Dreaming of Lions

My Life in the Wild Places

ISBN-13: 978-1603586399
Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
Publication date: 02/23/2016
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 8.9 inches

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Dreaming of Lions
My Life in the Wild Places

Dreaming of Lions traces Thomas’s life from her earliest days, including when, as a young woman in the 1950s, she and her family packed up and left for the Kalahari Desert to study the Ju/Wa Bushmen. The world’s understanding of African tribal cultures has never been the same since. Nor has Thomas, as the experience taught her not only how to observe, but also how to navigate in male-dominated fields like anthropology and animal science and do what she cared about most: spending time with animals and people in wild places, and relishing the people and animals around her at home.

Naturalist Thomas (The Harmless People) transports readers into animal culture and behavior in this new version of her 2013 memoir. A Million Years with You. The author travels to Africa, where she joins her parents in observing the indigenous tribes of the Kalahari Bushmen; Uganda, where she witnesses the brutality of former president Idi Amin; and New Hampshire. Looking back at her journeys in the Kalahari Desert in the early 1950s, Thomas beautifully describes her surroundings and the early connections she made with the wildlife. She also notes her observations of human interactions and how situations are different based on gender or status. She recalls stories of humility, learning and growing from others’ experiences, recounting her youth through adult life, and engages with the reader in joy and sorrow, which creates a deep connection that leaves you feeling like an old friend. VERDICT:This educational and heartwarming book is a ­suggested ­purchase. —Library Journal

Elizabeth Marshall Thomas’s affirming, finely observed memoir recounts a life in the process of being fully and unapologetically lived; a gift from someone with an endlessly curious mind and more than eight decades on the planet. But perhaps the greatest gift of Dreaming of Lions is Marshall Thomas’s signal talent: it leaves the reader feeling far less alone in the world, and much more deeply connected to it. –Alexandra Fuller, author of Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness

The Woods

My parents taught me to enjoy observation. They loved the sky and also the life of our planet. My dad, Laurence Marshall, would go out on the porch to see what the sky was doing, and if something exciting was going on he’d demand that the rest of us to come to see it too. He was clearly the head of our family and also our leader, and we always did what he said. So all of us –me, my brother, John, who was a year younger, our mom, her mother, and Dad’s mother (both of whom lived with us) — would drop what we were doing and obediently troop out to the porch. Sometimes we saw cumulous clouds, sometimes falling stars, sometimes a spectacular sunset, and sometimes northern lights. Dad was a civil engineer with an awesome knowledge of math and physics, and northern lights enthralled him. They came from the sun, he said. [expand title=”Show More”]

My mom, Lorna Marshall, was a caregiver to all life forms and a known animal lover to the point that she sometimes found cats in boxes on her doorstep, evidently delivered by someone who thought she’d take them in. She took them in. She never killed mice, although her cats did. And she never killed insects, not even flies. Instead, she’d put a glass over them, slide a piece of paper under the glass, and release them outside. To her, animals were on earth to be cared for. Her cats were so healthy that on one occasion a veterinarian did not believe her when she told him her cat was sixteen. The cat was in such good shape that he could only be eight or nine, said the veterinarian. But the vet was mistaken. The cat had been left on her doorstep as an adolescent, and she’d had him for sixteen years, so he was closer to seventeen. Just about everyone who knew my mother wanted to be reincarnated as her cat.

Everyone flourished who was in my mother’s care. Her oldest houseplant was over thirty, and at the time of this writing, a climbing rose she planted is at least seventy-six and was an adult when she got it. My dad lived to ninety-one, his mother lived to a hundred and five, my mother herself lived to a hundred and four, and every dog or cat who came into her life lived well beyond the life expectancy of its species. Wild animals near her also flourished. She put seeds for birds and bread and peanuts for squirrels on the shed roof outside her kitchen window. The squirrels knew her. If she was late with the food, we’d notice a squirrel or two looking in the window to see if she remembered them. Of course she did.

Religion might have had something to do with this, because her mother, our gran, was a Christian Scientist. Our mom was not, due to a catastrophic event when she was six or seven and listening to Gran and some of Gran’s friends discussing the power of faith. Fascinated, my mom asked if she could fly if she had faith. They said she could fly if she had enough faith. My mom was thrilled. Brimming with faith and prepared for a great experience, she climbed out a window to the roof of their house and jumped off. What happened next erased her religious inclinations permanently, but perhaps an aura still clung, because according to Gran, everything made by God was good. This, of course, included the flies whom my mother set free and the squirrels who looked in our window.[/expand]