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Here at Eagle Pond

by Donald Hall

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1072198,099 (4.32)2
HERE AT EAGLE POND is Donald Hall's remarkable collection of essays about the permanent and transparent memory of place and of his coming home to Eagle Pond, New Hampshire, where he grew up and returned to live with his wife Jane Kenyon at the age of 45, where he began writing poems at the age of twelve, and where his ancestors made their livings by free-lancing as farmers. In these tender essays, Hall tells of the joys and quiddities of life in the ancestral New Hampshire place formerly worked as a dairy farm by his grandparents; of the comforts and discomforts of a world in which the year has four seasons -- maple sugar, blackfly, Red Sox, and winter. These essays are also Donald Hall's letters to friends, answers to such life-altering questions as: "What would our lives be like, living here at Eagle Pond, in solitude among relics and memories, in a countryside of birches and GMC pickups?" And they are ghost stories as well: vivid descriptions of Hall's intimate connection with the land and with his family past. Most importantly, HERE AT EAGLE POND is Donald Hall's coming home to language.… (more)
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A collection of short essays about life in rural New Hampshire, nicely illustrated with wood engravings by Thomas Nason. I liked these a bit more than I expected to, with the strong place-identification and role of long family memory. ( )
1 vote JBD1 | Jan 6, 2019 |
I have read and very much enjoyed a few other essay collections by Donald Hall. ESSAYS AFTER EIGHTY, UNPACKING THE BOXES, LIFE WORK, THE BEST DAY THE WORST DAY, and STRING TOO SHORT TO BE SAVED were all excellent. But this one, HERE AT EAGLE POND, was just a bit too repetitious, perhaps reflective of the fact that many were commissioned pieces for magazines - about weather and the seasons, for example. The one piece here which affected me most deeply was "The Embrace of Old Age," about a party Hall attended at the local Grange hall when he was just fourteen, celebrating the diamond jubilee of Willard and Alice Buzzle, a gathering which also marked Willard's 100th birthday. He attended the party with his grandparents, where he soon grew bored -

"And I felt separate, separated especially because I understood that I was the only one in this crowd able to see clearly the futility and ugliness of old age."

But, in the space of a couple of final paragraphs, everything changes, and the young Hall changes his mind, when he encounters the two old people, alone in a disused side room, embracing.

"Their twin canes leaned on a box while their arms engaged each other. For a quick moment it was as if I saw, beyond the ancients in the green room, a young couple seventy-five years back, who found a secret place to kiss and hug in."

But then the boy is shocked once again when he overhears his grandfather telling his grandmother on the way home, "Kate, Willard didn't know who Alice was."

Easily the best piece in the whole collection. Second best? "Heman Chase's Corners," about an old surveyor-inventor-writer who lives nearby and shares his stories with Hall. If you like Donald Hall's writing, then you'll probably find something to like here. Otherwise, consider those other books I mentioned earlier.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER ( )
1 vote TimBazzett | Jan 14, 2018 |
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HERE AT EAGLE POND is Donald Hall's remarkable collection of essays about the permanent and transparent memory of place and of his coming home to Eagle Pond, New Hampshire, where he grew up and returned to live with his wife Jane Kenyon at the age of 45, where he began writing poems at the age of twelve, and where his ancestors made their livings by free-lancing as farmers. In these tender essays, Hall tells of the joys and quiddities of life in the ancestral New Hampshire place formerly worked as a dairy farm by his grandparents; of the comforts and discomforts of a world in which the year has four seasons -- maple sugar, blackfly, Red Sox, and winter. These essays are also Donald Hall's letters to friends, answers to such life-altering questions as: "What would our lives be like, living here at Eagle Pond, in solitude among relics and memories, in a countryside of birches and GMC pickups?" And they are ghost stories as well: vivid descriptions of Hall's intimate connection with the land and with his family past. Most importantly, HERE AT EAGLE POND is Donald Hall's coming home to language.

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