Signs and Seasonsby John Burroughs
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The eight essays in this volume all deal with the home region of their author; for not only did Mr. Burroughs begin life in the Catskills, and dwell among them until early manhood, but, as he himself declares, he has never taken root anywhere else. Their delectable heights and valleys have engaged his deepest affections as far as locality is concerned, and however widely he journeys and whatever charms he discovers in nature elsewhere, still the loveliness of those pastoral boyhood uplands is unsurpassed.
The ancestral farm is in Roxbury among the western Catskills, where the mountains are comparatively gentle in type and always graceful in contour. Cultivated fields and sunny pastures cling to their mighty slopes far up toward the summits, there are patches of woodland including frequent groves of sugar maples, and there are apple orchards and winding roadways, and endless lines of rude stone fences, and scattered dwellings. In every hollow runs a clear trout brook, with its pools and swift shallows and silvery falls. Birds and other wild creatures abound; for the stone earth and the ledges that crop out along the hillsides, the thickets and forest patches, the sheltered glens and windy heights offer great variety in domicile to animal life.
That the Catskills have proved an inspiration to Mr. Burroughs cannot be doubted. Possibly we should never have had him as a nature writer at all, had he spent his impressible youthful years in a less favored locality.
John Burroughs was one of the earliest and most articulate pioneers of the United States conservation movement, publishing twenty-eight books on the natural world during the height of the Industrial Revolution. As an author, teacher, and poet, he wrote with intimacy and feeling, illustrating verbal landscapes and providing philosophical insights about the environment. People by the hundreds of thousands relished his writings. His friends included Walt Whitman, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, and John Muir. Burroughs was dedicated to studying the world and making nature come to life on the written page.
In the last decades of the 19th century, his prolific nature essays helped spawn the Nature Study movement and made him an international celebrity.
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