"This is primarily a book about the outdoors, the natural world," writes Hal Borland. "It is primarily about the countryside, not the wilderness; countrysides are common and within reach of almost everyone." In fact, Borland's countrysides are still just beyond your own doorstep, where meadow, woods, riverbank and roadside wait, each of them filled with everyday wonders. And although the author acknowledges that many of his readers will only follow his eloquent lead vicariously, his book is an invitation to "getting up and out," exploring nature in person and discovering the interdependence of animals and plants. Originally published in 1962, Beyond Your Doorstep is now more timely than ever as a source of inspiration for anyone with a desire to know more about the living things we so often look at but never actually see or understand.
Harold Glen Borland was a nature journalist. During World War II he wrote radio programs for the government and served as special magazine correspondent. He had written several documentary movies, two volumes of poetry, a volume of essays, has collaborated on a play, and has contributed many non-fiction articles, short stories and novelettes to leading magazines here and abroad.
Mr. Borland was graduated from the Columbia School of Journalism. He also attended the University of Colorado and received a Litt.D. from there in 1944.
Some time in the latter half of the 70s I plastered a small address label in this book over my mother's handwritten name. As a kid, I had wanted to read it because, even then, I loved to wander in the woods, catch frogs, crayfish, insects, walk in streams up to my knees, get poison ivy and generally contemplate nature whenever I had a chance. Non-fiction, however, intimidated me and I thought it was too sciencey and boring and I wouldn't be able to understand it. Nonetheless, I claimed it for my own thinking one day I would come back to it as it seemed to fit naturally into my head as something that interested me and I would want to read.
The edition I own, or rather, annexed from my mother (who I think got it from my grandparents but I am not sure), is the 1st edition, published in 1962 with the original dust jacket with illustrations by Peter Parnall. If you don't know who Peter Parnall is, check out the beautifully illustrated series of children's books he has done, here on Goodreads. Here is an example https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4.... You can also see some of the interior illustrations if you visit Amazon.
So here I am some 40 years later finally picking up this book which I purposely kept when my mother passed away in 2013.
Hal Borland pretty much nails the part of amateur naturalist and his seasonal descriptions of the plants and animals in his dooryard, the local field, forest, etc...are timeless and full of the intrinsic wisdom of a person that really has a deep curiosity about the natural world around him. I found myself following in his footsteps in our own backyard as the book helped me to identify many of the common plants...trees, shrubs, wildflowers and others, growing there. I used google and looked up the latin names in the index he provides at the back of the book to confirm the identity by looking at online images.
One of my favorite parts of the book is Chapter 14, Month by Month: What To Look for and When. Borland kept a seasonal diary of the changes that happened month by month and then over a period of many years. These are things that many of us may be unconsciously aware of but when Borland lays it out like this you find yourself remembering too how the honking of flights of Canada Geese always seems to correspond with the last dregs of snow on the ground and how, in February, the Gray Squirrels on the Oak trees in the yard suddenly became more active because, hey...it's mating season.
On the cover, under the subtitle, A Handbook to the Country, it states, "for anyone who walks the woods and fields and wants to learn about the living things he has often looked at but never seen". Yup, nailed it...because I am seeing a lot more now.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this gem originally published in 1962. Hal Borland tells about his country home in New England - the wildflowers that bloom along road- and river-sides; the trees that grow in the valleys and mountainsides; the animals and birds he sees on his walks, the fish he catches in the nearby river, and a month-by-month accounting of what blooms and what birds and animals can be seen. He is quite thorough in his descriptions, whether talking about clouds and weather or describing the hazards such as poison ivy and bee stings, and yet it never became tedious to me. Instead, it was such a pleasant diversion from the chaos of the daily newsfeed (Presidential politics, anyone?) that I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Even though I live in Los Angeles, I'm not far from the hills and I've always enjoyed getting out in Nature (such as it is here), but this made me long for a home in the country and a much slower pace of life.