Susan Chernak McElroy lives in Drigges, Idaho, and writes about animals and the natural world. For years she has wanted to put together a book about animals and the turning of the seasons. The happy result is this volume with black-and-white illustrations by Tracy Pitts. In the introduction, McElroy states:
"Revealed in the cycle of the seasons is an enduring and profound wisdom for humankind as we spin our way through thousands of generations of births, deaths, and rebirths on the wheel of life. I can think of no other aspect of creation that speaks to us as urgently or compassionately about the necessity to live life with fullness and integrity as the song and pageantry of winter, spring, summer, and autumn. . . . Each season is bequeathed an energy unique to it. Living in harmony with the energy patterns of each season, as all wild things do by nature, we can learn again how to synchronize our own lives with the larger life of the planet and to align ourselves with the distinct possibilities of each fourfold cycle."
The author, who is a storyteller, has gathered meditations or teaching tales about animals who taught her some precious lesson or gave her a deeper understanding of life. In the cold of winter, the hoot of an owl brings McElroy a gift of hope (see the excerpt). She ponders her own need for rest and retreat from the world in the bear practice of hibernation. In spring, she is startled by the sight of a buffalo dancing on a picnic table. She wonders what it was about the season which would compel him to do such a thing. And then there is the small abandoned fawn she rescues and tends to with loving care. It is part of spring's "gift of new prospects."
In summer, McElroy ponders her time with Amos, a magpie who tutors her in holiness. In autumn, a dove teaches her that letting go is in sync with the season. Finally, there is the author's farewell to Strongheart, a brave and valiant dog who was with her for eight years. This collection succeeds admirably in its intention, which is to give us a fresh appreciation of the seasons and the animals who know intuitively their possibilities.