Mitchell returns to Beaver Brook and the environs of Scratch Flat, the setting for several of his earlier, perhaps best-known works, musing about the myths and legends from a wide range of global traditions that have connected peoples with the land. In passages of pure poetry he once again shows us we need look no further than our own backyard to rekindle that relationship with the natural world.
For over twenty years, John Hanson Mitchell has visited Beaver Brook almost daily. This small, slow-flowing Massachusetts stream was of vital importance for early settlers and an indispensable resource for the Native peoples who lived and fished along its shores, but it has been largely forgotten in our own time. Revisiting the river's oxbows, bends, and marshes over the course of a year, Legends of the Common Stream combines a natural history of Beaver Brook with a study of the people who lived on this land and a meandering, but stunning, examination of the myths and legends that can help us to better understand humanity's relationship to the natural world.
While Mitchell never leaves the brook's shores, he draws from a range of traditions and takes readers on excursions to regions and cultures across the globe and across time, making the case that our contemporary separation from nature goes hand in hand with our alienation from the world of myth. This book seeks to restore these broken relationships and offers the reminder that while cultures may come and go, the stream goes on forever.
About the Author
JOHN HANSON MITCHELL is the author of thirteen books, six of which focus on Scratch Flat, a single square mile of land in eastern Massachusetts.
"Mitchell weaves history, natural history, culture, environmental issues, myths, folklore, religion—in powerful, dynamic ways, all while visiting intimate Beaver Brook. I have not read another book that so intimately ties together so many strands so effectively. Mitchell takes these strands and braids a beautiful book."—Sean Prentiss, author of Finding Abbey: The Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave
"Mitchell's writing about the natural world, one that he accesses from the back door of his house—the birds he hears, the family of muskrats and otters he encounters, the quietness of this landscape in winter while he skates through it—is remarkable."—Amy Seidl, author of Finding Higher Ground: Adaptation in the Age of Warming