Rituals

Last night I got the kids in bed and went outside to watch the bats. Our old farmhouse has an attic -- an apparently insecure attic -- with gaps between the rafters and tiny spots where bats can slip in and find a place to sleep. During the day, you would never know they were there, but once the sun is gone from the sky, the bats go to work. As dusk settles in and the sky turns pinky, then midnight blue, one little black form after another appears on the edge of the roofline. They hover there for a moment and then drop and rise up, winged black silhouettes against the gray sky. Some of them hang there longer and wait for something -- a sign, a sound, a specific level of darkness? -- before t

The Shepherd's Words

As a ten- ,eleven- and twelve-year-old reader, I was obsessed with James Herriot. I read and reread and reread again every one of his humorous and ultimately reassuring tales of life as a large animal vet in Yorkshire in the 1940s and 50s. While Herriot's character descriptions -- both human and animal -- are the element of craft for which he's best known, I always found equal satisfaction in his descriptions of the Yorkshire dales. I thought of my youthful obsession with Herriot the whole time I was readingThe Shepherd's Life, by English writer (and shepherd) James Rebanks. (Rebanks' wife is even named Helen, as Herriot's is!) Rebanks' descriptions of the Lake District land his family has f

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