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2013 Nautilus Silver Award in Animals/Nature
Finalist, ForeWord Book of the Year 2013 in Nature
Finalist, 2013 Colorado Authors League Award, General Nonfiction
Praise for the Book
“Kissed by a Fox will make you think about life and nature in a different way.” —TEMPLE GRANDIN, author of Animals in Translation
“Kissed by a Fox is a work of the soul by a naturally gifted writer. Priscilla Stuckey tackles one of the most elusive subjects: the relationship of the human spirit to the rest of the natural world, and the impact on our humanity when we distance ourselves from it. This is a book of healing.” —RICHARD LOUV, author of The Nature Principle and Last Child in the Woods
“So okay, Kissed by a Fox, I figure cool metaphor, right? Nope.
The fox was real, and so was the kiss. Reader, prepare yourself. I love Priscilla Stuckey’s book for its honesty, its lyrical evocations of the natural world, its wry humor, but above all for the compelling stories inside of stories inside of stories, all of which conspire to persuade us that we are critters—gloriously so, set down in a world of critters no less wondrous than ourselves, and that if we can just follow through on this understanding we stand to gain just about everything.” —CAROL LEE FLINDERS, author of Rebalancing the World
“Stuckey offers not just her story of disaffection from nature and the long journey back into oneness with the earth. She also educates us about the historical and philosophical context. . . I’m impressed by the skillful way in which she moves between the two worlds. . . . Kissed by a Fox is an elegant and moving work of art.” —MARILYN KRYSL, author of Dinner with Osama and Swear the Burning Vow
“Prophetic calls to live more justly are rarely as beautiful as Priscilla Stuckey’s Kissed by a Fox. We are offered stories of intertwined lives, encounters between members of different species, discoveries of intimacies with rocks, plants, galaxies, pets, and wild things. We are invited to build an Earth-friendly culture by simply living more respectfully among others. It is a compelling call.” —GRAHAM HARVEY, author of Animism: Respecting the Living World
“An amazing philosophical memoir that weaves together the author’s personal stories of ‘friendship in nature’ with an insightful history of Western thought, or failure of thought, on nature and the environment.” —JULENE BAIR, author of Where Rivers Run Sand (coming soon) and One Degree West
“[Kissed by a Fox] is a courageous book that beautifully illustrates how personal practices that deepen our relationships with all the beings among whom we live enable us to participate in a rejuvenating conversation with an animate Earth. . . . It is striking how your internal healing and the work you did to heal Earth are so intimately connected in your story. Recognising the Self/ spirit/ subjectivity of other beings allows us to participate in what Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme refer to as the ‘communion’ that holds the Earth community and cosmos together.” —CORMAC CULLINAN, author of Wild Law and coauthor of “The Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth”
Behind the Book
I was sharing a Korean hot-pot lunch in 2003 with Birrell and Tina—a leisurely lunch that stretched well toward dinner. By now the broth at our table had been simmering for hours, and it was rich and tasty.
So was our conversation. We were trading stories of mystery—relationships we couldn’t quite pin down, experiences that stretched the bounds of what we thought we knew about the world. I told them what Sapphire, my blue-eye-brown-eye dog, had just taught me about the other creatures who lived on our Oakland hillside, the raccoons and mice and snakes.
Birrell grabbed a napkin and pen and shoved them in front of me. “Write that down,” he said.
“Then what?” I asked.
“Keep writing,” he said.
So I set out to write a memoir, collecting stories from the years I spent recovering from illness and overwhelming loss—how a birch tree or a creek had nourished me with their presence, how they helped to bring about healing in body and spirit. I wrote and rewrote, learning how to craft a story, how to convey the feeling of connecting with water or the sound of rustling leaves in autumn.
In early 2008, proud of my nearly finished manuscript, I sent it to an editor. (Even editors need editors.) On the phone Dorothy offered her assessment: “The most interesting part of this book hasn’t been written yet.”
What? So I didn’t have a book after all? For a moment I was crushed—until curiosity got the better of me. Where was the other half of this book?
I sighed and went back to work. Yes, I had plenty to say, but it didn’t fit the usual form of the memoir. So how could I blend the pieces of history and religion, the snippets from environmental philosophy and cross-cultural studies that I longed to write about? This was the other half of me, after all, honed by graduate studies and teaching.
I took what I knew and began blending it with my life story. Dorothy waited and watched, reading my tentative experiments and letting me know when they hit—and didn’t hit—the right note. After six months, I had two new chapters and a fresh book proposal.
But books unfold in their own time. And this one took several more years. Only as I got deeper into the writing did I realize that my story wasn’t mine alone. It was also the story of my culture—all the stories we tell ourselves about nature. Slowly the larger question formed: Where did our attitudes toward nature come from, and how did they help us get into this ecological crisis? And how will they need to change before we can find our way to a kinder shore?
My memoir had been called A Wider Circle of Friends. The answers to these questions, I knew, had something to do with that title. What if, instead of regarding nature as a machine, we respected all parts of it as a living, breathing land-community? What if we got personal with nature? The mystery beckoned . . .
Recommended Reading . . .
Carol Lee Sanchez, “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: The Sacred Connection,” in Ecofeminism and the Sacred, edited by Carol J. Adams
Carolyn Merchant, The Death of Nature
Christian de Quincey, Radical Nature: Rediscovering the Soul of Matter
Cormac Cullinan, Wild Law: A Manifesto for Earth Justice
David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous
Frédérique Apffel-Marglin, ed., The Spirit of Regeneration: Andean Culture Confronting Western Notions of Development
Graham Harvey, Animism: Respecting the Living World
Linda Hogan, Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World
Linda Hogan, ed., The Inner Journey: Views from Native Traditions
Malidoma Patrice Somé, The Healing Wisdom of Africa: Finding Life Purpose Through Nature, Ritual, and Community
Paula Gunn Allen, The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions
Polly Higgins, Eradicating Ecocide
Sobonfu Somé, Welcoming Spirit Home: Ancient African Teachings to Celebrate Children and Community
Theodore Roszak, Mary E. Gomes, and Allen D. Kanner, eds., Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind
World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, “Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth”
Thomas Berry, Evening Thoughts: Reflecting on Earth as Sacred Community
Thomas Berry, The Great Work: Our Way into the Future
Val Plumwood, Feminism and the Mastery of Nature
Vandana Shiva, Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace
Vine Deloria Jr. and Daniel Wildcat, Power and Place
I would be delighted to visit your book group either by phone or Skype to talk about Kissed by a Fox. Please CONTACT ME to suggest a few dates or times that work for you.
questions for discussion or reflection
1. As a child, Priscilla liked to sit under a tree. When you were a child, did you have a special place in nature? What drew you there, and what did you do while you were there?
2. Did you ever feel that a tree or an animal wanted to communicate with you? Describe one experience that moved you.
3. Priscilla describes how spending time in nature helped her heal from loss and illness. Have you experienced the healing power of nature, and in what ways?
4. The middle chapters of the book develop the idea that Augustine’s idea of original sin has deeply influenced modern life, affecting everything from family patterns to economic relations to biological theories. Does it surprise you that a religious idea might be so influential? What other effects of a pessimist view of nature do you see in today’s world?
5. Take a walk, either by yourself or with your group. What or who is calling to your attention today? What do you notice that you haven’t noticed before?
6. A number of big ideas are explored in the book through their biographies—the people and times that gave rise to those ideas. If ideas have biographies, what does this mean about how permanent or trustworthy those ideas are? Why do ideas appear set in stone even if they’re not? Were you surprised by any of the idea-biographies you read?
7. Explore your watershed, either by yourself or with your group. Where does your water come from? What plants and flowers are native to your area? Which insects and animals feed on them? Where does your wastewater go?
8. In Sapphire’s chapter, Priscilla shows how styles of animal training and parenting alike been shaped by ideas of dominance. Today people talk about “helicopter” parents and “disconnected” parents. How might each of these parenting styles be influenced by inherited patterns of dominance? What does a dominating style, either with pets or with people, have to do with a pessimistic view of nature?
9. In the final chapter Priscilla offers some characteristics of a happy society. Do the qualities she mentions match your vision? What would you add or leave out, and why?