The Prophet of Dry Hill

Lessons From a Life in Nature

Publisher: Beacon Press
David Gessner had always known of John Hay. A nature writing legend, Hay was a hero to the younger writer. But it wasn't until Gessner returned to his childhood home on Cape Cod that he befriended the older man. At first, Gessner thought he might write Hay's biography. But that idea gradually changed as the two talked and walked through the fifty acres surrounding Hay's house on Dry Hill. The book that resulted is a dramatic record of what the younger man learned from his elder.

The Prophet of Dry Hill is the compelling story of two men and the year they spent together. But more than a book about friendship, it's a lyrical primer on the importance of living a life connected to the wild. John Hay has lived deeply on one piece of land for sixty years. As a consequence, he has much to tell Gessner-and us-about the importance of creating a strong relationship with the land we live on. His words speak to our forgotten need for space and for reaching beyond ourselves to the world outside. Seeing is the great discipline that nature teaches, Hay proclaims. Nature, not psychology, is the path to our true selves.

In our split-second world, a life like John Hay's-rooted, connected to nature-provides a radical counterpoint to our technology-filled indoor existences. Gessner learned much from this man on the hill. We too will be challenged and changed.


This book is an enormous gift, an act of preservation as important as any chunk of land purchased by The Nature Conservancy. John Hay's stature cannot be overestimated, and David Gessner has done him great justice.--Bill McKibben, author of Wandering Home

"The Prophet of Dry Hill is a surprising book in many ways, tender, elegant, intelligent, always frank and sometimes very funny. This is a work of generous love, the story of a prickly friendship, but also and preeminently a short and fiery course on how to live in an increasingly crowded and confusing world."--Bill Roorbach, author of Temple Stream

"Reading The Prophet of Dry Hill is like taking a long, soul-satisfying walk with two remarkable naturalists, John Hay and David Gessner. Through Hay's wise words and Gessner's keen observations, we witness a gentle unfolding of a friendship seeded in a shared passion for the natural world and nurtured in the unpredictability of human connectedness." --Kate Whouley, author of Cottage for Sale, Must Be Moved

"If Thoreau had wanted a disciple, he couldn't have had a better one than David Gessner. Following the great nature writer John Hay around his Cape Cod haunts, witnessing Hay's increasing dismay at the development crushing his beloved Cape, Gessner has made Hay's cri de coeur his own. This beautiful book should inspire the reader to 'get down in nature, down in the water and the dirt,' as Hay urges. I am sending my copy of this book to the wildlife-destroyer in the White House."-- Alice Furlaud, NPR reporter