JOHN HANSON MITCHELL
“Scratch Flat is and was the world”
-New York Times Book Review
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."
Mitchell attended the Sorbonne and is a graduate of Columbia University. As a former journalist he had assignments in Kerala in southern India and on the islands of the South China Sea, and he has written extensively about the gardens and natural history of Western Europe. Mitchell was the founder and editor of Sanctuary magazine, which was published by the Massachusetts Audubon Society until 2015. Along with the five books in the Scratch Flat series, Mitchell has written several other books based on European sojourns, including a memoir, The Rose Café (2008), which is based in Corsica, and The Wildest Place on Earth (2001), a book about the odd relationship between Italian Renaissance gardens and American National Parks. He is also author of Looking for Mr. Gilbert: The Unlikely Life of the First African American Landscape Photographer.