In this elegantly written and illustrated book, Susan Chernak McElroy offers a series of short pieces — meditations and teaching tales — based on animals and the natural world. Each piece can be used as a starting point for meditation practice or read as it is. Arranged around the seasons, the pieces describe nature’s evocative moments: magpies hiding prized baubles in their nests, badgers emerging from their dens, buffalo dancing on picnic tables, elk during mating season, dreaming squirrels, dogs, doves, weasels, horses, bears, and even rivers, rocks, and the wind. With McElroy''s poetic language, even these so-called inanimate parts of the wild world of nature are vibrant and alive, offering their gifts to any who stop and pay attention. The book explores emptiness, resistance, new beginnings, attraction, decay, integrity, leave-taking, cleansing, and regeneration. Each of the seasonal sections features a line drawing of an animal during that season, and the pages throughout are adorned with intricate decorative borders and art.
*Starred Review* "Nature remains the clear and pure page we write ourselves upon," nature writer McElroy (
Animals as Teachers and Healers, 1995) affirms in the introduction to this engaging series of meditations on the mystery and power of the seasons of the year. Although humans feel removed from the rest of the natural world, we still work with the rhythms of the planet and we still need to pass through the cycle of the year--and for this passage the animals and plants around us have much to teach us. In a lovely series of essays, the author takes the reader through the yearly pattern of the seasons. Starting with winter, she writes of the cultivation of emptiness as snow covers the outlines of the world and the palette is reduced to shades of gray and white. The hope of spring is revealed in the calls of great horned owls at the winter solstice, calling for the turning of the season. In early spring a young bison plays, tap dancing on a half-buried picnic table, playing despite his gauntness from winter''s privations. Magpies pluck the shedding hair from a horse''s spine and meadowlarks sing in a spring snowfall, reminding the author that growing time has come. Summer is the period of moving water, of grizzlies with lean gangly cubs, of lost magpie chicks raised in a picnic basket warmed over the stove''s pilot light. Autumn calls for rituals of letting go, of skeins of sandhill cranes flying south, of hibernating squirrels who awaken enough to dream. McElroy teaches us to feel the rhythm, hear the seasons, and learn from nature.
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Why Buffalo Dance has helped turn my life into a poem. It is an incredible pleasure to read, and I find it hard to compare the feeling it gives me to any other experience except love. Bless you, Susan, for your gift of love, life, and healing."
Dr. Bernie S. Siegel, author of
365 Prescriptions for the Soul
"Susan Chernak McElroy understands the seasons of the heart because she understands the seasons of the earth. There is wisdom and understanding in this book, and a worthy sense of peace."
-- Kent Nerburn, author of Neither Wolf nor Dog and Letters to My Son
"Worth the price of this book is the enchanting story of Strongheart and the large buck, who suddenly realized there was no reason to be predator and prey; they could be just two beings on this earth. Susan Chernak McElroy delicately relates this lesson to her reprieve from cancer. She learns from every being she meets in every season, and so do we. . . . These stories are truly awe-inspiring."
-- from the foreword by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, PhD, author of When Elephants Weep