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Book Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat


A Beginner's Faith in Things Unseen
John Hay
Beacon Press 06/96 Paperback $12.95
ISBN: 0807085332

Some people still persist in a view of the natural world and its inhabitants as having no other value than to serve humans as commodities, tools, objects, and resources. This approach is very different from that of indigenous people who recognize no such hierarchy and do not see a separating wall between humans and the animal and plant kingdoms. They regard all creatures of the earth as fellow travelers and spiritual teachers.

John Hay shares this perspective in his latest book. The author, an 80-year-old nature writer, lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He notes at the outset, "I am part of a world that concentrates more on its right to possess the earth than on cultivating right relationships with it. We ignore the deeper reality that a land is better known through respecting its mysteries than by putting it on a shopping list."

Hay marvels at the mysteries of the swallows inhabiting his barn who are long-distance migrators. Looking at some great-crested flycatchers, he hurrahs them as "spring's explorers and adventurers, aware of the subtleties in this landscape which we bury or ignore."

The stranding of some pilot whales on Cape Cod's outer beach compels Hay to think about the times in his life when he felt alone, detached, and in an alien environment. Reporting on the serious decline of the fish population in his area, he laments the loss of these "distinguished neighbors."

This is a precious book that enables us to see plants and birds, fish and other animals as spiritual companions whose distinctiveness parallels our own. In addition, John Hay tutors us in ways to establish a right relationship with these fellow travelers on earth.


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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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