John Hanson Mitchell
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Author John Hanson Mitchell's subject matter ranges from natural and human history, to travel, memoir, biography, and gardening. No matter what the subject, he has become best known for his incisive characterizations, his evocations of time and place, and his unique lyrical style.

The Scratch Flat Chronicles
"Scratch Flat is and was the world"
-New York Times Book Review

Tresspassing Living at the End of Time Ceremonial Time

Mitchell is the "discoverer", as he says, of a country within a country, a single square mile of land in eastern Massachusetts that was known as Scratch Flat in the nineteenth century. Starting with the now classic cult account Ceremonial Time (1984), Mitchell has written five books which use the same tract of land in one way or another to address the larger issue of what it means to be living on earth in our time. 

This singular patch of land, with its deep historical shadows, its farms, and its resident wildlife has been used for twenty years as the metaphorical hunting grounds for Mitchell's explorations. Onto the anomalous, changing landscape of Scratch Flat,  Mitchell has thrown virtually all his creative efforts to explore the themes which have obsessed him all his life - time, place, and the endurance of the natural world.  He is, in the style of his hero and mentor, Henry Thoreau, a traveler in his own land; he never gets far beyond his square mile, and yet, according to the New York Time's Book Review, his work has provided  a "comprehensive view of America, past, present - and future".

Legends of the Common Stream

“Mitchell weaves history, natural history, culture, environmental issues, myths, folklore, religion—in powerful, dynamic ways, all while visiting intimate Beaver Brook. I have not read another book that so intimately ties together so many strands so effectively. Mitchell takes these strands and braids a beautiful book.”
Sean Prentiss, author of Finding Abbey


Newest Work:

Legends of the Common Stream
Bright Leaf, 2021

For over twenty years, John Hanson Mitchell has visited Beaver Brook almost daily. This small, slow-flowing Massachusetts stream was of vital importance for early settlers and an indispensable resource for the Native peoples who lived and fished along its shores, but it has been largely forgotten in our own time. Revisiting the river’s oxbows, bends, and marshes over the course of a year, Legends of the Common Stream combines a natural history of Beaver Brook with a study of the people who lived on this land and a meandering, but stunning, examination of the myths and legends that can help us to better understand humanity’s relationship to the natural world.

While Mitchell never leaves the brook’s shores, he draws from a range of traditions and takes readers on excursions to regions and cultures across the globe and across time, making the case that our contemporary separation from nature goes hand in hand with our alienation from the world of myth. This book seeks to restore these broken relationships and offers the reminder that while cultures may come and go, the stream goes on forever.