A quotation by Saint Francis of Assisi opens this beautifully written and soulful book: "Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission — to be of service to them wherever they require it." This is clearly the intention behind Brenda Peterson's writing. In three stunning collections of essays — Living by Water, Nature and Other Mothers, Singing to the Sound — she has expressed her deep love of animals, her delight in their presence, and her awe of their powers. She also co-edited with Linda Hogan and Deena Metzger the popular anthology Intimate Nature: The Bond Between Women and Animals.

Born on a forest lookout station in the High Sierras, Peterson has always felt a close spiritual connection with animals. She writes about her ardent childhood love of Smokey the Bear who "taught generations of children that the forest and wildlife were essential to us and therefore sacred." After swimming for seven years with dolphins at Key Largo, Peterson has a change of heart and promises herself to work for the release of all captive dolphins to the wild.

The author also is grateful for the Yellowstone project of restoring wolves to that rugged environment: "Some wilderness in me, in all of us, was reclaimed when the wolf returned to live alongside us again." Peterson gracefully shares with us some very fine moments of her love relationship with two Siberian huskies and two extraordinary Siamese Manx cats: "Because animals seem to dwell in the present moment, because their own presence is so instinctive, their attention so unwavering, they offer us a different kind of compassion than humans do."

With her sensitivity to the special attributes and personal qualities of dolphins, wolves, grizzlies, whales, household pets, and other creatures, Brenda Peterson fashions a sturdy ark of words and images that convince us that we must look out for these fellow travelers and carry them high in our love and esteem.