An Excerpt from Build Me an Ark: A Life with Animals by Brenda Peterson

In this stirring memoir, Brenda Peterson proves herself to be one of America's finest writers about the kinship between animals and humans. Here is an example of her distinctive take on the spiritual practice of connections.

"Animals had carried me all my life. I was a crossover — carried along in the generous and instructive slipstream of other species. And I had always navigated my life with them in mind, going between the human and animal worlds — a crossover myself. By including animals in my life I was always engaging with the Other, imagining the animal mind and life. For almost half a century, my bond with animals had shaped my character and revealed the world to me. At every turning point in my life an animal had mirrored or influenced my fate. Mine was not simply a life with other animals, but a life because of animals. It had been this way since my beginning, born on a forest lookout station in the High Sierras, surrounded by millions of acres of wilderness and many more animals than humans. Since infancy, the first faces I imprinted, the first faces I ever really loved, were animal. . . .

"My father tells a story of checking on me in my crib one midnight. I was several months old, barely able to keep my head from wobbling on my frail neck; he was astonished to see that I had hoisted myself up by the crib railings and was reaching to touch the black lips of his deer trophy. Sometimes my father would lift me up to run my hands over the tanned fur of these deer, the first faces I ever loved; I touched the long slope of jawbones and sensitive snouts, the pricked ears and tufts at the top of their heads. Most amazing were the antlers — I expected I would grow my own someday."