Okay. Priscilla Stuckey has pushed me out of the closet. I, too, have had profound experiences with Nature. In modern America, this is not something that you usually talk about, not just because others might think you overly hippy-dippy, but because you learn young that the telling of something big can make the experience smaller or diminish its power. Such moments are private and idiosyncratic, yet they shape your world view and your spirituality. Mine include communion with a great old oak tree when I was five. Priscilla Stuckey, in Kissed by a Fox and Other Stories of Friendship in Nature, has the anticipated experience with a fox.
Stuckey is a fine writer, and though I had been warned by the title, she managed to create a surprise for me in that moment of vulpine connection. There are other such events with nature generously offered in her memoir, perhaps the most mystical of which involves an eagle that pays her a visit, while the most familiar is surely her dog Sapphire. Stuckey takes the risk of sharing her personal profundities, and in so doing, gives us an important book that is more than feel-good stories of animal encounters, more than tales of the living land and community, which she learns to actively nurture. She offers us the conclusions drawn from those experiences, informed by her academic studies in the history of Western religion and in feminist theory as well as by her work with shamans and psychics. She wants to wake us up, to help us understand how we came to feel separate from the rest of creation.
Priscilla Stuckey is not fast reading. Just as she had to work to comprehend her life, including her relationships, her career, and the difficulties of her background, some perseverance is needed to follow her lines of thought and narrative. She quotes great authors, referencing the most potent of Western thinkers and spiritual teachers, as she works to create a framework that can encompass her sense of communication with other-than-human beings. She is also narrating the changes in her circumstances over many years and places, and the accompanying emotional and social growth. It's a long and involved story, and far removed from the lives of most people in the world, yet it gets at important issues.
From creation stories to discussions of land use regulations, Stuckey explores our Western spiritual and political choices and argues for a new approach to nature, all of it. She is not rejecting science, but believes there is something more to be included, advocating everyday practices of "respect, careful attention, empathy, and kindness" toward the earth and all it contains. This is the way she has found, a way that allows other parts of nature to "have their own awareness, their own will and point of view." Her argument for a wider definition of justice, for a new understanding of stewardship, is compelling, and Priscilla Stuckey has shaped it into an artful and engaging narrative. I bought a copy of her book as a gift before I'd even completed this review. It's that good.
Read an excerpt from this book.
With a Ph.D. in religious studies and feminist theory, and an MA in religious history, Priscilla Stuckey now teaches humanities at Prescott College. Kissed by a Fox is her first book. Visit her website.
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