Bill Birns shares Burroughs’ love of nature, especially his attachment to the Catskills, where Burroughs spent his childhood and senior years, and where Birns has lived and worked for 40 years.
Birns is the current president of the Board of Trustees of Woodchuck Lodge Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the historic lodge in Roxbury, NY, where Burroughs spent summers from 1910 until his death in 1921. The lodge began as a cabin built in the 1860’s by Burroughs’ brother on the family homestead land, where John Burroughs was born and raised.
Many Hudson Valley residents may be more familiar with Slabsides, the cabin in the woods in West Park, NY, which John Burroughs and his son Julian built as a forest retreat near their more elegant home overlooking the Hudson River. But Burroughs, born in 1837, was always drawn back to the Catskills, which shaped his love of nature as a boy. In his writings, Burroughs described the region as a “land of wide, open, grassy fields, of smooth, broad-backed hills, and of long, flowing mountain lines.” It was indeed this nature that “soothed and healed him,” where, in his later years, his spent hours sitting on the broad deck he added to his brother’s simple cabin, writing nature essays and pondering the beauty of what he saw.
As a young man, Birns – like Burroughs – taught in Catskill Mountain schools. Birns graduated from Union College and holds a Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Linguistics from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. His 1986 dissertation was a study of the dialect of the Catskills. Both the speaker and his subject wrote about the Catskills, with Burroughs focusing on nature and Birns on regional history and culture. His book, A Catskill Catalog, is a collection of essays published in 2011 by Purple Mountain Press.
TOLHPS sponsors monthly public programs from September to June, usually on the first Monday of the month. Vineyard Commons, where the April program will take place, is at 300 Vineyard Avenue, about a mile and a quarter from the Hamlet of Highland on Route 44/55, just south of the Hudson Valley Rehabilitation Center. To reach the theater, turn into Vineyard Commons and follow signs to Building 6. Early arrivers get the best parking spaces. Free refreshments will be served. For more information, call 845-255-7742.
Monday, April 3, 2017
Building 6, (Vineyard Commons Theater Building)
Vineyard Commons, 300 Vineyard Avenue (Rte 44/55),
Highland, NY 12528
The program is free and open to the public. Free refreshments.