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Brief but pithy meditations-cum-field scrutiny of nature--in which Hay (Spirit of Survival, The Great Beach) moves upon his subjects like a Maine fog . . . which he intuits as ""complicated harmonies, and open to deep deliberations, near meetings, searchings and interweavings."" There are indeed some near meetings here between Hay's syntax and sense: ""A confusion of dreams is what I know of the well of certainty."" But in the general sweep of an elegant sensibility, the truly fuzzy patches are minimal. Throughout, Hay emphasizes the equality and mutuality of life on the planet, all shaped by the ""terrible seriousness"" of a cosmic hunger and need, which ""made both the human and the cricket."" Man has not survived because he is unique, but because it happens ""that uniqueness is a characteristic of all things."" Hay leads up to such darting speculations with explorations of habitats like the tidal fiats and marshes of Cape Cod; a herring run; populations of gulls and terns; Maine's backyards, barns, and coast. From examining the shell of a moon snail, he abstracts a magic spiral; from DNA, the movements of trees, fish, and birds. While probing the mysteries of migrations (the ""wheeling and roaming"" of stripers and herring; the journeys of birds; the no less splendid odysseys of turtles), he imagines that humans are uncertain of their true destination: they are ""still circling, backtracking, confused""--with the planet's ""original directions waiting in our being."" Thorny and packed: a natural for the Dillard coterie and philosophically inclined ecologists in general.

Pub Date: May 24th, 1982
Publisher: Norton