Why the Peaceable Kingdom?

My birthday is October 4, which also happens to be the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi.  Years ago I thought our sharing of the day was just coincidence, but then I changed my mind.  As I discovered my life’s work, I saw great meaning in our connection.  Like St. Francis, I revered, rescued, and wrote about animals.

My concern for animals was apparent even when I was a child.  I wailed in movies when cowboys dug their spurs into horses’ sides; and my father had to calm me in the lobby.  I cried when my grandfather caught fish and bloodied their mouths with hooks.  My life revolved around my cats and dogs, and it still does.  They inspire me and teach me about loyalty, patience, and love.

But, also like St. Francis, I grew to feel a kinship not just to animals, but to all that was around me.  St. Francis praised Sister Water, “useful and humble and precious and chaste.”  And Brother Fire, “beautiful and playful and robust and strong.”  He loved Sister Earth and Brother Wind, Sister Moon and Brother Sun.  He saw beauty from the cosmic to the microcosmic.  And so do I.

So often I think about beauty, whether it’s in the small peaceable kingdom of my house and garden or in the vast peaceable kingdom of the universe around me.  Of course, I can’t deny that Brother Fire can be vicious in bombs, and Sister Water as a tsunami can cruelly wash away thousands of lives.  I’m not blind to mean cats who torture mice or wayward dogs who nip postmen’s bottoms.

Harshness is always lurking in the shadows, but I prefer to focus on the good.  If we just open our eyes, it’s always there for us to see.  And in this blog, I’ll point it out to you — when I ponder the sun, or notice my green beans racing up their poles in summer, or admire my generous German shepherd, who refuses to disturb my beagle when she sleeps on his bed.

Because I care about creatures, you can expect to hear the amazing animal stories that people send me almost every day from all over the world.  But I’ll also let you know about the subtle lessons my plants have to teach, or about the glory of the moon silvering waves on Puget Sound outside my bedroom window.  I’ll focus on the beauty you and I might miss if we aren’t looking for it.  And soon I’ll tell you about a compassionate leopard seal and a victory for dormice in England.

Thanks for joining me.

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