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Monday, December 21, 2015


Monday, 10:00 AM,  26 degrees F at the ferry dock, 22 on the back porch.  Wind NE, calm with occasional moderate gusts.  The sky is filled with low clouds and a low overcast.  The humidity is 88% and the barometer is currently steady, at 29.95".  Snow is predicted for tomorrow, but today is quiet and dark.
   Two of the great joys of a long life are collecting books, and collecting friends.  And, when the two converge the joy is great indeed.
   On Saturday I received, totally unexpected, a book, The Holy Earth, by Liberty Hyde Bailey, the hundredth anniversary edition.  I have other works by the great Cornel University horticulturist, including a 1902 and a 1944 edition of his multi-volume Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture, and a 1929 Manual of Gardening.  These are great works, so well researched and written that they remain relevant to this day.
   The Holy Earth, of which I was not aware, is a seminal work, a precursor to Aldo Leopold's Sand County Almanac and other more modern environmental tomes, including Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. It introduces the premise, just now being more fully explored, that science and religion are not fundamentally opposed, but are complimentary.
   It is basically a book relating to farmers and "scientific" farming, but goes far beyond that audience and subject, and in essence attempting to reconcile Darwin and the Bible.  It was written when the University Extension movement first got well underway, and Bailey's prose is written very much in the style and even much of the language of Shakespeare and the King James version of the Bible, so it is an elegant read; I suspect the author purposely used the style to complement both the premise and the title of the book (might seem a bit hokey in that respect, but he pulls it off rather nicely).  Bailey lived into his nineties and wrote 200 books.  It is amazing how productive people were when work and family were the focus of their lives, and there were far fewer extraneous distractions.
   The author contends, quite effectively, that the earth must indeed be holy, since it came into existence long before man, and man had therefore nothing to do with its creation, and as man is at the top of the earth's evolutionary ladder he is the keeper of a holy place, and must use it with reverence.  I find it interesting that this is a teaching of the Bible and Native American religions as well.  The Holy Earth is an easy and quick read, being only a hundred pages or so in length and organized into very short chapters that build, one upon the other.
  The 100th anniversary edition is edited by John Linstrom, the  grandson of my good friend Curt  Johnson, who sent me the book.  Curt is a retired Lutheran minister and a consummate horticulturist himself.   
   It is good to see things come full circle, and the ancient verities recalled.

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