Sydney Lea is now 70 years old and he has taken the time to pay tribute to the woodsmen and women who have been his guides, mentors and friends throughout his life in the outdoors. A North Country Life, Tales of Woodsmen, Waters, and Wildlife is a collection of essays on the hunting life and what it means to live a life well lived.
Men like Sydney Lea inspire me, at 70 years old, he has stories to tell and as a Vermont poet laureate he has the skills to be able to weave words that allow you to know the woodsmen that have shaped his life. Sydney has lived a full life teaching at Dartmouth College, Yale University, Wesleyan University, Vermont College, Middlebury College, Franklin College and the National Hungarian University. He founded New England Review in 1977 and edited it until 1989. His stories, poems, essays and criticism have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New Republic, The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and many others, as well as in more then forty anthologies. Sydney lives in Newbury, Vermont and you can literally feel the New England spirit alive in his words as you read through the essays.
Sydney wrote in one paragraph: “To force myself outside and into the northwester was instant cure. I smelled someone’s woodsmoke as it raced by me on the blow, and a whiff of bacon from an open kitchen window. Or maybe not from a window. Maybe that someone was cooking breakfast on an outdoor fire, despite the weather. I didn’t get within fifteen feet of the river, but I felt its spray on my face, the cleanest, dearest water I’ll ever know.” In 76 words, he was able to place me outside into his world and I could feel the air, smell the fire, taste the bacon on my tongue and touch the cold icy wet air. Sydney Lea has a skill set that only I can dream about and while I will not stop striving to improve my craft as a writer, I can only hope to accomplish a fraction of his skill set.
I can clearly state that I like Sydney Lea, I have never met him in person, but I feel like we are kindred spirits in our passion for the outdoors and the protection of wild places. What I appreciate most about A North Country Life is Lea’s accounts of the great men that have taught him about the outdoors. This year, I have had quite a few opportunities to reflect upon the men and women in my life who have spent time with me in the outdoors and the influence they have had upon me. I have been thinking of the time with my own father and the many men who have shaped my life. Remembering those fishing trips and hunting adventures keep me inspired. A North Country Life is the kind of book that can inspire and it does!!!! Buy it and Read it!!