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BUILD ME AN ARK by Brenda Peterson


A Life With Animals

by Brenda Peterson

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-393-05014-9
Publisher: Norton

Memoirs of an ardent animal-rights activist who describes herself as having been carried all her life “in the generous and instructive slipstream of other species.”

Peterson (Sister Stories, 1996, etc.) has spent her life keenly aware of the animals around her. Born in a US Forest Service lookout station in the High Sierras, she says her earliest memories are of the animal heads mounted on the cabin walls above her bed, and benign brushes with rattlesnakes and grizzly bears marked her youth—while childish puzzlement over living conditions aboard Noah’s ark and distress at seeing an aging bear held captive in a zoo later led her to serious questions about the proper relationship between humans to animals. For the author, the human-animal bond is an especially strong one: “Animals,” she insists, “inspired my life’s work and my sense of the sacred.” Her closeness to animals is illustrated by her accounts of how, at crucial points in her life, her pet dog (a huskie) and her cat (a Siamese Manx) comforted and nurtured her, restoring her balance. But it is wild animals that figure largest in Peterson’s memoirs: Her account of the acquisition of a wolf-tooth necklace that seems to her to have special powers is a bit over the top, but her eyewitness reports of a conference on wolf hunting in Alaska and the return of wolves to Yellowstone National Park are genuinely affecting. Her deepest feelings of kinship are for sea creatures, notably whales and dolphins, which she has been studying and working with for years. As she tells it, she and cetaceans are soulmates.

A fervent plea, permeated by New Age spirituality, for recognition of the importance of animal life to the well-being of planet Earth.