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Hal Borland-Naturalist/Journalist

Harold "Hal" Glen Borland (May 14, 1900 – February 22, 1978), born in Sterling NE,  just 15 miles from where this blogger grew up, was a friend of the family.  Harold signed these two books for the blogger's father.  Harold was an American author, journalist and naturalist. In addition to writing many non-fiction and fiction books about the outdoors, he was a staff writer and editorialist for The New York Times, for which he wrote daily reflections.  These daily reflections were compiled in two books: Sundial of the Seasons (1941-1964) and  Book of Days (After 1965).    In the forward of Book of Days he wrote:

"This book is intended neither as a calendar nor as an almanac.  It is a daybook simply because it records my day-to-day thinking about this world around me and my fellow creatures here.  In it, too, are reports about what is happening here and now, with observations on a snow-flake, a spring rain, a wood thrush singing in the dusk, an apple tree in bloom, the last shrill notes of a katydid before November's hard frost.  But through it all is the persistence of three questions:  Who am I?  Where am I?  What time is it?"    

Occasionally I will post a selection from one of Borland's books or quote of his for my own reflection.  Check back every so often to put your mood in a calm place as the author did in his daily editorials.  

February 17

Sitting in front of our Franklin stove last evening, I wished I could thank old Ben for his invention.  He didn’t really “invent” the stove, of course.  Like most inventors, he took ideas already in use and rearranged them into better working order.  But he found a way to get twice the heat from firewood that I would get with a fireplace—to use fire, more effectively.  The same fire, basically, that I have been talking about; but here it is the outer fire, the one that burns wood.


The inner fire uses carbohydrates for the major fuel, with oxygen as always, the burning element. Like any fire, these inner fires yield energy in the form of heat.  But the heat of the body seems to be less for personal comfort than for swift and efficient progression of vital chemical processes.  The warm-blooded creature may be said to live swiftly, remainder of it probably by muscular tension.  These dictate the metabolism, the intensity of our chemical processes.  When we say we are “burning up energy” we come close to literal truth.  We are using nervous and muscular energy that is created by the inner fire.  That fire, however, continues even when we sleep, although nerves and muscles are presumably at rest, or almost so.  But our vital organs are still at work and, to some extent, the nerves are still on the job.  Our sleep is not hibernation.


One might say that here is the basic necessity of life—the continuing inner fire.  All living creatures are constantly undergoing combustion burning up.  Yet there is a constant replenishment of the fuels for that fire—just as I replenish the logs for the fire in my Franklin stove—so that until disease interrupts or old age slows down the process of replacement we are never actually being consumed.


Man has long dreamed of a perpetual-motion machine, some contrivance that we could set going and expect to go on forever.  But man himself is such a machine.  So is every form of life we know, which consists of some combination of substances animated with the vital spark and endowed with the inner fire of energy.  Grass and all vegetation live on and on, lit by the flame of life and passing on that fire by seed and germination.  Birds are such “machines”, perpetuating life and motion in the fertile egg.  And man, energized all his own life by that inner flame, passes it on to each succeeding generation with his own seed, the ovum and the sperm, out of which grows another sentient individual, another complex heat machine that eats and grows and thinks and reasons only because of that quiet inner fire.   

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