In this eloquent memoir, on the eve of his 80th birthday, Hay (The Bird of Light, 1991) reviews the lessons of a life lived close to nature. Widely recognized as the dean of modern nature writing, Hay divides his retirement between Cape Cod and Maine. Here he cultivates a deepening connection to nature, whether in reading the wild grasses to understand the land that lies beneath or observing in trees the stages of growth that parallel his own. As a child in Manhattan, he was first enchanted with nature in a diorama of timber wolves chasing deer across the moonlit snow at the American Museum of Natural History. There is much to be said for the ``eye of a child,'' Hay recalls, as it conveys a wonder that does not seek to control or define what it sees. Adults miss that wonder when they rush to explain rather than appreciate such mysteries as why pilot whales strand themselves on a beach. He laments the distance that the introduction of technology has opened up between humankind and nature. In the fishing industry, dragnets and radar have encouraged grossly wasteful harvesting that has destroyed entire marine ecosystems. When we repeatedly cut ourselves off from the realities of nature by viewing fish in terms of profit and loss rather than as essential food, we risk ``casting ourselves into a limbo, a darkness of our own making.'' Everywhere around him, Hay sees our desecration of nature, from the death of the Chesapeake Bay to the Dust Bowl of the Great Plains. Both his point and his examples are less than fresh, but he compellingly presents his argument that ``we ignore a deeper reality that the land is better known through respecting its mysteries than putting it on a shopping list.'' This memoir shows no diminution in Hay's genius for expressing a powerful and contagious appreciation of nature.