Have you ever wished there were a way to find the best books on a particular subject? Welcome to Ben Fox’s Best Books series, a website for finding and discovering stand-out works on a delightful variety of interests. Many thanks to Mr. Fox for including my book, Survival Skills, in this amazing project, along with five other outstanding works sure to please animals lovers everywhere.
I wish to thank the wonderful writer and editor Mark McNease for featuring four essays from my collection “Strange Company” on his podcast. Mark has published three of my books and his support and encouragement have been invaluable. Please visit his website to read his blog posts, enjoy his podcasts, and find information on his many mystery novels.
To listen to four selections from my book “Strange Company” please follow this link to Mark’s podcast site. After a brief introduction, you will hear the beautiful voice of Nikiya Palombi as she perfectly captures the mood of the pieces. Enjoy!
Two recent commissions and a cautious young raccoon.
These are acrylic paintings on salvaged wood. Some are scrolled out and painted, others are painted directly onto the wood. Contact me if you have a beloved pet you would like to immortalize.
For all you nature lovers, the Kindle version of Strange Company, my collection of nature essays is on sale at Amazon. This is a light-hearted look at some of our most curious beasts, a cozy read for these cold winter months. Here is an excerpt from “Consider the Sloth.”
“The two main emotions in life are love and fear, and certainly there is ample evidence that animals feel both. I imagine that when the shadow of a raptor passes overhead, a sloth cringes in fear. What about the lesser emotions, the ones that don’t serve us—like worry? Does a sloth, with all that time he has, worry about eagles and jaguars? Or does he have more productive thoughts, which part of the tree he’ll dine on that night? Or is he, in some deep animal way, simply enjoying himself, his mind a movie screen of pleasant images: leaves, sky, dappled light. When thoughts are not needed, maybe animals are not burdened with them.
It is estimated that people have sixty thousand thoughts a day, a figure not as impressive as it sounds. These sixty thousand thoughts are the same ones we had yesterday and the same ones we’ll have tomorrow. In our day-to-day lives, we are not much good at thinking out of the box. A sloth hangs in one tree all its life and has no company other than the mate it couples with every fourteen months or so. With this scant stimulation, I wonder how many separate daily thoughts a sloth has. One hundred? Twenty? Three? I would trade my sixty thousand for a glimpse of them.”
Some days I don’t notice the nuthatch
climbing the cinnamon scales of a pine tree,
or the honeybee paused
on the edge of the birdbath, drinking.
Some days I see only the skim
of a hamburger wrapper floating in the bayou,
a chain link fence studded with plastic bags,
a still gray form in the middle of the road,
I lose some days entirely,
as if this world can do without me,
as if the way back is not just a few feet away, where a lime green katydid the size of a staple is waiting for my astonishment.
Ospreys carrying dinner.
Fried shrimp picnics on the banks of a bayou.
Box turtles crossing the yard.
Tree frogs on the window pane.
Corn snakes in the squash.
The size of grasshoppers.
How tall my basil grows.
The end of summer.
And the Make America Green Again
bumper sticker I saw yesterday
on a car whose driver I’d pay to meet.
When it comes to rescue—
finding ways in or out—
who would argue
the value of drones?
But what of the beasts
who survive on mystery,
whose only defense
Like the snow leopard
snaking down a mountain,
his supple spotted back
captured by the drone above,
foretelling his destination,
betraying his habits and stealth.
I wonder if he hears
this camera he cannot elude,
and if knowing he’s been found
will change him, the way a horse,
once broken, loses a part of himself,
and alters the world.