Where Even Wilder Things Are
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Published in: July-August 2021 issue.


Living in a Sentient World
by Judy Grahn
Red Hen Press. 208 pages, $15.95



THE TITLE of Judy Grahn’s sixteenth book beckons readers into a world in which all living species share a net of consciousness, a mind as distinct from the brain as a biological organ. The ten essays and “true stories” in the Touching Creatures, Touching Spirit exhibit an openness to phenomena that enables Grahn to explore what she describes as her sensory, cellular, and spirit-related consciousness.

            The first three accounts describe instances of interspecies communication. In one episode, the writer and two golfing friends come upon a dragonfly trapped in thick algae pond scum. As the golfers painstakingly strip the slime from the insect’s wings, the dragonfly rides from hole to hole on a golfer’s shoulder because the group needs to keep up the pace on the busy course. During this journey, Grahn studies other parts of the creature’s anatomy and begins to feel an emotional connection. First the dragonfly seems frightened but then appears to develop trust until it is eventually freed and able to fly away. When the three golfers return to the same course a month later and arrive at the pond where they had rescued the dragonfly, they discover about fifty assembled dragonflies. When one in particular hovers close to Grahn’s face, she feels a connection; the creature then flies higher and twice performs a kind of spiral dance, as if in gratitude. Because I personally find this example provocative and edifying, I have shared it with friends.

            The second section contains four works of creative nonfiction in which the human char- acters have been disguised or combined.

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Anne Charles is a retired teacher and writer living in Montpelier, Vermont.


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