Ray Stannard Baker, who was one of the most influential muckrakers in the early 1900's, as a journalist organized the American press corps at the Paris Peace Conference following World War I. He worked very closely with Woodrow Wilson and published a multi-volume biography of him and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his writings.
But his alter ego was David Grayson, who has written eight different books on his observations and wisdom he gained after moving from the city to the country. These writings first appeared in the American Magazine in the early part of the century. He wanted to reach out and make his appeal to the “inner man.” The world has changed dramatically since he began his writings, but the basic needs of mankind has not.
I was fortunate to receive four of his books as gifts this year. Just reading the inside cover of the Adventures in Friendship made me want to spend every moment I could living in the world that Grayson paints so naturally. But I have to keep asking myself what is it that makes his words pull me into a different mind set than my everyday living presents.
David Grayson has stirred something deep inside of my heart and soul. As I have pondered upon what has been awakened in me, I have to say that his perspective of just how deep we each want to feel validated and known for who we truly are has caused this stirring. His writing from a first person style has shown his true self and character. All his humanness is brought to light in these wonderful books. But he gives the reader a chance to explore their own humanness as well. The simplistic narratives cause one to stop and ask “Is he describing me?”
In his first book, Adventures in Contentment Grayson describes how life in the city was smothering him. Life became so much better as he moved to the country and really began to open his eyes to the world that was surrounding him. His way of describing the rustling of leaves in the trees, or the smell of newly plowed soil and its odors. The songs that each bird sang all began to speak to him in a new and consuming way. This is where I felt like I was being brought back to a time when life was not so full of chaos, noise and lack of quiet as it is now. I envision him a century ago writing these books and how much different life was then. But what his writings cause me to want is how I can find that type of world now, in the year 2021. Where is that tranquil place where we can have the hills speak out to us and allow us the peace that our souls do deeply yearn for?
Because we live now in a time of the internet, I was able to find a first edition copy of Grayson’s book Adventures in Solitude. Inside was a Shipping Manifest that described the condition of the books and some of its features and a descriptions of the content of the book. The manifest gave the following as what I would say is a taste of his writings. “Solitude is not the exceptional state of man: it is the normal. Every man spends most of his time alone with himself: how much more in periods of illness or of sorrow. A whole world, invisible without, a man creates within his own personality. There he lives; there he adventures; there he is happy, if he is happy, there he suffers. If he cannot command the world of his own making he is miserable indeed. This little book deals with a fortunate, if enforce, solitude, and the efforts of a man to make or find his own felicity.”
Grayson I feel resonates with me because of the experiences I have had in my own life, growing up with my father who we have often joked in our family as someone born in the wrong century. I have memories of my dad out on his tractor plowing the fields, getting them ready for us his family to come plant potatoes. He found joy, solitude and peace in working the land. My mind can see him sitting in his favorite chair in our family room reading these books of David Grayson. And if it wasn’t Grayson in Adventures in Friendship, it would be my dad going from farm to farm leaning on a fence post and have a great conversation with the other farmer working his fields.
All in all, the message of his books has brought me back to a place that is comfortable and full of contentment. In his book The Friendly Road, Grayson desires to just go on a walk about on foot, with just a small bit of money and a few sandwiches in his pack. He ask the reader “My friend, you may or may not think this a worthy object; if you do not, stop here, go no further with me; but if you do, why, we’ll exchange great words on the road; we’ll look up at the sky together, we’ll see and hear the finest things in this world! We’ll enjoy the sun! We’ll light in spring!”
Such an amazing talent should not be missed if you are seeking a great read about human nature and all its potential.
Written by Rose Roberts