www.BrendaPetersonBooks.com

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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 could restore this beautiful feline to such health and energy. …


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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. …


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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

www.BrendaPeterspnBooks.com

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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 — she followed her brand new Betty Crocker cookbook with some inventions of her own. …


www.BrendaPetersonBooks.com

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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. …


www.BrendaPetersonBooks.com

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

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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 a wild pod of sleek spinner dolphins, including mother-calf duos accompanied by babysitting aunts and sisters. …


from WOLF NATION:The Life, Death, and Return of America’s Wild Wolves

www.BrendaPetersonBooks.com

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photo credit: Annie Marie Musselman

IN THE 1990s, the internationally acclaimed French classical pianist Hélène Grimaud had an encounter with a captive she-wolf. “The wolf was life itself,” she wrote in her memoir, Wild Harmonies: A Life of Music and Wolves. “[It was] more biting than the frost. Life itself, with an incredible intensity.”

In 1996, Grimaud cofounded the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) in New Salem, New York, which since 2003 has helped to breed Mexican and red wolves and release them into the wild. …


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Ella, photo credit: Tracey Conway

www.BrendaPetersonBooks.com

My unrequited love — Ella, a sleek and elegant Siberian husky, with icy-blue eyes and the leanness of a racing horse. I first approached Ella, expecting a nuzzle or a lick. Instead, I was greeted with the most skeptical disinterest I’ve ever felt from any animal — or human.

Ella is the first dog who hasn’t returned my affection. Her preferred person, my neighbor, Tracey, kindly shares her Siberian Husky with me on our daily walks in Seattle. But Ella is Teflon to my devout adoration. Prancing with such startling strength and agility; Ella could be a gymnast. But she deigns to keep pace with us. When we walk down the city streets together, passersby comment on Ella’s beauty. …


www.BrendaPetersonBooks.com

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photo credit: Antoinnne Beauvillain on Unsplash.com

Some midnight, mid-continent, streaking across Kansas on their honeymoon sleeper, my parents made me. The Westbound Santa Fe Chief from Chicago to the City of Angeles was perfect Eros — slow love and a syncopated sleeper car. My mother had retired at age twenty-one from her wartime years as a station telegrapher on the Wabash Railroad. In the toss-up between her railroading and marriage to a young forester, my father won. But not for very long.

Though he stole my mother away from her first steamy, steel love, he couldn’t take trains from her blood. Riding the rails runs in our family like a dominant gene. Some families pass along sharpshooter eyes or stolid legs like roots — but we inherited a hobo waywardness. …


www.BrendaPetersonBooks.com adapted from YOUR LIFE IS A BOOK: How To Craft and Publishg Your Memoir, by Brenda Peterson and Sarah Jane Freyman, Sasquatch Press.

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photo credit: Stanley Dai on Unsplash.com

Memoir is a most intimate bond and sometimes our characters are not content simply to be created by us. If they are still alive, they can talk back, argue with us, disown us, call us to account, and sometimes congratulate or thank us.

Unlike the fiction writer, the memoirist must truly face his or her characters. A memoirist will not exactly mirror everyone else’s perspective, so there is always room for disagreement. You may hear:

“No, that’s not the…

About

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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