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The Outermost Web Site

An online tribute to Henry Beston's literary classic "The Outermost House."

Passages from "The Outermost House"

The world today is sick to its thin blood for lack of elemental things, for fire before the hands, for water welling up from the earth, for air, for the dear earth itself underfoot ...

My house completed, and tried and not found wanting by a first Cape Cod year, I went there to spend a fortnight in September. 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 ...

It is no easy task to find a name or a phrase for the colour of Eastham sand. It's tone, moreover, varies with the hour and the seasons. One friend says yellow on its way to brown, another speaks of the colour of raw silk. Whatever colour images these hints may offer to a reader's mind, the colour of the sand here on a June day is as warm and rich a tone as one may find.

Creation is here and now. So near is man to the creative pageant, so much a part is he of the endless and incredible experiment, that any glimpse he may have will be but the revelation of a moment, a solitary note heard in a symphony thundering through time.

The seas are the heart's blood of the earth. Plucked up and kneaded by the sun and the moon, the tides are systole and diastole of earth's veins. The rhythm of the waves beats in the sea like a pulse of living flesh. It is pure force, forever embodying itself in a succession of watery shapes which vanish on its passing. It (surf) is best to be seen, I think, when the wind is not too high. A gale blows up a surf, but it also flattens out the incoming rollers, making monstrous, foamy traveling mounds of them much like those visible from a ship at sea. Not until the wind has dropped do the breakers gather foam.

The ancient values of dignity, beauty and poetry which sustain (human life) are of Nature's inspiration; they are born of the mystery and beauty of the world.

Into every empty corner, into all forgotten things and nooks, Nature struggles to pour life, pouring life into the dead, life into life itself. That immense, overwhelming, relentless, burning ardency of Nature for the stir of life! And all these her creatures, even as these thwarted lives, what travail, what hunger and cold, what bruising and slow-killing struggle will they not endure to accomplish the earth's purpose? and what conscious resolution of men can equal their impersonal, their congregate will to yield self life to the will of life universal?

A year indoors is a journey along a paper calendar; a year in outer nature is the accomplishment of a tremendous ritual."

"We need another wiser and perhaps more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves and therein we err; and greatly err, for animals shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth."

Hold your hands out over the earth as over a flame. To all who love her, who open to her the doors of their veins, she gives of her strength, sustaining them with her own measureless tremor of dark life. Touch the earth, love the earth, honour the earth, her plains, her valleys, her hills, and her seas; rest your spirit in her solitary places. 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.

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