is clearly the case with David Gessner, a much younger nature writer who struck up a friendship with his idol, the octogenarian seer, while living on the Cape a few years back. In fact it was Hay who reached out to Gessner after the latter published a newspaper piece complaining about the local infestation of trophy houses. Master and pupil, the pair wandered the woods and beaches of the Cape, Hay expounding all the while on literature and nature. Gessner became a regular visitor at Hay's secluded home -- it was, he says, like being able to drop by Walden for a chat with Thoreau…"
Review by: John Tallmadge, Orion - January 3, 2006
"(A)…tender, luminous book..a picture of the young writer as pilgrim, seeking to connect with a living tradition even as it slips away, and in the process, discovering a new story of his own."
Review: Spirituality and Health Online - November 1, 2005
"This book will give you many ways to respect the earth, to cherish animals, and to carry on the great work of preserving the diversity of ecosystems."
Click here to listen to interview with David Gessner on NPR's Cape Cod Public Radio

The Prophet of Dry Hill

ISBN: 978-080708568-4
Publication Date: 9/7/2005
Pages: 192
Size: x Inches (US)
Price:  $19.95
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