Book Review: Two Dogs and a Parrot by Joan Chittister

Two Dogs and a ParrotTwo Dogs and A Parrot
What Our Animal Friends Can Teach Us About Life
Joan Chittister
BlueBridge, October 2015
ISBN 978-1-629190-06-8
Hardcover

As a child, Joan Chittister longed for a dog. Living in an urban walk-up apartment wasn’t an ideal location, so Billy, a blue parakeet, arrived and became the center of her life. Her relationship with Billy began to shape her understanding of the importance of animals in our every day lives.

In the introduction, she states, “…the narrative of human relationships with animals has a very mixed and sad history.” She uses a mix of anecdotes and examination of the spiritual bonds to limn and celebrate the relationships that build between people and the animals in their care.

Danny, an Irish Setter, arrived at the convent as a birthday gift, and taught Chittister to embrace differences and adapt to change. Living on his own terms, Danny challenged her to reshape her life and examine the boundaries she’d installed.

The Golden Retriever, Duffy, was rescued. A purebred raised as a show dog, he’d gotten too big and outgrown “the standard of the breed.” He was on the euthanize list when Chittister adopted him. As a pedigreed purebred, he’d been raised to obey and had most of his puppy-ness trained out of him. He didn’t bark, didn’t jump, didn’t run, but he did give unbridled love. He overcame his conditioning to take on tasks he wasn‘t comfortable with in order to be with those he loved.

Dogs age and so do people. When Duffy died, the convent decided that big dogs were too difficult to take on, so Chittister went back to her first love—birds.  Bennie, a small conure, came to live but disappeared one day and then Lady, a caique (colorful parrots native to South America) came into their lives. She brought with her the ability to adapt to new situations without destruction. As Chittester says, “Change expands the horizons of the human heart.”

In a gentle way, this books takes on the lessons of respect, love and acceptance by looking at the bonds between human and animals.

Chittister is an inspirational author and leader in contemporary spirituality, a past president of the Conference of American Benedictine Prioresses and currently serves as co-chair of the Global Peace Initiative of Women.

Reviewed by Michele Drier, February 2016.
Author of Delta for Death and SNAP: All That Jazz.

Book Review: A Private History of Happiness by George Myerson

A Private History of HappinessA Private History of Happiness:
Ninety-nine Moments of Joy from Around the World
George Myerson
BlueBridge, June 2014
IBSN 978-1-933346-51-9
Trade Paperback

There are moments in our lives when happiness and joy overwhelm us. A wedding. The birth of a child. A graduation. A prize or award.

But there are other, quieter, more personal moments when we feel a peace, a sense of rightness, a oneness with our surroundings and the people in our lives.

George Myerson, a previous Lecturer and Reader in English in King’s College, London has culled the journals, diaries and writings of poets, writers and plain people over more that 4,000 years to synthesize the happiness that comes quietly into one’s soul from everyday occurrences.

These aren’t the milestones that mark our lives, but the recollections and reminiscences that we usually don’t share with others.

In the 24th Century BCE, the scribe Ptah-Hotep records that “Wisdom has caused me, in high place, to live…” and that he found the favor of the king. In May, 1852, Lodias Frizzell writes in her diary that they found a perfect place to camp on their wagon trek across the country to California and that she was able to cook a “general feast” for her family.

One rejoices that he was able to live in high places and one is happy that she can perform those small, daily functions that provide for her family and these actions give them happiness…maybe a small, warm spot in their soul.

Myerson has pulled selections from such people as Benjamin Franklin, Humphry Davy, Walt Whitman, Fanny Burney and Lady Sarashina, a court attendant from Kyoto about 1050. The topics range from science to fish to the refreshment of drinking from a mountain stone well.

Topics cover Love, Nature, Food and Drink, Creativity and Evening among others and Myerson discusses the selections and gives brief biological sketches of the authors.

I generally don’t read inspirational literature, but these selections give the reader a glimpse into the lives of some notables–and some obscure people–and reminds us to be aware of and absorb the grandeur of everyday life.

Reviewed by Michele Drier, September 2015.
Author of Delta for Death and SNAP: All That Jazz.