Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Answering Questions

When I do a reading/signing/event, I try to leave plenty of time for questions. This is especially true if I discern that most of the people at the event have already read, or are reading, the book. Then, instead of reading from the book, which is traditional, I leave more time for questions. I have encountered the most delightful people at these events!

At Book Passages in the San Francisco area, a woman came in who had read the book several times and had some questions all ready to go. She had to leave early and it was a shame I didn't get to meet her because I found her absolutely delightful in her directness and frankness. She asked me if it bothered me that I wasn't using my expertise in Barn Owls more (I'm disabled and spend most of my time in bed still), after all those years of study.

Here's the answer:
I feel like it was more important to me to explain Barn Owls through Wesley to regular people than it could ever be for me to write up scientific papers for journals that most people will never read. Those scientific papers are tough reading, plus they're waaay too expensive to subscibe to unless it's your profession to do so. This is not to say that it's not important to publish scientific papers, or that they go to waste, because they don't go to waste. The scientific community gathers the research and it ends up in the right hands doing great things, ultimately, but it can take decades for the information to reach people who have not made it their life calling to read biology journals, etc.

To me, I am using my expertise in barn owls! I'm letting people know what I found to be true, directly, through the book. I think it's more important for us as a civilization to understand that the wild animals around us are thinking, feeling, complicated, playful, loving, anxious, joyful, sorrowful...that they have real emotion and real intelligence. The other details about a particular species are important too, but only in the context of understanding the animal himself (or herself).

It's AMAZING to me to see the myriad ways in which animals are perfectly adapted to their habitat, as long as that habitat isn't messed with by human interference. But it's even more amazing to me that they have individual personalities and proclivities, opinions, scruples, thoughts, problem solving skills, ideas!

So that's my answer. I am doing exactly what I think I should be doing with the knowledge I've gained through Wesley and his Tyto Alba brethren!

If I were to have to list a book...ok make that two books...that have altered my life since childhood, they would have to be In the Shadow of Man (NUMBER ONE BOOK!) by Jane Goodall, and Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat. I have returned to those two books like they were old friends, year after year. I learned more from Jane Goodall's book about animals and the way they ARE than from all the studies I had in biology, chemistry, math, physics, philosophy, etc. It's not that I don't highly value those studies, but their END, to me, should be a deeper understanding. That's what I've been pursuing all this time - a deeper understanding. And that's what those two books helped me to find, which is why I wanted to write about Wesley and his barn owl wild compatriots, for regular people to read and understand. Of course scientists have read it too, and I've had lovely discussions w/ scientists like Dr. Don Kroodsma and Dr. Marc Bekoff about animal sentience, too.

At some point maybe I will have the opportunity to do a further study with another Barn Owl, especially in regard to his ability to process symbolic language, and perhaps even to publish in a scientific journal.

But in the meantime, if people are discussing the emotional lives of animals (which is actually another of my favorite titles, by Marc Bekoff - The Emotional Lives of Animals) then I'm a happy camper!

I sense that there is a wave of new understanding happening all over about animals and just who they really are. A groundswell of realization. And I'm very happy to be a small part of that! I'm in awe to be a small part of that!

Every one of us who has had a deep relationship with any animal, domestic or wild, is a part of that deeper understanding!


Anonymous said...

Stacy, My name is Hannah and I am currently reading your book. I am very jeolous of you I am a thirteen year old and i would die if i had the oppertunaty that you had with wesley. When i grow up i want to keep a barn owl of my own. even now over the summer. I need help finding a place nearby where i can adopt a barn owl of my own, if what you wrote in your book, about how compassionate and how they are such good pets they are, I am sure that i will be attached as soon as our eyes meet. When i finally get my owl, I plan to name it peek-a-boo. Your book is ahmazing. Very well written.

Patrick said...

Hi, Stacey. I used to work at the Mission Viejo Borders. I helped you find some Celtic music on several occasions. I also remember what you told me about a certain owl you raised, and I do remember you telling me you were writing a book about him.

So I was very happy when I saw your book on our new releases table, and reading it is now occupying all of my free time. You are the first author whose book I picked up and proudly said, "I know her."

I'm at the Phoenix Borders, now. So, if you're ever in Phoenix, I would love it if you could do a signing, or even a lecture, at my store. I handle the event booking, so all you have to do is say "yes" and give me a date and a time that works for you. I'll do the rest.

I hope you're feeling better, and I hope your holidays are glorious!

cookie said...


cookie said...

Dear Stacy,
Thank you for sharing your life with Wesley. The story had to be told. I just finished the story after staying up most of the night. Even though I read the ending of the story while in the bookstore, I still found myself sobbing when Wesley died. Your description was so tender and touching. It made me think of my little dog who is nearing the end days on earth. You can look into his eyes forever with wonderment. I have always believed that we share kinship with all living things. We are all made of the same substance.I have dedicated my life to the betterment of all animals. Through my artwork I express my feelings about man's destruction of our precious animal species. My husband and I also believe animals communicate through images. We have had similar experiences with a number of animals that are similar to your communication with Wesley about the beak and talon treatment. Quite amazing, but then again, didnt't you believe it all along on some level? I am still processing my feelings about your story and will continue to reflect on them for some time to come. We have been studying natural horsemanship principles with our horses ( no use of force, the horse makes the choice to partner with you). The meaning of your story is deep and worthwhile telling. Have you read the poem by James Dickey, "Heaven of Animals"? I will send you a copy. Goodbye and keep well, Kay Ruffini (Cookie)

Janice said...

Stacy, You are truly an amazing person.You & Wesley touched my heart deeply.I have read your book twice and when the time for Wesley to die, I can't control my tears..You have written a very inspirational book..I wish you much success..Your in my thoughts & prayers..Blessings Of Love,Jan