El tema central de este Blog es LA FILOSOFÍA DE LA CABAÑA y/o EL REGRESO A LA NATURALEZA o sobre la construcción de un "paradiso perduto" y encontrar un lugar en él. La experiencia de la quietud silenciosa en la contemplación y la conexión entre el corazón y la tierra. La cabaña como objeto y método de pensamiento. Una cabaña para aprender a vivir de nuevo, y como ejemplo de que otras maneras de vivir son posibles sobre la tierra.

miércoles, 18 de enero de 2012

Henry Beston, una mirada limpia desde su cabaña

Actor Chris Kolb as Henry Beston
Actor Chris Kolb as Henry Beston
Production still for the documentary by the Henry Beston Society and Mooncusser Films.

“The world today is sick to its thin blood for lack of elemental things, for fire before the hands, for water welling from the earth, for air, for the dear earth itself underfoot. In my world of beach and june these elemental presences lived and had their being...” 

“Nature is a part of our humanity, and without some awareness and experience of that divine mystery man ceases to be man.” 

Henry Beston
The Cape Cod National Seashore has drawn millions of visitors since it was first established by a decree from President John F. Kennedy in 1961. One of the great influences on the park’s establishment was the Cape Cod nature classic, The Outermost House, by Henry Beston.
Today, 80 years after the book was first published, Beston is widely acknowledged as the spiritual father of the park. When the outer beaches of Cape Cod were under consideration for National Park status in the 1950s, the Department of the Interior sent representatives to evaluate the area. Quotations from The Outermost House were used repeatedly in their reports.
Influenced by the text of the King James Bible, the poetry of Longfellow, and the nature writing style of Richard Jefferies, Beston, as Vanity Fair’s John Riddell wrote, “captured in prose the very sound of the sea” in the pages of The Outermost House.
A native of Quincy, Massachusetts, the author was born Henry Beston Sheahan on June 1, 1888. A graduate of Harvard, his experiences in World War I left him scarred, and upon returning to the U.S., began writing books of fairy tales to cleanse the horrors of war from his soul.
A writing assignment for The World's Work magazine about the Coast Guard brought him to the Cape, where he walked the beach with the officers on their rounds. These outer beach experiences, combined with extended visits with Navajo Indians in New Mexico, sharpened his senses for the natural world. Eventually, he had a 20-foot by 16-foot house, called “the Fo’castle,” built on the dunes of Eastham in 1925, came to visit his shanty for a two-week vacation, and decided to stay.
Beston meditated on the rhythms of waves, observed the migrations of birds, and braved the brutal elements in severe winter weather, all while using his dune top cottage as a base in his quest for spiritual peace of mind. At the end of his “year on the beach,” he decided that “it was time to close my door,” and returned to his native Quincy, and less than a year later, married the writer Elizabeth Coatsworth.
Since The Outermost House was published in 1928, it has never been out of print, and the Fo’castle became an icon of Cape Cod. With an ailing Beston present, the house was dedicated as National Literary Landmark on October 11, 1964.
Beston died on April 15, 1968 in his Nobleboro, Maine farmhouse. His beloved Fo’castle, donated to the Massachusetts Audubon Society in 1959, was swept away by high tides during the storm known as “the Blizzard of ’78” on February 6-7, 1978.

About Henry Beston ...

A wanderer ... a vagabond. That's how Henry Beston, author of The Outermost House, often described himself during his years on Cape Cod, which began shortly after World War I and concluded in the early 1930s.
"The Vagabond of the Dunes" is how he often signed letters to friends and family. After all, the dunes of Eastham had become a refuge for him after dealing with the stresses of World War I and working out of The Atlantic Monthly offices in New York.
At thirty-something and probably in a state of bewilderment as to where his life was going, Beston began staying on the Cape in the early 1920s. Later, he stayed with the Sullivan family at their cottage across from the Salt Pond, which led him to start making plans for a little house on the dunes. Here, he could wander and write at his leisure.
During a four-week stretch in the spring of 1925, local carpenter, Harvey Moore, and his crew of workers constructed a small but snug 20x16 house about two miles down the beach from the Coast Guard Station in Eastham. "On its solitary dune, my house faced the four walls of the world," Beston wrote. It was here that he would go on to write his masterpiece, The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod, and re-dedicate himself as a "writer-naturalist."
The book enjoyed modest success at first, but eventually went through dozens of printings. A French edition was also published in 1953. 
Beston wrote many other books during his life, but none of them have been as highly regarded as The Outermost House. 

Son of a doctor

Born Henry Beston Sheahan on June 1, 1888, the Vagabond grew up in Quincy,
Massachusetts, the son of Dr. Joseph Sheahan and Marie Louise (Maurice) Sheahan. He referred to his early years living on School Street in Quincy as "a New England boyhood of sea and shore, enriched with a good deal of the French spirit, from a French mother."
Beston attended Adams Academy in Quincy, and saw his father pass away during his teen years. While his brother, George, became a well-respected surgeon, the younger Sheahan opted for a profession as a wordsmith. Beston graduated from Harvard College in 1909, and received his masters degree from the Cambridge school in 1911.
After leaving Harvard, Beston went to France for the first of many trips there, teaching for a year at the University of Lyons. He returned to Harvard in 1914 as an English department assistant. In 1915, he joined up with the French army during World War I, and also served in the American ambulance service. His first place of duty was at le Bois le Pretre, at the Battle of Verdun. Those experiences were chronicled in his first book, A Volunteer Poilu.In 1918, the 30-year-old writer became an official press representative with the U.S. Navy, and was the only American correspondent aboard an American destroyer when a submarine was engaged and sunk. He was also the only American correspondent to travel with the British Grand Fleet. These experiences were the basis of his second book, Full Speed Ahead.
However, those first two books -- which he would later label as "journalism" -- did not come without cost. The war experiences had taken their toll on Beston and propelled him in a totally different direction -- he began writing books of fairy tales cleansing his mind of those horrors. In 1919, The Firelight Fairy Book was published, followed by the Starlight Wonder Book in 1923.
The Firelight Fairy Book had another edition published in 1922, with a preface written by Beston's good friend, Colonel Theodore "Young Teddy" Roosevelt. Beston was a great admirer of Young Teddy's father, President Theodore Roosevelt, and the author went on to support Republicans such as Calvin Coolidge. On the other hand, he was often critical of Democratic presidents, particularly Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Another change in direction

With his mind now on the right track, Beston found himself working as an editor for The Living Age Magazine, which was housed in the offices of The Atlantic Monthly in New York City. Frustrated by the overflow of propaganda from European publications flowing into his cramped office, Beston began searching for an outlet for his creative juices.
He would find it on the outer beach of Cape Cod.
During those years, it often was difficult pinning the adventurous author down. He could be wandering about on the beach in Eastham ... or sipping gin at a New York hotel in the wee hours of the morning ... or perhaps in Topsfield, Massachusetts, where he had taken a residence. 
However, it wasn't long before he spent all his time in Eastham. The Sullivan family, relatives of Eastham's Beverly Plante, hosted him at their cottage. He also reportedly stayed at Highland Light in Truro at some point in the early 1920s.
As his beach house, built on several acres of leased Eastham dune land, was taking shape, The Book of Gallant Vagabonds was published. Even though Beston categorized it as "a book of travel and biography," the effort may have also reflected his own state of affairs. In 1926, he also published The Sons of Kai, based on a Navajo Indian children's story.
He described himself that year as "somewhat of a wanderer."
Wandering took on a whole new dimension later that year, when he moved into his new house, the "Fo'castle." He stayed there for days or weeks at a time, occasionally retreating back to Tom Kelley's Overlook Inn when the elements became too harsh to handle. When he needed supplies, he signaled Kelley from the house (the dunes were visible from the Overlook, located on what is now Route 6), and either the innkeepers or a taxi took him to Orleans. 
He called on the Coast Guard several times a week, and often provided a hot cup of coffee for the Coast Guard officers on their nightly patrols. Friends from Eastham often visited him there, and publishing figures such as Corey Ford stopped by on occasion.
When the fall of 1927 rolled around, Beston realized that his "Year upon the beach had come full circle," and "it was time to close (my) door." He retreated to his studio in Quincy and completed the manuscript, and The Outermost House was published in the fall of 1928. It reportedly sold well in the local stores.
Having realized his writing potential on the dunes, another important phase of his life was just beginning. His relationship with author and poet, Elizabeth Coatsworth of Hingham, Massachusetts, had reached a higher level than ever, and Beston proposed marriage in January of 1929. The two were married in June, and spent a two-week honeymoon at the Fo'castle before traveling in New England.
The couple had two children, Margaret and Catherine, after settling in at Hingham. However, the increasingly hectic pace of suburban life was not to Beston's liking. When Maurice "Jake" Day, illustrator of Beston's fairy tale books (and who later drew "Bambi" for Walt Disney), told him of a farm for sale in Nobleboro, Maine, Beston jumped at the chance to buy it. "It sounds fine," his wife said after he proposed the idea over a lunch of fish and chips.
The Bestons traveled frequently, going between Hingham and Maine and also taking long trips to Mexico and Europe. Beston didn't write another book until 1935, when he came out with Herbs and Earth, based on his experiences in his herb garden at Chimney Farm (his Maine home). 
The historical collection American Memory followed in 1937, and Chimney Farm Bedtime Stories, told by Beston to his daughters and set down by his wife, came out the next year. After extensive traveling in Canada, he wrote The St. Lawrence for the Rivers of America series in 1942.
Northern Farm, which chronicled his life as a Maine farmer, was his last authored book in 1948. White Pine and Blue Water, which Beston compiled and edited, came out in 1950, followed by Henry Beston's Fairy Tales, a collection from his earlier books, in 1952. 
During his later years, Beston spoke of possibly writing his memoirs, but that subject that never materialized.
While Beston had cut back on his writing after the early 1950s (when he also lectured regularly at Dartmouth College), the honors were just beginning to come in. Dartmouth and Bowdoin Colleges both presented him with honorary doctorates. In 1959, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences presented Beston with the Emerson-Thoreau Medal for distinguished achievement in the field of literature, an honor whose only other recipients were T.S. Eliot and Robert Frost. He was also named as an honorary editor for National Audubon Magazine.
Beston's crowning achievement came on October 11, 1964, when the U.S. Department of the Interior, recognizing Beston's influence in bringing about the creation of the Cape Cod National Seashore, declared The Outermost House as a national literary landmark. Thousands attended the ceremony, referred to as "the coronation" by the Bestons, at Coast Guard Beach.
However, Beston's health had also begun to fail him in the early 1960s. A series of small strokes had left him wheelchair-bound. In collaboration with Alva Morrison and Wallace Bailey, Beston donated the Fo'castle to the Massachusetts Audubon Society in 1959. The Society continued to rent out the house to birders and solitude seekers until 1978, when the house was washed out to sea by a tremendous February blizzard.
Beston died in 1968, less than two months before his 80th birthday, and was buried a few hundred yards in back of his Nobleboro farmhouse. Elizabeth Beston continued to live there until 1986, when she died at the age of 93. 
-- Don Wilding
Beston \ 's-casa-el-exterior-house1
Cottage Henry Beston de Cape Cod Antes del 78 de Blizzard
Dictionary of Literary Biography on Henry Beston

Late in the summer of 1926, Henry Beston went to Cape Cod for a two-week vacation in a small cottage that overlooked the Atlantic Ocean and that a local carpenter had built for him. Beston was in his late thirties, a little-known author and editor who had as yet given no indication that he had any particular interest in writing about nature, despite what in The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod (1928) he called his "field naturalist's inclination." When the vacation ended, Beston found that he had become so intrigued by the beauty and mystery of life on the dunes that he could not bring himself to leave, and he stayed there for a year, observing and recording what he experienced. Beston's account of his year spent living alone on Cape Cod, The Outermost House, was almost immediately recognized as a classic work of American nature writing.

Henry Beston's Outermost House. Photo by Nan Turner Waldron, from the Henry Beston Society
Henry Beston's Outermost House. Photo by Nan Turner Waldron, from the Henry Beston Society

How's this for complete contrast: I also finally finished Henry Beston's The Outermost House, which he wrote about a year (1926) spent living alone in a cottage on the dunes on the outer beach of Cape Cod. It's the opposite of upsetting.

You can't whip through this book; it takes its time. Beston is a self-described "writer-naturalist." He details the sights, sounds, and smells of his time on Eastham Beach (now called Coast Guard Beach), and his observations of all manner of life there. I have to admit, the bits about birds I sometimes found slow going. But then I'd find myself in a calm and happy place, after a paragraph such as this:
One March evening, just as sundown was fading into night, the whole sky chanced to be overspread with cloud, all save a golden channel in the west between the cloud floor and the earth. It was very still, very peaceful on my solitary dune. The whole earth was dark, dark as a shallow cup lifted to a solemnity of silence and cloud. I heard a familiar sound. Turning toward the marsh, I saw a flock of geese flying over the meadows along the rift of dying, golden light, their great wings beating with a slow and solemn beauty, their musical, bell-like cry filling the lonely levels and the dark. Is there a nobler wild clamour in all the world? I listened to the sound till it died away and the birds had disappeared into darkness, and then heard a quiet sea chiding a little at the turn of tide. Presently, I began to feel a little cold, and returned to the Fo'castle, and threw some fresh wood on the fire.
Lovely. There are lots of passages like that, that just capture a moment so beautifully. In another of my favorites, Beston describes seeing the lights of the nightly Coast Guard beach patrol:
Every night in the year, when darkness has fallen on the Cape and the sombre thunder of ocean is heard in the pitch pines and the moors, lights are to be seen moving along these fifty miles of sand, some going north, some south, twinkles and points of light solitary and mysterious. These lights gleam from the lanterns and electric torches of the coast guardsmen of the Cape walking the night patrols. When the nights are full of wind and rain, loneliness and the thunder of the sea, these lights along the surf have a quality of romance and beauty that is Elizabethan, that is beyond all stain of present time.
So, Cape Cod fans and/or naturalists, give Henry Beston's year in the dunes some of your own time. Well worth it.

Does that idea, of spending a year living by yourself in a tiny cottage in the dunes, appeal to you? I think I could do it, but it would make me a little [more] weird. I like some solitary time, some silence. But a whole year. Hm.

Henry Beston "The Outermost House"

In September of 1926, Henry Beston Sheahan, 38 years old, went for a two-week vacation to a small frame cottage he'd had built on the sand-dunes two miles south of the Coast Guard station at Nauset, on Cape Cod. He had not intended to stay, but, as he recounted later in "The Outermost House," "The fortnight ending, I lingered on, and as the year lengthened into autumn, the beauty and mystery of this earth and outer sea so possessed and held me that I could not go." Thus began a solitary sojourn on the beach, a thoughtful man's year in outer nature. Prior to spending his year on the beach, Beston had fallen in love with Elizabeth Coatsworth, an accomplished poet and novelist. Leaving the Great Beach in 1927, Henry had a raft of journals, but not yet a book manuscript. When he proposed marriage to Elizabeth, she replied, "No book, no marriage." Henry spent the next year sculpting his musings and observations into "The Outermost House." It was published in the fall of 1928, and the Bestons were married the following June. Beston considered himself a poet of the landscape, bearing witness to the cycles and recurrences, great and small, of nature; and "The Outermost House" can be read as a single, sustained song, a lyrical meditation on the cycling pageant of the seasons. 

A few years after the publication of The Outermost House, Henry was visiting his friend, the painter Jake Day, on Day's houseboat, The Ark, on Damariscotta Lake in Maine. Already he had a strong affinity for Maine, but this time, learning of a farm for sale on a hillside rising from a cove of the lake, he acted."How would you like to have us buy a Maine farm?" he asked Elizabeth on his return to their home in Massachusetts."It sounds fine," she replied, and within a few weeks the Bestons were owners of Chimney Farm, in Nobleboro, Maine, where they would remain, writing and living and raising two daughters until their death.

Chimney Farm in Nobleboro, Maine


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