A new England fall day, as any poet, peasant or pheasant well knows, can be a bright, brisk invitation to move into the open, breathe air and satisfaction in equal parts, wonder at the fields and sky and, all in all, relish the world and its works.
But this was not the day. This was a day of wind and icy rain, the kind to give Pilgrims pause, challenge an Aleutian williwaw or even drive a man to drink.
At home in Connecticut I took the easy way out—in. I poked the fire and sat down with a big and beautiful book. The jacket read, "An adventure into the beckoning worlds of natural America," and on this unbeckoning afternoon it was a pleasure to open to the pages in which our Nature Editor, John O'Reilly, introduces the 35,000 words he has written and more than 200 color photographs he has selected for the Sports Illustrated Book of the Outdoors, published this week by The Ridge Press ($12.50).
"What was once," O'Reilly writes, "the province principally of the near-professional sportsman and athlete is now the park and playground of amateurs who simply wish to get out from under a roof and into the light, air, and space of a richly endowed land.
"This book is for and about these amateurs. It is SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's record of the many pleasures and enthusiasms they are discovering for themselves....
"Each of the many outdoor activities now available to us offers a handsome dividend in terms of skill or knowledge. Each of us who casts more accurately, negotiates the steeper slope, identifies an alien seashell or a new bird, rides the livelier horse", or comes about without losing headway, has gained in the process, is henceforward something more than he was.
"Go out of doors and see," O'Reilly finally commands.
"Not today!" I said, and went on to turn the pages, negotiate the steeper slope, come about without losing headway—and I gained in the process.
With the Sports Illustrated Book of the Outdoors, it was hard not to.