Paying attention is a form of reciprocity with the living world, receiving the gifts with open eyes and open heart. Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
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I fell in love with Jane in Anthropology 101 class my sophomore year in college. She was tall, slender, and beautiful. She was brave, bold, and brilliant. But, alas, she was 12 years my senior and living on another continent—in Gombe, Tanzania, to be exact.
The whole world it seemed was enthralled with Jane Goodall.
When Jane was a child, her father gave her a stuffed chimpanzee. Family friends thought it a weird and frightening gift for a child. Jane loved it.
That love ultimately drew her to Africa. She devoted her life to the study of chimpanzees. She lived among them. She named them. She described their human-like personalities. Other primatologists were appalled.
Too much anthropomorphism!
Jane pressed on until her work was ultimately acclaimed by most (but not all) scientists.
Her singular passion grew to embrace the entire animal world. She became an advocate for all endangered species. In 1991 she created the educational program “Roots & Shoots” to inspire children to be good stewards of the earth.
I read Jane Goodall’s book Reasons for Hope in 1999 and fell in love with her again. She knows the future of the earth is in jeopardy. Still, she nurtures hope.
I don’t know what the meaning of life is, she said in a recent interview. All I know is that the meaning of my life is to give people hope because without hope people give up.
I didn’t set out to write a trilogy on women and their passions, but that’s what I’ve done. Paula’s Passion. Rachel’s Passion. Jane’s Passion.
These three women have answered Mary Oliver’s urgent question, the most important question that anyone can ask of another. It’s a question we could ask ourselves.
… I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
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PS: The Devil’s Gift is taking August off. In the meantime you can do me a favor. Please let your friends know that my two books, Let Love Arise and 80 Dispatches from the Devil’s Domain, are available at Four Seasons Books in Shepherdstown and on Amazon in print and digital formats. Or consider giving one as a gift. Thank you. See you in September.
See Paula’s award-winning photo on the home page. Posted July 11.