Excerpted from the book “Wolf Haven: Sanctuary and the Future of Wolves in North America,” essays by Brenda Peterson, all photographs by Annie Marie Musselman. (Sasquatch Books)

THEIR EYES FIND you first, often golden or dark-green and amber-flecked with a fierce and surprising intimacy. Direct, intelligent, eerily familiar. Though these wolves in their refuge at Wolf Haven are no longer wild, there is nothing tame in their gaze. Instead, there is a rich and vivid emotional life that we can somehow read, not just because humans have lived closely with Canis lupus since prehistory, but also because the wolves…

Photo by Rudy Issa on Unsplash


I am clueless in the kitchen. My rarely used oven is stocked with organic kibbles for my cat, blue corn chips, and peanut butter pretzels to slake my salt tooth. My microwave doubles as a big breadbox. For years, I lived off the delicious delis and high-end hot bars in Seattle stores. Always anxious in my kitchen, it’s the scene of many disasters and disappointments. Reading recipes, I have a mental block like with math or multiple-choice quizzes. My kitchen is not a place of refuge, adventure, or nourishment. It’s a pit stop in my food-as-fuel life.

But during…

Photo by Michael on Unsplash

The day after Joe Biden’s Inauguration, a friend wrote me: “I’m celebrating, but also crashing with fatigue. You?”

“Yes, I’m exhausted,” I responded, realizing that for the first time in four years I hadn’t begun my day dreading what new divisive tactic or vendetta Trump had instigated with his Twitter tantrums.

“The monster is gone,” she wrote back. “But our hypervigilance has been so stressful.”

For those of us deeply troubled by Trump’s constant cruelty — children in cages, mishandling the pandemic, racist rabble-rousing, environmental destruction, macho misogyny — four years has taken its toll on our spirits, health, and…

Photo by CapDfrawy on Unsplash


My first day commuting to The New Yorker in midtown, I caught the wrong subway and ended up in Queens. When I asked directions from a passerby, he snarled, “What do I look like, a travel agent?” Then he actually thrust me aside with his briefcase as if I were a bag lady.

Perhaps I did look a little disheveled as I dove in late to the editorial office’s “Walden’s Pond” named after the formidably competent Mrs. Harriet Walden. …


Loki, an “ascended master.”

My first encounter with my Siamese cat and animal soulmate, Loki, was in a dream. Sixteen years ago, when I’d had to put my previous Siamese, Isabel, to sleep by calling the vet to our home, it was too late at night to take her for cremation; so I’d places Isabel on a little Navajo blanket near my bed, where she always liked to sleep. When this Siamese passed, she was 21, a skeletal elder; but in my dream that night, she was full-bodied, playfully as a kitten.

“Isabel, you’re… plump!” I’d said in my dream, surprised that death…

Fauntleroy Church Chancel Choiir

Listen to “Silent Night” with Dan Forrest as virtual accompaniment

In this nadir of the pandemic, some of us are still finding a way to “sing, make a joyful sound,” together. I’ve been singing in two virtual choirs, a way of staying sanely connected to my musical community and keeping my voice supple, my lungs buoyant. Singing my mezzo-soprano part alone with headphones and video selfie is a far cry from enjoying the warm embrace of other voices, their vibrations echoing in our bodies, our hearts actually beating as one with the richly woven harmonies. …

Photo by Marius Masalar on Unsplash

We sing because hearing is the first and last human sense; we sing to blend our voices and find harmony in a world so often dissonant; we sing to celebrate and to mourn; we sing to carry on our traditions.

Live community music during the holidays is one of the most life-affirming gifts we can offer and receive. But how do we sing in a quarantined world where raising our voices together can spread a terrible virus? How to celebrate the return of the light when times seem so dark? …

by Brenda Peterson


My favorite pimento cheese spread photo: Brenda Peterson

Pimento Cheese sandwiches are the petite Madeleines of my childhood. My mother is a splendid Southern cook who taught herself “from scratch.” The first time she made chocolate chip cookies as a girl, she proudly mixed the sticky batter and then deposited a thick mound of chocolate-studded dough onto a cookie sheet. She watched through her General Electric oven’s glass window and waited patiently for the little mountain of dough to separate into two dozen perfect cookies.

When my mother married — after an exciting stint as a World War II telegrapher on the Wabash Railroad…


Photo by Tabrez Syed on Unsplash

First published in Tikkun magazine — a Jewish and interfaith and secular humanist-and-atheist welcoming prophetic voice.

This election is about what we will make of ourselves

I’d never meet an entitled, rich kid until third grade when my family moved from the West Coast to Boston. We didn’t know we were poor, a family of four kids in a rundown Revere Beach apartment. Like Fisher Kings, we ate lobster from the nearby fish factory because we couldn’t afford hamburgers. Our playmates were the Puerto Rican kids whose patriarch was a professional wrestler—WWE, the original reality show. …


reprinted from About Place Journal, excerpted from SISTER STORIES, by Brenda Peterson (Viking/Penguin)

Photo by Wynand Uys on Unsplash

It’s not only women who benefit from strong sisterhoods. Women scientists are discovering that in many other species, sisterhood is what assures stability and survival of all. As a National Geographic author, I’ve encountered wild dolphins and whales worldwide. We have much to learn from these matriarchs and their complex sisterhoods, whose primary focus is not on competition, but on communication and cooperatively nurturing next generations.

While on a humpback whale research trip to Hawaii I kayaked into a warm-water bay and was suddenly surrounded by…

Brenda Peterson

Brenda Peterson is the author of over 20 books, including Duck and Cover, a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year,” and the memoir I Want to Be Left Behind.

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